Concern aid worker recalls Rwandan Genocide on 22nd anniversary of atrocity

Concern aid worker recalls Rwandan Genocide on 22nd anniversary of atrocity

07 April 2016

Today (Thursday, 7 April) marks 22 years since the start of the Rwandan genocide that tore the African nation apart.

In just 100 days, hundreds of thousands were brutally killed in one of the worst ethnic-cleansing massacres ever recorded in human history.

Concern Worldwide, Ireland’s largest humanitarian agency, was among the first Irish NGOs to arrive in Rwanda and help its people in the aftermath of the slaughter that shocked the world.

Anne O’Mahony, Concern’s International Director of Programmes, arrived in Rwanda after the atrocity and recalls the “unimaginable horror” that has stayed with her until this day. She explained:

“My first official function was to attend the genocide commemoration and reburial of some of the victims. It was a sight and particularly a smell that will live with me forever.”

“I can still smell the rotting bodies of the victims. The smell gets into the back of your nose and stays with you. At that time, its people were broken, they had suffered the most unimaginable horror. We had wonderful Rwandan staff that worked with us helping to build a recovery programme. But there were days where they would suffer immense withdrawal. They would simply zone out, there would be nothing in their eyes. No expression on their face. And they just sat there, motionless. It was an extremely traumatic time for them.”

Rwanda has moved on from those dark and desperate days and has since developed a progressive constitution.  It has more women in parliament than anywhere else in the world.

It is also tackling climate change and is home to Africa’s fastest solar power project, which has created jobs and boosted Rwanda’s total grid capacity by 6 per cent.

Between 2008 and 2014, Rwanda has moved 17 places up the Human Development Index (HDI) ranks to 151 out of 187-no other country has moved up as many places over this period.

Despite this radical progress, most of its population still live in poverty and Concern has been providing programmes in the areas of education, livelihoods and health since 1994. Anne said:

“The country has moved on a lot since the genocide and the Government is making real efforts to address poverty but it takes time. Concern’s team are providing ways such as its Irish Aid-funded Graduation Programme that supports a pathway out of extreme poverty.”

Every year, a series of commemorative events takes place across Rwanda to mark the genocide and Anne believes the atrocity should be marked by all countries, not just Rwanda, at this time of year.

“No matter if it’s the 22nd or the 33rd anniversary, the world should mark the Rwandan genocide every year as a reminder to all nations that a massacre of this magnitude should never happen anywhere, ever again.”


Anne O’Mahony is available for press/feature and radio interviews.

Please contact Concern Communications Officer, Catriona Loughran on 086 783 4846, to arrange an interview. 

Note to Editors:

Anne O'Mahony was appointed to the position of Director of International Programmes, Concern Worldwide, in December 2013. She heads its operations in 27 countries. She has 30 years’ experience working in humanitarian and development contexts in 20 countries across the developing world.


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Concern aid worker recalls Rwandan Genocide on 22nd anniversary of atrocity

"I can still smell the rotting bodies of the victims," Concern aid worker recalls dark days of Rwandan Genocide as country marks 22 years since atrocity.