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Rwanda 1994: a "drop of humanity in an ocean of horror"

01-04-2004 by Juan Martinez

Introduction to the ICRC's commemoration of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.

The gruesome statistics can never reflect the full horror of what this country and its people endured during those 100 days. Today, more than ever before, we have a duty to remember, and to continue stressing the importance of respecting others: for only by respecting others can we move beyond slogans and ensure that human dignity is truly protected.

Out of respect for the dead and the survivors, the ICRC does not wish to use these days of recollection to its own advantage or to appropriate them to itself: they belong first and foremost to the Rwandan people. That is why the documents on this site, which include personal accounts by the ICRC head of delegation in Kigali during the genocide, a legal note on the Convention against Genocide and a photo gallery, focus first and foremost on the suffering they endured.

These materials, whether in the form of recorded interviews, written texts or photos depicting those days of carnage, also seek to show the difficulties and limits inherent to humanitarian action in such circumstances and to draw attention to the many acts of solidarity that did take place, demonstrating the compassion and empathy without which humanitarian work would lose all meaning.

The main purpose of these pages is to illustrate that “drop of humanity in an ocean of horror” which is the raison d’être of all humanitarian action.