On a breezy April day in Manchester, candles of hope were lit for the 18th commemoration of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. Some people gathered to learn more about the Genocide. Others gathered to inquire about the banner on Oxford Road displaying the words ‘Remember Rwanda, say no to Genocide’.
All of the Rwandan students who organised the commemoration realised that they have, at one time or another been in that awkward situation where the next sentence their interlocutor says, after they know he or she is from Rwanda is almost predictable: Genocide, Hotel Rwanda, ethnicity or that overly long silence. It is never reconstruction, resilience, reconciliation, thousand hills or mountain gorillas.
Does this mean that the story of Rwanda starts and ends with the Genocide? No. It certainly has become an important part of it, but fortunately not all of it.
Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie said “The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.”
At the event, a presentation titled ‘Portrait of Rwanda’ was featured introducing the audience to the history of Rwanda, the Genocide and lessons learnt, as well as the hopes and ambitious aims of Rwanda and its citizens.
Held at the University of Manchester Student Union, the gathering brought together students, academics, staff of the University international office and few Rwandan residents in Manchester as well as representatives of the Rwandan High comission based in London, who all lit candles in remembrance of those who perished 18 years ago. The candles were symbolic of the hope for better humanity and to demand a more responsible international community.
A survivor of the 1994 Genocide sharing her story on the Aegis online forum said, “Memory is personal, remembering is important for everyone. The world knew about but did not stop the Genocide. So everyone shares the responsibility of what happened in Rwanda”