Nearly thirty years after the genocide which shocked the world, Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall will remember the million people killed in Rwanda.
The country, which is hosting the Commonwealth Head of Government Summit this week, has asked the Prince and Duchess to highlight the reconciliation which the country has embarked upon since 1994.
It is the first ever royal visit to Rwanda.
Up to a million people were killed in the Rwandan genocide when the country’s minority Tutsi population was targeted by extremists from the Hutu community in a state-sponsored mass killing over a period of just 100 days.Royals sources say Charles and Camilla are coming to listen and to learn about how the country is moving on from its horrific past.
Diplomats say Rwanda is trying to rebuild by focussing on its population coming together as one country rather than two different ethnic groups.The Prince of Wales and Camilla will begin their visit to Rwanda by attending the official Genocide Memorial in the capital Kigali.They will see photographs of the victims and be shown their personal effects.There is also a room which focuses on the child victims of the genocide.There are mass graves behind the memorial where a quarter of a million victims are buried.A wreath will be laid before Charles and Camilla pause at the Wall of Names.
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Another moving moment on the first day of this tour will be Charles’s visit to a church in which men, women and children were murdered when they were attacked with grenades, machetes and spears.Churches in Rwanda had been places of refuge but every person inside was killed.Next to the church, a mass grave was dug in which the bodies of 45,000 people now rest.It is one of Rwanda’s six National Genocide Memorial Sites.Leaders from the 54 nations of the Commonwealth are due at the summit in Kigali which has been delayed by two years because of Covid.Prince Charles is representing the Queen, the current Head of the Commonwealth, but also as its future Head after being confirmed in that role at the last summit in London in 2018.
Rwanda is the newest member of the Commonwealth and no member of the British Royal Family has ever visited the nation before.Prince Charles and Camilla will meet President Paul Kagame who has been in office since 2000.Rwanda is a small country which neighbours Uganda, DRC and Tanzania in central Africa but with 13 million people, it’s one of the most densely populated on the continent.It is also the country to which the UK government is sending asylum seekers in its controversial new immigration policy.Prince Charles is reported to have described that policy as “appalling” in private remarks leaked to a newspaper in recent weeks.It will make Charles’ meeting with Boris Johnson, who is due to arrive in Rwanda later on Wednesday, all the more interesting.Given we never know what The Queen thinks on any area of public policy - the Princes’ critics accuse him of being too vocal in areas where royals should stay above politics.Prince Charles’ office says the remarks were private and he remains politically neutral.His supporters argue they were private remarks which he is entitled to make in private meetings.The Commonwealth Summit officially begins when leaders gather on Friday.