Over 200 Rwandans living in the Kenyan coastal city of Mombasa over the weekend gathered to mark the 24th commemoration of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
The somber event was presided over by the Rwandan High Commissioner to Kenya, Amb James Kimonyo, and was also graced by Mombasa Deputy Governor, Dr William Kingi, according to a statement.
Mourners were moved by the testimony by Jean Ndayisaba, a survivor of the Genocide who narrated his story of suffering right from the 1980s as a high school student, right up to the height of the massacres during which many family members were wiped out.
Ndayisaba had after escaping the killers in the former Karago Commune, in the current Nyabihu District where he worked at the time of the Genocide, joined the RPF Inkotanyi and only managed to return home in the Bisesero area in October 1994 only to find them killed.
“We were a family of six and a large extended family and when I went back to my home area in Bisesero in October, I realized that my father, mother and two siblings were murdered. What haunts me to date is that I have not even been able to see their bodies to give them a decent burial,” Ndayisaba said.
Addressing participants, Kimonyo said that commemoration is an opportunity to reflect on the country’s tragic past and draw strategies on how to come together to build a country free from such atrocities.
“Prior to the Genocide our community was deeply divided for many years and that culminated into 1994 Genocide in which over a million people were killed,” he said.
The Deputy Governor of Mombasa County, Dr William Kingi said that words can’t explain the grief and suffering that Rwandans have endured but added that that Kenya and entire world are proud of remarkable strides Rwanda has made after the Genocide.
“We are encouraged and uplifted by the tremendous progress that Rwanda has made in the 24 years since the Genocide. I wish to extend my deepest respect for Paul Kagame for leading the transformation that is now the envy of the region,” Kingi noted.
“We too in Mombasa have much to learn from Rwanda’s transformation story. The beauty and orderliness of Kigali is something we hope to emulate. The inclusivity of government planning and innovation in service delivery are things we will copy” Dr. Kingi concluded.
During a Question and Answer session, members of the Rwandan community in Mombasa expressed gratitude to government for giving them equal opportunity as to those who live in the country.
Emmanuel Hatangimbabazi shared his emotional journey back to Rwanda last year, having last been there in 1994 and has lived in Mombasa all this time.
“If you ask me why I have not returned to Rwanda since I left the country in 1994, it’s not because I was guilty of anything; it’s because some negative elements that always told us that we would be killed if we dared to go to Rwanda. But I am here to testify that I went to Rwanda for the first time four months ago, and all I can tell colleagues here, Rwanda is a place to be”.
Hatangimbabazi said he was here late last year, attended the annual national dialogue – Umushyikirano – after which he toured all parts of the country “without any obstacle” to meet and interact with relatives from across the country.
Meanwhile, the members of the Rwandan community in Mombasa also used the opportunity to elect their leaders where Hadija Nyiramafaranga was elected as their chairperson to be deputized by Olivier Nshuti.
Others elected include Godfrey Muzungu as Secretary General, Joseph Ndabayezu as the Secretary for Mobilisation, Providence Iriza as the Treasurer Ancilla Bankundiye as the in charge of women and culture affairs and Steven Nsabimana in charge of youth affairs.