Remains of 21 victims of the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi have been given decent burials in Gatsibo and Rwamagana districts.
The remains of 16 victims which were exhumed from family graves were interred at Kiziguro Genocide memorial in Gatsibo on Tuesday, while the five other victims were laid to rest in Rwamagana after their bodies were recovered from different places in the district.
Kiziguro memorial is the final resting place for 14848 victims.
Speaking at the event in Gatsibo, Jeanne d’Arc Uwimanimpaye, vice speaker of the Chamber of Deputies, underlined the importance of commemoration.
“Commemoration gives us the basis to continue building a new and united Rwanda, one without division,” said Uwimanimpaye.
She called on Rwandans to embrace their national identity which, she said, was one of the main reasons why former Rwanda Patriotic Army (RPA) rebels were compelled to pick up arms and launch the campaign to liberate the country from a genocidal regime.
“That’s the foundation where we draw the spirit and commitment to fight and defeat genocide ideology,” she said.
The provincial governor, Judith Kazayire, dwelt on the historical events that led up to the Genocide, including several episodes that saw a section of Rwandans violently expelled from their country by then regimes.
“That was all genocide ideology brewing in our country and it climaxed into the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi,” she said.
She called upon Rwandans to desist from genocide ideology, saying it has no place in present-day Rwanda.
“If you cannot embrace the unity of Rwandans and act contrary, the laws will catch up with you,” she warned.
With a deep scar on his face, Samson Gihana, a middle-aged Genocide survivor from the former Murambi commune in Kiramuruzi, said genocide in the area began years before 1994.
He recalled how his family members were detained in 1990 until they were finally massacred in 1994.
“My father was killed before my eyes; I tried to fight for him until the Interahamwe militia with machetes overcame me,” he recalled. “After days nursing wounds, RPA soldiers, including one Bugingo, found me and nursed my wounds until I recovered,” said Gihana.
Every April 11, Gatsibo District commemorates victims of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, particularly the over 37,000 victims who were butchered in the Kiziguro Catholic Church under the orders of the then Murambi commune Bourgmestre (mayor), Jean Baptiste Gatete.
Gatete is currently serving time in prison after he was found guilty of genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide and extermination by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.
Meanwhile, earlier, remains of five Genocide victims were given befitting burial at Muhazi Genocide memorial in Rwamagana District.
The remains were separately discovered in various places in Rwamagana.
Speaking at the reburial ceremony on Friday, Governor Kazayire called on Eastern Province residents to help locate where more victims were dumped so as to give them decent burial.
“We know there’re remains out there in bushes and thicket or buried in your lands. If you happen to find one, please report to authorities so we can accord all Genocide victims decent burial,” she said.
She added that refusing to report such cases was in itself a manifestation of genocide ideology and denial, which she called on citizens to give no room.
The governor urged Rwandans to avoid division, which she said is not naturally Rwandan.
Ildephonse Rujongi, a Genocide survivor in Rwamagana, gave testimony of how it was difficult for any Tutsi to escape the Interahamwe militia in Rwamagana because of Lake Muhazi.
“Those who had no power to flee faced machetes while those who managed to flee were being waited for on the shores of Lake Muhazi [to be drowned],” he said.
He added that “at Lake Muhazi, the Interahamwe divided up the Tutsi into two groups: those who looked strong, particularly young men, were hacked to death with machetes, while those who looked too weak to swim, especially women and children, were drowned.”
Muhazi Genocide memorial is home to 8305 Genocide victims.