Residents of Rusizi yesterday thronged at a football stadium in the district to welcome the Kwibuka (remembrance) Flame as it continues its national tour ahead of the 20th anniversary of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
The Flame, which departed from Kigali early last month, is set to reach all districts before the start of the national commemoration on April 7.
Its arrival in Rusizi District, Western Province, from Nyamagabe District in the south marked its tenth stop on its countrywide tour.
The torch symbolises the resilience and courage of Rwandans who have worked to build a prosperous nation.
Rusizi, in the former Cyangugu prefecture, experienced some of the worst massacres during the Genocide. Testimonies indicate that killings there started at around midday on April 7, 1994.
Witness accounts say when the killings started, thousands of fleeing Tutsis were tricked by the then authorities and killed at places they were told were safe such as churches, stadiums and barracks.
Some of the worst and most known massacre sites include Mibirizi Parish and Kamarampaka Stadium.
Building a new country
The Minister for Trade and Industry, Francois Kanimba, told the residents that the Kwibuka Flame is a symbol of the transformational journey that the country has gone through since the Genocide was stopped 20 years ago.
He said Rwanda “has successfully emerged from the darkness and has become a strong, prosperous nation,” adding that the time has come for everyone to think of their role and responsibilities in rebuilding the country.
“We have successfully won over the tough times that came as a result of the Genocide,” Kanimba said. “The remaining battle that we are now focused on is the fight against poverty. “Rwandans are building a new country, a country far different from what they inherited 20 years ago.
“We are building a new country where inclusive development tops the agenda, citizens have equal access to resources and opportunities... a country free from divisionism and discrimination, and which fosters national unity,” he said.
However, the minister noted that although a lot has been done, more remain to be done.
“From where we have come from and where we are today, one gets only a story of resilience and success and that gives us hope that the future will even be brighter,” Kanimba said. “But we need to continue working hard to safeguard our gains and achieve more.”
He also called on the people of Rusizi to embrace Ndi Umunyarwanda programme, saying it seeks to cement unity among Rwandans.
“Unity is the foundation of sustainable development,” he said.
Rusizi mayor Oscar Nzeyimana told residents that the Flame is a reminder of the country’s vision and aspirations to deliver citizens to better living conditions.
“Good governance has made us successful. We should make efforts to safeguard our gains,” he said.
The torch reminds us of the value of remembrance so that we continue fighting genocide ideology and anything that could divide our society again, Nzeyimana said.
He called for continued support to Genocide survivors whom, he said, were left with severe wounds that need to be healed.
Thacien Gatete, a-55-year-old man who survived the massacre at Kamarampaka Stadium, recalled how Tutsis were lured into the stadium with promises of security.
Once there, targeted killings started with wealthy and elites the first victims in the massacre.
“The killers used to come with lists and take whoever they wanted,” he said.
Area leaders would later run amok with the killings, leaving more than 8,000 Tutsis dead. Some of the victims were mutilated, while others were thrown into Lake Kivu, Gatete said.
He paid tribute to people he called “courageous and brave” whom he said stood against the killings and attempted to save Tutsis from the killers, citing Lt. Col. Innocent Bavugamenshi and Father Oscar Nkundayezu.
Gatete thanked government for the support it has been extending to survivors over the past 20 years, as well as on efforts to champion unity and reconciliation.
“We are living a prosperous and dignified life. Let’s continue working hard to make our lives even better,” he said.
WHAT THEY SAID
Honoré Rwagatare, 14, student. ‘As young individuals, we have been given the chance to grow up in a united society that is free of any hatred, divisionism or discrimination. I have heard of the Genocide and of how it destroyed our country. I believe it is upon us, the youth, to ensure that we never step back into those dark times and continue to build the country. For us to develop our country, we need to remain united and put our efforts, skills and knowledge together.’
Delphin Ndayishimiye, student.
‘This Flame is an indication that Rwandans have achieved peace and are working relentlessly for sustainable development. Let us work together to achieve the country’s targets and avoid any kind of hatred or ethnic-based divisionism because we have seen that it only destroys the country.’