KIGALI, Rwanda — Rwandan President Paul Kagame accused the outside world Sunday of deliberately failing to prevent genocide in his nation, opening a week of events marking the 10th anniversary of the killing of hundreds of thousands of his countrymen.
The United Nations, the United States and European countries have all faced criticism for failing to intervene during the three-month genocide in Rwanda, which ended in July 1994 when Kagame, head of a Tutsi rebel army, seized the capital and ousted the extremist Hutu regime. The U.N. has estimated the death toll at 800,000; Rwanda's government puts it at 937,000.
"We should always bear in mind that genocide, wherever it happens, represents the international community's failure, which I would in fact characterize as deliberate, as convenient failure," Kagame said at the start of a genocide conference.
"How could a million lives of the Rwandan people be regarded as so insignificant by anyone in terms of strategic or national interest?" he told the meeting at a hotel used 10 years ago as a base by military planners directing the massacres.
Speakers opening the three-day conference said the world had compounded its lack of intervention to stop the slaughter by failing to help the survivors, many of whom were infected with AIDS by the militiamen who raped them during the massacres.
"The international community still continues after the genocide to display total indifference to the survivors' unspeakable moral and physical suffering," said Francois Garambe, chairman of the Ibuka genocide survivors group.
Kagame said he was so frustrated by world inaction during the genocide that he considered attacking the local U.N. mission and stealing its weapons to stop the mass slaughter of civilians.
The overwhelmed U.N. mission in Rwanda, led by Canadian Lt. Gen. Romeo Dallaire, did not have the mandate to intervene and stop the killing during the war even as Rwandans were being butchered at a rate of 8,000 a day.
"Dallaire had soldiers, weapons and armored personnel carriers, and I confess for the first time that I contemplated taking those arms from him by force," Kagame said. His comments drew gasps and some applause from hundreds of government officials and diplomats.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who was head of peacekeeping at the world body during 1994, accepted institutional and personal blame last month for not doing more to prevent the Rwandan slaughter.