The events of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi cannot, and should not, be consigned to history.
This is not just because the remembrance period presents us with an opportunity to honour memories of those who died and offer support to those who survived, it is also because consigning such atrocities to history only serves to pave way to more prejudices which are unfounded and illogical, and yet adhered to by some people.
Also, it isn’t unreasonable to suggest that despite great achievements in reconciling and uniting our society, there remains, home and abroad, albeit in increasingly smaller numbers, a degree of genocide denial, and some people who are still keen to peddle a genocide ideology for reasons only known to them.
In addition, around the world, there remain acts of xenophobia, antisemitism, islamophobia, racism, and so on. Prejudices, unfounded and illogical they may be, can thrive when we as a people choose to consign events such as the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi or the Holocaust to history.
Now, it is entirely plausible to suggest that as time goes by and multiple factors come into play, some people, especially the young, may indeed find it challenging to understand why, as a nation, we insist on commemorating events of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi every year.
Some may even come to think that perhaps we ought not to be defined by those events, and that we should try and create a ‘new image’ of Rwanda.
But here is a problem with that line of thought: the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi is more than a warning from our past. In fact, the events that unfolded in April 1994 appear to have had roots that stretched as far back as 1959 when signs of ethnic discrimination came to light and thousands were murdered while others sought refuge.
The period between 1959 and 1994 is indicative of how prejudices could evolve into something far more threatening as we witnessed in 1994.
Today, many more of us who were children at the time of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi have come to gradually understand the magnitude of the tragedy that befell our country, and more importantly, developed an understanding of the motives behind the atrocity.
We have come to learn the root-causes of the Genocide, its consequences on our country, and how to ensure that such events can never happen again.
Also, many more young people understand that remembering the events of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi is relevant to the process of eliminating prejudice and discrimination because all of the worst aspects of humanity and injustice are reflected starkly and horrifically in this sad episode of our shared history. And so, we understand that it is imperative to come together every year from all four corners of the globe to honour the memory of those who lost their lives and to offer our moral and practical support to those who survived.
In essence, we remember the events of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi because if we do not spend time remembering and reflecting on the atrocities that took place, we risk a much heavier burden of repeating these actions, which in my opinion is far worse than being defined by historical events.
Likewise, when we remember, generations after generations of Rwandans and non-Rwandans, reflect on what we can learn from the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi so that we can ensure no repeat of such killings.
It is a sad fact, but we must recognise that the crimes committed against humanity during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi have been repeated elsewhere in the world. The repetition of these human tragedies reminds us that we must be vigilant and continue to learn and remember the lessons of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
More education programmes on the events of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi would offer young people and future generations the opportunity to continue reflecting, discussing and undertaking research into a range of issues that would help in the fight against genocide ideology among other things.
By recognising that such events could happen again, anywhere and at any time, more education programmes would ensure that our society, both home and abroad, is vigilant and proactive in opposing all ideas that promote Genocide denial, revisionism, and other forms of bigotry.
As time goes by, it will surely become harder to find first-hand accounts to inspire discussions about the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. However, the more we continue to remember and learn from our history, the more we will be able to tackle, challenge, expose those who wish to underplay their role in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.