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First Lady

Remarks by First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton
At a Roundtable with Rwandan Women
Kampala, Uganda

March 28, 1997

Let me just say a few things because I know you've had a long journey here and I am sorry that I was not able on this trip to come to Rwanda. I am encouraged by what I hear both from you and more generally about the efforts of reconciliation and reconstruction that are currently under way in Rwanda. I am particularly encouraged to hear about the role that women are playing in those efforts.

The genocide and other horrible experiences that are depicted in this book of photographs that you have presented to me, as well as the personal experiences you have related, are a very important challenge not only to the people of Rwanda but indeed to the entire world. I am aware of the concerns that many of you have about the International Criminal Tribunal which I visited in Arusha. I visited it for two reasons: I wanted to make it clear that the United States is very supportive of the efforts to bring to justice those who were the architects of genocide and other crimes, and also to signal that the United States is aware that the Tribunal has had administrative problems and has been rightly criticized as being ineffective. However, as I stated in a radio address which I taped for the people of Rwanda, the United States and other countries are committed to the essential task of the Tribunal.

I had a long meeting with Justice Arbour, who has been appointed to work on behalf of the Tribunal. I am hoping that the critical work of the Tribunal will now go forward more effectively and that you will be able to see the differences. As I told members of the Tribunal who were focusing particularly on the crimes against women and children, and in particular crimes of sexual violence, this is one of the most critical tasks to investigate and prosecute. Those who were responsible for the genocide must be brought to justice.

One of the results of war and genocide and ethnic cleansing around the world is that women and children often suffer the most. When I went to Bosnia last year, I met with a group of women, most of whom had survived the war in Bosnia and had been subjected both personally and through their families to ethnic cleansing. Their stories are, as you would imagine, tragic like your stories in terms of the horrors that were visited upon them. Women and children endured disproportionate suffering.

The United States is committed to assisting Rwanda with its reconciliation and reconstruction. You may know that in November of 1996, the United States announced a new USAID program with funding of about 153 million dollars. The vast majority of that assistance will be spent inside Rwanda on reconciliation issues, re-integration, and humanitarian aid to returnees. This program targets aid to women via the Women in Transition Program.

As I look at the list of participants here and at the kind of work in which you are personally engaged, such as the World Women's Network for Development, the women's bank, assistance for widows, promotion of solidarity, promotion of building, it is the work that is the most critical for the psychological and physical reconstruction of your people and your country. USAID is attempting to focus as much as possible on female heads of households and to assist you with the overwhelming task of caring for the many children orphaned as a result of this genocide.

Despite the legacy of genocide which you will live with in Rwanda, I think now that most Rwandans have returned home, the world is hopeful that your government will continue its efforts to rebuild. Although I speak only for my own country, I think the world will be actively involved in assisting you in making sure that these fundamental building blocks for your society can be put into place.

Those of us who have only watched from afar, as you endured and survived the genocide, cannot really find the words to describe any of your experiences or your feelings. We can say that we will do what we are able to do to assist you and to support efforts both in Rwanda and internationally to bring to justice those who should be brought to justice.

We meet today on Good Friday. For those of us who are Christians, that is a very significant day in our religious year. We know very well that from the beginning of time there have been periods of horror and tragedy but that the human spirit has survived. And that is what you are showing the world again. Even though it is Good Friday, for Christians the darkest day of the year, Christians and all human beings don't live for Good Friday; we live for Easter Sunday. We live for hope and reconciliation; we live for forgiveness and reconstruction; we live for new life and promise. I'm hoping that the women of Rwanda will know that women, as you saw at the Pan African meeting and as you have heard from many others throughout the world, will be standing ready to assist you.

I want to thank you for coming to see me, because I could not come to see you. Thank you also for sharing with me these visual reminders that are in the beginning an album of horrors and at the end an album of hopes. This is what I will take away from our meeting: that both are in one book and that you will, through your efforts and your example and your testimony, make sure we do not forget the horrors but that we do not dwell on them either. We will continue to build toward hope, hope for a new Rwanda that can be an example to all of us. Thank you.


First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton's Trip to Africa


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