On January 7, we kicked off the activities to mark Kwibuka20 at the Kigali Genocide Memorial, which will bring us to the 20th commemoration of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
We have to remember the victims of the Genocide against the Tutsi who are estimated to be more than a million. We remember them not just as a number, but by their names, their place in our society, their lives and the way they were killed. We know it’s painful but it heals.
We lost our brothers, sisters, parents, grandparents, children, relatives and neighbours killed by their countrymen, friends and even relatives.
People who had shared same land, same culture, attending same churches, supporting same football teams, going to the same markets, sharing joy and pain, but one morning they became targets, cockroaches, snakes and all kinds of dehumanising names justifying their hunting and killing.
The tools used to kill them were clubs, machetes, hoes and other traditional objects, which had been known for totally different purposes.
The privileged ones were asked to pay so that bullets can be used to take their innocent lives.
Neither the elders nor the toddlers were preserved. Kids were smashed against walls inside churches; some were pounded as the kids’ section of Kigali Genocide Memorial attests.
We were in a real hell and every Rwandan family got affected in one way or another.
The international community was looking on rather passively; the press was just reporting killings like one would report a premier league game.
The UN peacekeepers deployed to supervise the peace process ran away. They left unarmed and vulnerable people at the mercy of militias, accounts by the few survivors at ETO-Kicukiro are well detailed.
Paying homage to our loved ones gives us the strength and motivation of working hard and demanding us to assume our duties and theirs, as they are no longer physically with us.
Their eternal flame will continue to light our way forever and will be a constant reminder for us and the rest of the world that hatred, divisionism and bad leadership only leads to atrocities, at worst genocide.
United we stand, divided we fall. After the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, Rwandans realised that we could not fall deeper than we did during those 100 days of darkness.
We decided to be united. We consider ourselves as Rwandans, we set up all the mechanisms of promoting our unity showing and proving that we have a lot in common than what separate us: Same language, same culture, same land and we believe in one God -- our Imana spends his day away but come back to sleep in Rwanda.
Sometimes I wondered if during those 100 days our Imana was retained somewhere else? But I can assure you that our Imana came back entirely and is watching, protecting and blessing this country of a thousand hills.
That’s the reason why Rwandans, especially the youth, have embarked on a laudable programme called “Ndi Umunyarwanda.”
During this noble drive people sit together and look back into our shared history and agree not to embark into divisionism and sectarianism any more.
We have come back from a long journey of denial of our African roots, our rich culture and the brave attitude of our ancestors.
We have learnt that within our culture we can find solutions to our common challenges and problems.
That is why we adopted Gacaca, Umuganda, Ubudehe, Gir’inka and other homegrown solutions. They are working well and can be replicated in any other country with little adjustment to tailor them to the problems and circumstances at hand.
We want to renew our commitment to Never Again. We will never accept that people be killed due to their origin, belief or any other form of segregation. We will never accept that leaders kill their own citizens that they are supposed to protect.
We salute the recent efforts made by the international community to prevent killings in different countries including Mali, Central Africa Republic, Sudan, South Sudan and Syria and hope that the world has learnt from Rwanda’s tragic experience.
Let’s together renew our commitment to Never Again.
We can’t change the past, but we can learn from it to avoid the same mistakes and to shape a bright future.
The writer is the Rwandan High Commissioner to the Federal Republic of Nigeria