Kwibuka Flame: Bugesera residents see hope 20 years after the Genocide

The progress registered over the past 20 years, coupled with a change in people’s mindset, is an assurance that genocide will never happen again, residents in Bugesera District have said.
The Flame as it arrived in Ntarama Sector, Bugesera District from Rwamagana. (Jean Pierre Bucyensenge)
The Flame as it arrived in Ntarama Sector, Bugesera District from Rwamagana. (Jean Pierre Bucyensenge)

The progress registered over the past 20 years, coupled with a change in people’s mindset, is an assurance that genocide will never happen again, residents in Bugesera District have said.

The residents, who were speaking upon welcoming the Kwibuka (remembrance) Flame in the district, observed that there is a clear, expressed commitment to transforming the country and ensure that it continues to grow after it was reduced to ashes during the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi.

The Flame, which arrived in Ntarama Sector in Bugesera, from Rwamagana District, symbolises remembrance as well as the resilience of Rwandans over the past 20 years.

It is set to leave Bugesera today, Monday and head to Rukumberi, in Ngoma District.

Canisius Rutagengwa, 64, a resident of Ntarama, said the country had come a long way. He said ethnic divisionism, discrimination and hatred have since been uprooted from society.

“People’s mindset has changed. Rwandans now look at each other as comrades,” Rutagengwa said, adding that it is an indication that the country will never experience genocide again. 

The farmer said that as older people continue to grow older and weaker, the youth have a task to uphold the legacy of unity and development.

“They (youth) should avoid anything that might tear this country apart again,” Rutagengwa said.

Alexis Habarugira, 57, a survivor, narrated how the Tutsi in the area were persecuted, arrested, detained and murdered years before the widespread killings in 1994.

He, however, noted that over the past two decades, the country has embarked on a transformational journey, opening a new chapter in its history and the lives of its citizens.

He said though survivors have experienced tough challenges along the reconstruction journey, they have been able to transform their lives.

“We are better off today and can see a brighter tomorrow,” Habarugira said.

“As we strive to transform our lives, we know we have a supportive government which minds about the development of its citizens,” he added.

Fruits of unity

The Mayor of Bugesera, Louis Rwagaju, said since the Genocide was stopped, residents there are living a better life.

“We have transitioned from an area of genocide experiment and scene of widespread killings to a role model in good governance, development and social transformation,” Rwagaju noted, to the applause of the residents.

Jacqueline Muhongayire, the Minister for the East African Community affairs, told residents that what the country has so far achieved was a result of unity and a shared vision.

“The many lessons we have drawn from our history have taught us to join our efforts and remain united in our quest for development,” Muhongayire said.

She said: “The past 20 years give us assurance that the future will be brighter as we continue to grow and develop our country.”

The minister also challenged residents to champion for the truth and love each other “as a way of keeping the Rwandan spirit alive”.

When the Genocide began on April 7, 1994, the Tutsi fled to churches in Bugesera, including Nyamata, Ntarama and Kayenzi. On April 11, 1994 around 10,000 Tutsi who had taken refuge at Nyamata parish were systematically murdered. And three days later, around 6,000 Tutsi who had fled to Ntarama church were also mercilessly killed.

Traditional weapons such as machetes, spears and arrows as well as grenades were used to massacre the victims, according to testimonies.

Both Nyamata and Ntarama Catholic churches in the area have since turned into memorial site in rememberance of the atrocities committed there.  Caskets containing bodies of some victims line inside the church, lying on the benches that served as chairs for parishioners before the Genocide.

What they said...

Denise Uwamahoro, 17, student

The Kwibuka Flame is an indication that Rwanda has regained its dignity thanks to good governance that we have seen following the Genocide.

We are now on our way to sustainable development and the current social, political and economic environment gives me assurance that we shall attain long-lasting peace, security and development.

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Adeline Uwingabire, 17, student

As youth, we have the responsibility to keep our nation on the right track. We should continue to strive for unity and development and fight any kind of discrimination or divisionism.

 

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