THE FLAME of remembrance that is on a countrywide tour should not be a mere symbol but a torch to forever brighten the hearts of Rwandans to ensure the country never again experiences the dark past it went through.
The message was given by the State minister for Mining, Evode Imena, on Saturday to the thousands of residents of Gakenke District as they received the Kwibuka Flame on its 18th leg of the country.
The Flame, which was received in Ruli Sector, was delivered from Burera District.
A similar torch is on a tour of cities around the world.
The mayor of Gakenke, Deogratias Nzamwita, said Ruli Sector, which is part of the former Musasa commune, was a scene of mass killings during the Genocide in which militiamen from neighbouring areas participated.
However, he said despite such atrocities, residents have overcome the effect of the past, to strive for development and expressed strong hope that the future remains looks bright.
Ruli Genocide Memorial Centre, where the torch was received at, is home to remains of more than 200 victims and is one of six memorial sites in Gakenke District that host remains of more than 2,200 victims.
Addressing the residents, Imena said the torch is a reminder of what happened in Rwanda during the Genocide where more than a million innocent people were killed.
He said it was a dark period which people should overcome and live with light in their hearts to ensure such experience never happens again.
“This flame is something to remind us that though we passed though darkness of bad history, where innocent people were killed just because they were Tutsis, it is something we have to respect, it as a sign of encouragement and resilience that despite the bad history, there is hope and future is bright,” Imena told the residents who braved the scorching afternoon sun to attend the event.
“Let’s use the Flame to remember while rebuilding the Rwandan spirit within ourselves basing on our shared values, shared culture and language, let’s build unshakable unity to prevent anything that can lead us back in darkness,” he added.
“Let’s rebuild our society that was destroyed by bad leadership.”
The minister said the Genocide left wounds among Rwandans and the only way to heal is to be open and talk about what happened.
He cautioned residents that despite the milestone Rwanda has made, there are people who are still bent on promoting the genocide ideology and denial of the Genocide against the Tutsi, urging them not to give such people time.
Survivors share testimony
Francois Migambi, 48, a resident of Ruli who is a sole survivor in his extended family, said he saw Tutsis being harassed right from when he was growing up in the 1970s.
“Although I was still young, I saw houses being torched and my parents told me Tutsis were being killed, we endured discrimination in schools and Tutsis who were lucky to complete primary were not given chance to go on to high school,” he said.
Migambi said during the genocide, he witnessed his family members being killed by Interahamwe militia as he miraculously survived.
“Not many Tutsis were killed here until when Interahamwe from neighbouring areas were brought in on trucks equipped with machetes, hoes, swords, grenades among other weapons. This is when the killing of Tutsis started on a massive scale,” he said.
Migambi said he was supported by some Hutus who hid him until the Genocide ended.
“But now I am a recovered man, I have risen from ashes and now have a family of five children with a wife, I have managed to build a house and have animals, I have forgiven those who killed my family,” he added.
What they said . . .
Sofia Mukeshimana, 19, a student.
‘The Flame comes to show us, the youth, that Rwanda is emerging from tough times it went through; the times of discrimination that led to the Genocide and we have to learn from the past to prepare for the better future. As a young lady, I know that bygones are bygones and I have to learn from the bad history to chart a promising future.’
Claudine Nyirahabimana, 32, resident.
‘The Flame is a sign of light, the light that we should hold in our hearts to show that what is needed in our country is unity and reconciliation; that the past is the past and the present should be different. I think that Rwandans will be united thanks to the Flame. We have to support survivors, some of whom are old and lonely, while others still have injuries in their hearts.’
Marcelin Niyonzima, 50, a resident.
‘The Flame reminds us that we shouldn’t be the victims of darkness but rather strive for oneness and avoid what can separate us. I appreciate the good leadership we have and are hopeful that the Flame will always unite our country.’