The Kwibuka (Remembrance) Flame has returned to Kigali City after spending about two and half months touring districts across the country.
The Flame was lit on January 7 at Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre in Gisozi, and embarked on a nationwide tour as part of activities in the build up to the 20th anniversary of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
It arrived in Nyarugenge from the south-eastern district of Kirehe where it had been since Thursday. On Thursday, it will travel to Ndera in Gasabo District.
Since its departure from Kigali, the torch has visited 27 districts in the four upcountry provinces.
As it completed its 28th leg, the torch was welcomed at Camp Kigali, in the city’s Nyarugenge District, by dozens of residents and school children.
At the time of the Genocide, Camp Kigali housed an elite military barracks, a military school (Ecole Superieure Militaire), and served as the headquarters of the Forces Armees Rwandaises and as home to military school of infantry.
Testimonies indicate that several meetings to hatch the Genocide plan were held inside the camp and attracted several high ranking civil and military officials.
The barracks was also said to have been a place for torture, persecution and murder of a number of Tutsi who were mainly arrested from across Kigali on accusations that they were rather sympathisers or collaborators of the Rwanda Patriotic Army.
However, the place remains one of the most notorious for the murder of former Prime Minister Agathe Uwilingiyimana, who was strongly opposed to the Genocide, and 10 Belgian peacekeepers that had been deployed to protect her.
They were brutally executed on April 7, 1994, a few hours after the Genocide machinery was put into motion.
Paulin Rugero, a survivor, spoke of how the camp became a place of murder and torture of Tutsis in the build up to and during the Genocide.
He said information he gathered indicate that scores of Tutsis might have been killed and dumped inside the former military premises.
Citing an unnamed soldier whom Rugero said was living at the Camp, Rugero told the residents that Tutsis were often tortured beyond human understanding and in some cases were immersed in hot water.
“What happened inside this camp is unimaginable and appalling,” Rugero said. “So many parents, so many young individuals perished at the hands of soldiers here.”
He requested officials to make efforts to locate the remains of those who were killed, saying they might be still trapped there.
Rugero also requested for the construction of a special memorial site for those who were murdered there.
Struggle for development
Damas Gisimba Mutezintare, who helped save the lives of over 400 Tutsis, also spoke of how he dared to offer shelter to Tutsis and became a target of Interahamwe militia.
He managed to flee and reach St Michel Church in the city centre where he was later rescued by the Rwanda Patriotic Army.
Speaking at the event, Nyarugenge mayor Solange Mukasonga told residents that the Flame “stands for the light which has driven darkness away.”
“It is a symbol of the dignity we lost with the Genocide but for which we have diligently and successfully struggled for over the past two decades,” Mukasonga said.
“We should keep our efforts and resolve to ensure that the new found peace, unity and development enlighten our way as we continue our journey to better lives,” she added, calling upon residents to shun genocide ideology.
The Minister for Cabinet Affairs, Stella Ford Mugabo, told residents that it is imperative to reflect and revisit the country’s past in order to understand the root causes of the Genocide, draw lessons from past mistakes and keep the commitment to build a better country.
She said the discriminatory policies promoted and implemented from the colonial era and embraced by the first and second republics “culminated in the persecution, torture and murder of a part of the Rwandan population.”
“For us to totally get out of that dark episode of our history we need to devise strong strategies to heal the wounds that were caused by the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi,” she said.
“Healing the wounds requires us to always fight for the truth and seek forgiveness for those who offended their countrymen.”
“This way, we will overcome the tough challenges that came as a result of the Genocide, strengthen our unity and continue our successful journey to building a developed Rwanda,” she added.
Fidele Ndayisaba, City of Kigali mayor. ‘We are happy to welcome the Kwibuka Flame again in Kigali after it departed from Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre in Gisozi in January. This is an indication that this Flame will indeed continue to enlighten our path to building a developed, peaceful and secure nation. We pledge to remain at the forefront of the nation’s transformational journey and to spread the fruits of development and good governance to other parts of the country for our achievements to be a shared source of peace and growth for all Rwandans.. progress.’
Stella Ford Mugabo, Minister for Cabinet Affairs. ‘For us to totally get out of that dark episode of our history we need to devise strong strategies to heal the wounds that were caused by the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. Healing the wounds requires us to always fight for the truth and seek forgiveness for those who offended their countrymen.’
Vedaste Niyondora, 26, Nyarugenge resident and artiste.‘This Flame signifies that we have opened a new chapter in our history. It is a symbol of life. This Flame, therefore, signifies that there will be no more people who would end the lives of their countrymen with impunity. It also signifies the hope that we have in building a more stable and prosperious nation.’
Paulin Rugero, survivor. ‘What happened inside Camp Kigali is unimaginable and appalling. So many parents, so many young individuals perished at the hands of soldiers here.