"In 1994, there was no hope, only darkness," Rwanda's President Paul Kagame said Sunday as he lit a flame at a genocide memorial in the country's capital. "Today, light radiates from this place." Kagame was speaking at an event launching 100 days of mourning 25 years after the start of the 1994 genocide, which killed around 800,000 people in 100 days, the BBC reports. An estimated 250,000 are buried at the Kigali Genocide Memorial, where Kagame addressed a crowd of thousands. Kagame, the country's president since 2000, was the commander of a rebel force that helped end the slaughter. The killings began after a plane carrying President Juvénal Habyarimana, a member of the ethnic Hutu majority, was shot down on April 6, 1994.
In the weeks that followed, extremist Hutu militias, assisted by the military and police, slaughtered members of the Tutsi minority, along with many moderate Hutus, the AP reports. Entire families were wiped out in an orgy of violence that killed an estimated 70% of the country's Tutsi population. "Our bodies and minds bear amputations and scars, but none of us is alone," Kagame said at a ceremony later Sunday. "We Rwandans have granted ourselves a new beginning. We exist in a state of permanent commemoration." As night fell, thousands of people holding candles gathered in the national soccer stadium, where survivors told their stories, Reuters reports. "I named my children after all my siblings that died," said survivor Samuel Dusengiyumva. (Read more Rwanda stories.)