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Laura Bush Talks Genocide in Rwanda

Laura Bush (search) says she is looking to Rwandan President Paul Kagame (search) to suggest how the U.S. can make sure that a genocide his country experienced more than a decade ago is not repeated in the Sudan's Darfur (search) region or anywhere else.

Mrs. Bush was closing out a weeklong trip through Africa with a visit Thursday to Rwanda, where a 100-day slaughter in 1994 by Hutu militias killed nearly half a million minority Tutsis and moderate Hutus. She was being joined there by Cherie Blair, wife of British Prime Minister Tony Blair (search).

"I look forward to talking with both the first lady of Rwanda, as well as the president of Rwanda, about what the rest of the world can do in situations similar to this, like in Darfur, and see what they think is the best way for the world to help in situations like their genocide," the U.S. first lady said Wednesday to reporters.

On the 10th anniversary last year of the Rwandan genocide, Kagame criticized other nations and institutions for failing to halt the killing.

Instead of strengthening its peacekeeping force, the United Nations pulled troops. Both former President Clinton and the U.N. have since apologized. The massacre ended when Tutsi rebels led by Kagame ousted the extremist government.

President Bush, also speaking on the 10th anniversary, promised that the U.S. would help to unify Rwandan families, provide scholarships, combat AIDS and promote the rule of law.

Mrs. Bush, in several events in Kigali, was promoting such U.S.-supported efforts to help Rwanda by supporting women in political life and helping girls get an education

"The healing process, the reconciliation that Rwanda has managed to have is really amazing considering how extensive the genocide was and how violent," she said.

Her first stop, however, was the Kigali Memorial Center — Gisozi Genocide Memorial — where she planned to lay a wreath and sign a visitors' book.

"The genocide was recent enough that everyone still remembers it and no doubt many, many people are still grieving for their family members, their loved ones that they lost," Mrs. Bush said. "How difficult it must be, to live with a genocide like that in your country, to live with it in your history, is really, really hard to imagine."

There were no indications that Mrs. Bush planned to make a direct public link between what happened in Rwanda and the situation now in Darfur.

More than two years of conflict there have left tens of thousands dead and more than 2 million displaced in the Sudan, mostly as the result of a counterinsurgency by Arab, pro-government militias against black African rebels.

Paul Rusesabagina, the lifesaving hotel manager portrayed in the movie "Hotel Rwanda," recently accused the world of failing Darfur now just as it did Rwanda in 1994.

Bush has on several occasions termed the Darfur situation a genocide and made peace in Sudan a priority. But he supports African peacekeepers on the ground, not the introduction of U.S. troops. The U.S. is providing logistics so the African Union can more than triple its peacekeeping force in Darfur.

Before traveling to Rwanda, Mrs. Bush was spending the morning in Zanzibar, Tanzania's Indian Ocean archipelago. She planned to reach out to its large Muslim community at a time when there are concerns the semiautonomous area could turn toward a stricter form of Islam and away from democracy.

Mindful of the 1998 deadly truck bombings of the U.S. embassies here in Dar es Salaam and in Nairobi, the capital of neighboring Kenya, Washington is keeping an eye on an area where anti-Western rhetoric increasingly has been a feature of Friday sermons.

Mrs. Bush was going to a U.S.-funded school called the Al Rahma Madrasa Pre-Primary School to demonstrate America's role in ensuring education for the community, and to a teacher training school that is receiving 20,000 books donated through private and public money in the U.S.