People's Stories Peace

25th commemoration of the Rwandan Genocide
by New Times, Aegis Trust, UN News, agencies
7 Apr. 2019
25th commemoration of the Rwandan Genocide. (BBC, New Times/Rwanda)
Rwandans in the country and across the world joined by the rest of the global community to mark the 25th commemoration of the 1994 Genocide.
Rwanda''s president Paul Kagame, who led a rebel force that ended the genocide that killed 800,000 people, lit a remembrance flame in the capital Kigali.
Rwandans will mourn for the next 100 days, the time it took in 1994 for a tenth of the country to be massacred. Most of those who died were minority Tutsis and moderate Hutus, killed by ethnic Hutu extremists.
"In 1994, there was no hope, only darkness," Mr Kagame told a crowd gathered at the Kigali Genocide Memorial, where more than 250,000 victims are thought to be buried.
"Today, light radiates from this place. How did it happen? Rwanda became a family once again."
He said the resilience and bravery of the genocide survivors represented the "Rwandan character in its purest form".
"The arms of our people, intertwined, constitute the pillars of our nation," he said. "We hold each other up. Our bodies and minds bear scars, but none of us is alone.. Together, we have woven the tattered threads of our unity into a new tapestry."
"The fighting spirit is alive in us. What happened here will never happen again."
Mr Kagame then led a vigil at the Amahoro National Stadium, where thousands gathered in remembrance.
BBC Flora Drury in Kigali:
''There was a moment - when all the candles were lit, and their lights bobbed around the stadium, when people were taking pictures with their smartphones - when it was almost possible to forget the horror that brought thousands of people together on this warm evening in Kigali. But then I turned to the man next to me, and asked him what tonight meant to him.
"Well," he said, "it''s important." In the understated way which so many people in Rwanda speak he said: "I lost people. I lost my parents. I lost my siblings."
We had already heard the names of entire families wiped off the map read out, accompanied by a promise never to forget. We had watched students march in silence from the parliament to the stadium.
But it was as the final speaker took to the stage, to describe how he survived to grow up and give his children the names of the four siblings he had lost, that the emotion seemed to bubble to the surface, and anguished cries were heard above the crowd. Sometimes on this day, my neighbour said, it is hard to keep the emotions in''.
The government has focused this year''s commemoration on educating the youth about the history of the Genocide and seeking their engagement to build a brighter future based on love and humanity instead of hatred and destruction.
The Executive Secretary of the National Commission for the Fight against Genocide (CNLG), Jean-Damascène Bizimana, said that the youth are key in fighting the Genocide ideology and fostering a future marked by unity and reconciliation.
"Today''s youth are promoters of love and humanity," he said at an international conference on the Genocide organised in Kigali this week.
In a message for the Genocide commemoration this year, the president of Ibuka, an umbrella organisation for Genocide survivors in Rwanda, Prof Jean Pierre Dusingizemungu, told Sunday Times on Saturday that the occasion should be used to renew commitment to the country.
"My wish is that we all make the commemoration a time to renew our promise and commitment to the country. We need to once again pledge to strive for the unity of Rwandans and build a strong country that we will be happy to leave for our children," he said.
7 Apr. 2019
António Guterres, UN Secretary-General''s Message:
This year marks the 25th anniversary of the genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda, one of the darkest chapters in recent human history. More than 800,000 people – overwhelmingly Tutsi, but also moderate Hutu and others who opposed the genocide – were systematically killed in less than three months. On this Day, we honour those who were murdered and reflect on the suffering and resilience of those who survived.
As we renew our resolve to prevent such atrocities from ever happening again, we are seeing dangerous trends of rising xenophobia, racism and intolerance in many parts of the world. Particularly troubling is the proliferation of hate speech and incitement to violence.
They are an affront to our values, and threaten human rights, social stability and peace. Wherever they occur, hate speech and incitement to violence should be identified, confronted and stopped to prevent them leading, as they have in the past, to hate crimes and genocide.
I call on all political, religious and civil society leaders to reject hate speech and discrimination, and to work vigorously to address and mitigate the root causes that undermine social cohesion and create conditions for hatred and intolerance.
The capacity for evil resides in all our societies, but so, too, do the qualities of understanding, kindness, justice and reconciliation. Let us work together to build a harmonious future for all. This is the best way to honour those who lost their lives so tragically in Rwanda 25 years ago.

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Yemen: where the worst nightmares have become a reality
by UN News, WFP, OCHA, Islamic Relief, NRC
26 Mar. 2019
Yemen: where the worst nightmares have become a reality, by Najat Elhamri. (Islamic Relief Worldwide)
I have been an aid worker for more than 15 years and worked on some of the worst humanitarian crises of the 21st Century from Niger to Syria.
I didn’t think there were many things left that could shock me but what I saw on the ground in Hodeidah, Sanaa and Aden when I visited this month chilled me to my core.
I saw so many children, with desperate staring eyes, ravaged by acute malnutrition and in some cases, cholera. Some were struggling to stand, never mind walk. I saw many others who had lost their limbs in bombing attacks or following a land mine explosion. Many of these children are traumatised by what they have seen and experienced and for some of them, the loss of their parents and brothers and sisters.
But the stories my team shared with me shocked me even more. For example, a father arrived at one of our distribution points with petrol and his children, threatening to set them on fire because he had no means to feed them. Even dying this way was better than starving to death, he said.
To make matters worse, fears are now rising that we could be on the brink of a fresh cholera epidemic, with the disease believed to have infected well over one million people. In just one week in February there were over 6700 suspected cases and more than 560 people have died of the disease so far this year. I visited a mother and child health facility in Sana’a and from the 120 admitted cases, 17 were confirmed cases of cholera.
The conditions here were so poor that there was no isolation centre to treat cholera cases and sometimes more than five people were sharing two beds between themselves. Those with infectious diseases such as cholera were not being properly isolated, and conditions were almost begging the germs to jump from body to body, ravaging those already frail from malnutrition and other diseases that are not being properly treated due to a chronic lack of medicine and medical supplies. Premature babies were particularly at risk, in incubators with no ventilation and no adequate medical care.
This is upsetting for anybody but as a mother, when you compare what life is like in Yemen, to my life at home, it doesn’t just feel like another country, but a dystopian parallel universe where your worst nightmares have become a reality.
Even if they survive this brutal war, I wonder what kind of future they will be able to have. The social consequences of the conflict are also bound to have ramifications for years to come. Early child marriage has always been a problem in Yemen, which even before the war was one of the poorest countries in the region, but this war has sent the country back decades if not longer.
The sheer desperation people experience; with the pressure to feed their families and pay off debts means they are giving their daughters away for marriage younger and younger. The families say they do not want to do this but that early marriage is better than starvation or death.
Everywhere I went, I saw people in desperate circumstances, including health workers who had not been paid for three years.
Islamic Relief is doing what it can to help, providing food to over 2 million people every month and supporting health clinics and hospitals and running feeding centres to help severely malnourished mothers and babies. But it is no mean feat. Aid workers themselves are falling prey to this conflict. Just last week an aid worker was killed by shrapnel wounds following clashes in Hodeidah. And one driver working with the Islamic Relief team was killed by a stray bullet in Hodeidah in January. The security situation also makes it difficult for us to travel around the country. Access for aid agencies must urgently improve.
But what’s really needed in Yemen is a lasting peaceful solution. Despite what everyone has been through in this country, I was overwhelmed by their warmth and kindness. And it breaks my heart to think there is no clear end in sight to the conflict that is bringing these people to their knees.
While there were hopes that the initial agreement for a ceasefire in Hodeidah would have held, our staff in Hodeidah are telling us of an increase in heavy fighting and are seriously concerned for the impact this will have on the population. All parties to the conflict must put people first and stop this brutal war, before it is too late.
* Najat Elhamri is Head of Middle East and Eastern Europe region, Islamic Relief Worldwide.
26 Mar. 2019
10 million Yemenis ‘one step away from famine’. (UN News)
“Today twenty million Yemenis – some 70 per cent of the population – are food insecure, marking a 13 per cent increase from last year”, World Food Programme (WFP) Spokesperson Herve Verhoosel told reporters at a regular press briefing in Geneva. “Nearly 10 million of them are one step away from famine”.
After receiving reports that intensive clashes erupted in several locations within Hudaydah city, including an attack yesterday on a key supply route from Hudaydah to Sana’a, WFP expressed security concerns in ensuring proper humanitarian support by WFP and other UN agencies.
Hudaydah has been the focus of clashes between Government forces and Houthi opposition fighters. It is a crucial gateway for the entry of aid, desperately needed to save millions of Yemenis from starvation.
Last December, UN-brokered consultations between the Government and Houthi leaders resulted in the Stockholm Agreement, which set out terms for ongoing troop-withdrawal negotiations and a ceasefire that continues to hold, albeit fragilely.
Meanwhile since early this month, warring factions in a northern district, have displaced some 11,000 families in Hajjah governorate, an area on Yemen’s northern Red Sea coast, which borders Saudi Arabia.
“In northern Hajjah governorate, already one of the most food insecure areas of Yemen, a recent surge in violence risks pushing thousands more to catastrophic levels of hunger”, he said.
Moreover, in the last six months, the number of people displaced by violence has increased sharply from 203,000 to around 420,000.
According to Mr. Verhoosel, WFP classes 28 of 31 districts in Hajjah as humanitarian emergencies, eight of which are experiencing pockets of “catastrophic levels of food insecurity”.
“In the next few days WFP will begin distributing food rations to all families in Kushar district”, he said, noting that the “epicenter of recent violence in Hajjah governorate” was a mountainous district only 31 miles from the Saudi border.
Mr. Verhoosel spelled out: “We also need access to the districts surrounding Kushar, which have likely received a surge of families fleeing violence”. He noted that neither WFP nor its partners have, so far, been able to access the districts of Harad, Mustaba, Midi and Hayran where an estimated 50,000 people teeter on the brink of starvation.
“WFP needs free and unhindered access to the vulnerable populations if we are to prevent the food security situation from further deterioration.”
* The 2019 Yemen Humanitarian Response Plan (YHRP) requires US$4.2 billion to assist more than 20 million Yemenis including 10 million people who rely entirely on humanitarian assistance to meet their basic needs every month. As of today, the YHRP is 5 per cent funded:
14 Feb. 2019
Yemen: 2019 Humanitarian Needs Overview. (OCHA)
The humanitarian crisis in Yemen remains the worst in the world. Nearly four years of conflict and severe economic decline are driving the country to the brink of famine and exacerbating needs in all sectors. An estimated 80 per cent of the population – 24 million people – require some form of humanitarian or protection assistance, including 14.3 million who are in acute need.
Severity of needs is deepening, with the number of people in acute need a staggering 27 per cent higher than last year. Two-thirds of all districts in the country are already pre-famine, and one-third face a convergence of multiple acute vulnerabilities.
The escalation of the conflict since March 2015 has dramatically aggravated the protection crisis in which millions face risks to their safety and basic rights.
1. Basic survival needs
More than 20 million people across the country are food insecure, including nearly 10 million who are suffering from extreme levels of hunger. For the first time, the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) has confirmed pockets of catastrophic hunger in some locations, with 238,000 people affected. An estimated 7.4 million people require services to treat or prevent malnutrition, including 3.2 million people who require treatment for acute malnutrition – 2 million children under 5 and more than one million pregnant and lactating women (PLW).
A total of 17.8 million people lack access to safe water and sanitation, and 19.7 million people lack access to adequate healthcare.
Poor sanitation and waterborne diseases, including cholera, left hundreds of thousands of people ill last year.
In sum, needs have intensified across all sectors. Millions of Yemenis are hungrier, sicker and more vulnerable than a year ago, pushing an ever-greater number of people into reliance on humanitarian assistance. Humanitarian response is increasingly becoming the only lifeline for millions of Yemenis.
2. Protection of Civilians
Yemen is facing a severe protection crisis, and civilians face serious risks to their safety, well-being and basic rights. Tens of thousands of people have been killed or injured since 2015, and among them at least 17,700 civilians as verified by the UN.
An estimated 3.3 million people remain displaced, up from 2.2 million last year. This includes 685,000 people who fled fighting in Al Hudaydah and on the west coast from June onwards. Escalating conflict is causing extensive damage to public and civilian infrastructure. Intensity of conflict is directly related to severity of needs.
Humanitarian needs are most acute in governorates that have been most affected by conflict, including Taizz, Al Hudaydah and Sa’ada governorates. More than 60 per cent of people in these governorates are in acute need of humanitarian assistance.
3. Livelihoods and essential basic services
The Yemeni economy is on the verge of collapse. The economy has contracted by about 50 per cent since conflict escalated in March 2015. Employment and income opportunities have significantly diminished. Exchange rate volatility – including unprecedented depreciation of the Yemeni Rial (YER) between August and October 2018 – further undermined households’ purchasing power.
Basic services and the institutions that provide them are collapsing, placing enormous pressure on the humanitarian response. The fiscal deficit since the last quarter of 2016 has led to major gaps in the operational budgets of basic services and erratic salary payments – severely compromising peoples’ access to basic services.
Only 51 per cent of health facilities are fully functional. More than a quarter of all children are out of school, and civil servants and pensioners in northern Yemen have not been paid salaries and bursaries for years. Humanitarian partners have been increasingly stretching to fill some of these gaps to ensure continuity of essential services.


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