US first lady seeks advice on preventing genocide

United States First Lady Laura Bush says she is looking to Rwandan President Paul Kagame to suggest how the world can make sure that a genocide his country experienced more than a decade ago is not repeated in Sudan’s Darfur region, or anywhere else.

Bush was closing out a week-long trip through Africa with a visit on Thursday to Rwanda, where a 100-day slaughter in 1994 by Hutu militias killed nearly half a million minority Tutsis and moderate Hutus. She was being joined there by Cherie Blair, wife of British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

“I look forward to talking with both the first lady of Rwanda, as well as the president of Rwanda, about what the rest of the world can do in situations similar to this, like in Darfur,” Bush said on Wednesday to reporters.

On the 10th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide last year, Kagame criticised other nations and institutions for failing to halt the killing.

Instead of strengthening its peacekeeping force, the United Nations pulled troops. Both former US president Bill Clinton and the UN have since apologised.
The massacre ended when Tutsi rebels led by Kagame ousted the extremist government.

Bush, in several events in Kigali, was promoting US-supported efforts to help Rwanda by supporting women in political life and helping girls get an education.

“The healing process, the reconciliation that Rwanda has managed to have is really amazing considering how extensive the genocide was and how violent,” she said.

Her first stop, however, was the Kigali Memorial Centre—Gisozi Genocide Memorial—where she planned to lay a wreath and sign a visitors’ book.

“The genocide was recent enough that everyone still remembers it and no doubt many, many people are still grieving for their family members, their loved ones that they lost,” Bush said. “How difficult it must be, to live with a genocide like that in your country, to live with it in your history, is really, really hard to imagine.”

There were no indications that Bush planned to make a direct public link between what happened in Rwanda and the situation now in Darfur.

More than two years of conflict there have left tens of thousands dead and more than two million displaced in Sudan, mostly as the result of a counterinsurgency by Arab, pro-government militias against black African rebels.

Paul Rusesabagina, the lifesaving hotel manager portrayed in the movie Hotel Rwanda, recently accused the world of failing Darfur now just as it did Rwanda in 1994.

Before travelling to Rwanda, Bush was spending the morning in Zanzibar, Tanzania’s Indian Ocean archipelago. She planned to reach out to its large Muslim community at a time when there are concerns the semiautonomous area could turn toward a stricter form of Islam.

Mindful of the 1998 deadly truck bombings of the US embassies in Dar es Salaam and in Nairobi, the capital of neighbouring Kenya, Washington is keeping an eye on an area where anti-Western rhetoric increasingly has been a feature of Friday sermons.

Bush was also to visit the US-funded school Al Rahma Madrasa Pre-Primary School to demonstrate the US’s role in ensuring education for the community, and to a teacher-training school that is receiving 20 000 books donated through private and public money in the US.—Sapa-AP

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