Rwandans should entrench the culture of peaceful coexistence and uphold their common identity and values to help accelerate the country’s development.
This was the message delivered by most local government officials in all districts on Monday as the nation paused to remember the more than a million of its citizens who lost their lives during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
In Rulindo District, Northern Province, residents gathered at Mvuzo Genocide memorial site where more than 6,670 victims are buried.
The provincial executive secretary, Deo Kabagamba, appealed to Genocide perpetrators still in denial to seek forgiveness for their inhumane actions and move on.
Warning against genocide ideology, Kabagamba urged residents to maintain unity and uphold the pledge of ‘never again’.
In Musanze District, the commemoration event kicked off at Muhoza memorial site before mourners gathered at Ubworoherane stadium.
Over 300 victims, most of them killed at the Appeals Court of Musanze, are buried at the memorial site.
The Mayor of Musanze, Winifride Mpembyemungu, noted that the 20th Genocide commemoration was an opportunity for the country to reflect on its journey of healing, reconciliation and renewal.
She warned against actions that might open wounds caused by the Genocide, and appealed to the public to stand with the survivors during this period.
“To remember is to reflect on the past and identify what can help us move forward. We should remember while also trying to repossess our values as Rwandans,” Mpembyemungu said.
“Let’s work for unity and reconciliation, let’s steer clear from genocide ideology and its denial, let’s support those who survived Genocide and help them rebuild their lives.”
In Gakenke District, residents gathered at Muhondo memorial centre, home to the remains of more than 200 Genocide victims.
Dieudonne Uwimana, the head of Ibuka, the umbrella of Genocide survivors, in Gakenke, said survivors had several government initiatives to thank for their improved lives.
He appealed to Genocide perpetrators to reveal the whereabouts of remains of Genocide victims yet to be found, so as to accord them a befitting burial.
In Gicumbi District, the main commemoration event started from Nyamiyaga memorial site, where victims of over 76 families are buried.
Gicumbi mayor Alexandre Mvuyekure challenged residents to work hard for sustainable development and support vulnerable survivors during the commemoration period.
At Kirambo memorial site in Burera District, where the remains of at least 67 Genocide victims lay, the district mayor, Samuel Sembagare, warned residents against entertaining Genocide revisionists and deniers whose goal is to distort the country’s history. He said such people are driven by genocide ideology.
He also talked of the need to jealously guard the gains the country has registered in as many aspects over the last two decades.
“Rwandans, including the youth, should work hard to develop themselves while supporting the disadvantaged Genocide survivors,” Sembagare added.
Elsewhere, in Nyabihu District, Western Province, residents gathered at Rambura after laying wreaths on the graves of three catholic priests who were killed during the Genocide.
The district mayor, Abudulatif Twahirwa, said over 7,000 people were killed in the area during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi but the remains of some victims are yet to be recovered.
He appealed to perpetrators to reveal the whereabouts of the remains of the victims so as to get decent burial.
Residents speak out
“We have overcome fear among ourselves, after the Genocide I could not easily talk to survivors because I thought they were bitter with us and viewed everyone else as killers.
“There were no social interactions but, as time went on, we started getting close and sharing everything. We have since achieved a lot together and are ready to safeguard our achievements together,” said Placidia Uwamahoro, a resident of Muhondo in Gakenke District.
Venant Hakizimfura, another resident of Muhondo, said: “Rwandans betrayed their country by killing their compatriots yet before colonialism we lived with each peacefully, without divisionism. Still, today we have reason in believing in a bright future.”