Kwibuka Flame: Learning from the country’s past

Drawing lessons from the country’s past should form the basis of the country’s journey to self reliance.
Students from Nyaruguru (L) hand over the Flame to those from Nyamagabe as the iconic torch of remembrance marked its ninth stop of the national tour. The New Times/ JP Bucyensenge.
Students from Nyaruguru (L) hand over the Flame to those from Nyamagabe as the iconic torch of remembrance marked its ninth stop of the national tour. The New Times/ JP Bucyensenge.

Drawing lessons from the country’s past should form the basis of the country’s journey to self reliance.

This was the message delivered to Nyamagabe residents on Monday as hundreds gathered at Murambi Genocide Memorial Centre to welcome the Kwibuka Flame, as it continues its national tour ahead of the 20th anniversary of the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi.

The torch, which departed from Kigali early last month, has already gone through some districts across the South and Western provinces and its arrival in Nyamagabe marked its ninth stop.

The Flame symbolises remembrance as well as the resilience and courage of Rwandans over the past twenty years, according to officials.

As it arrived in Murambi, residents who had braved the scorching afternoon sun stood in respect.

On Friday, the Flame will embark on its tenth leg of the tour, with a stop in Kamember Sector of Rusizi District, Western Province.

Speaking at the event, the Minister for Youth and ICT, Jean Philbert Nsengimana, told residents that the Flame is a “symbol of life, hope, truth, forgiveness and development.”

“The past 20 years should give us hope that the future holds the best for us. It has been a crucial period in the reconstruction of the country and what we have achieved make us confident that we shall make our dreams come true,” Nsengimana said.

“Nothing will stop us from realising what we want to achieve and reaching where we want to be.”

Nsengimana said although the Genocide left the country in ashes, hearts broken and led to the deaths of more than a million innocent lives, the ‘Rwandan spirit’ has never died.

“Unity is the basis of improved living conditions and abundance,” Nsengimana said, adding that it is high time for everyone to look at the country’s past and draw lessons from it.

“What we went through should offer us lessons and be the basis for our journey to self-reliance,” he said.

No one, he added, should be living in fear that the Genocide might happen again.

“We affirm our commitment and resolve to the ‘Never Again.’” he said, calling on residents to keep working hard, champion unity and fight any ideology that might cause divisionism within the society.

To parents, leaders, and religious leaders, he said they should continue guiding people in the right direction and ‘make sure that the light of hope and development continues to shine in everyone’s life.”

Tutsis mercilessly killed

More than 50,000 Tutsis are believed to have been killed at what was meant to be a technical school in Murambi. 

As of today, only 13 people are known to have survived in Murambi.

Eyewitnesses recounted how at the beginning of the Genocide, people were advised by the then authorities to take refuge at Murambi. 

It later emerged that luring Tutsis to gather at the place was a well-planned strategy to exterminate them.

Murambi is located in a strategic area and it was easy to control people’s movements from neighbouring hills where killers were based, according to survivors’ accounts.

A major attack on the school was launched in the wee hours of April 21, 1994.

“We tried to resist in vain.  We tried to fight back with stones but they [the killers] started firing bullets and hurling grenades at us,” Simon Mutangana testified. “Bodies littered the ground.”

After the shootings, militias followed in with machetes, clubs and spears, among other weapons, finishing off those who were left wounded or had survived the bullets and grenades.

“I miraculously escaped,” Mutangana says of how he survived.

“Twenty years down the road, we have successfully transformed our lives. We are living, and most importantly we live better,” Mutangana adds. “We are working with others to build our country.”

He said the Kwibuka Flame “lights our way to a better future.”

What they say

Sabin Rwema, student.

‘As young people, we have a responsibility to safeguard the country’s achievements and ensure that they are never destroyed. We should continue to work together and actively contribute to building a flourishing nation and if there is anyone who attempts to destroy our gains, we should also not hesitate to stand against them. The country passed through bad times, and, as young people, we won’t allow that to happen again.’

Juliette Mukakabanda, survivor.

‘The Kwibuka Flame is a sign that life has come and that we will no longer be hated, hunted or killed for nothing. It is a sign that light has come and the life will continue to be better for Rwandans. There is hope for a brighter future and we keep working to improve our living conditions, despite the bad times we went through.’

 

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