Rwandan officials, families, survivors, and foreign dignitaries paused on Monday to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the 1994 genocide that took the lives of more than 800,000 people.
Rwanda President Paul Kagame and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon lit a memorial flame at the Kigali genocide memorial center, and thousands participated in a candlelight ceremony.
Earlier in the day, thousands of Rwandans packed the country's main sports stadium to participate in a memorial service to remember the more than 800,000 Tutsis and Hutus who were killed in machete and gunfire attacks.
Kigali’s Amahoro Stadium was packed with Rwandans on April 7, to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the 1994 genocide.
“Behind the words ‘never again’ there is a story whose truth must be told in full. No matter who you are and how uncomfortable,” Kagame told the crowd at the stadium.
Local media reported that several people became overcome with grief during the service.
The April 1994 assassination of Rwandan President Juvénal Habyarimana and Burundian President Cyprien Ntaryamira was the catalyst that sparked the genocide, which lasted for three months. Habyarimana and Ntaryamira were killed when their plane was shot down as it flew over the Rwandan capital of Kigali.
Instigated by Hutu extremists, the genocide claimed about three quarters of Rwanda’s Tutsi population. Hutus who opposed the killings or defended Tutsis were also targeted and killed, according to Human Rights Watch.
In July 1994, the Tutsi rebel group, Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), defeated Rwandan government forces and took control of the country, ending the genocide and beginning to rebuild the nation.