Rwanda is a solid rugged book whose molding pages tell a story of resilience. Its chapters build a spirit of not giving up, one that has kept Rwanda moving through its toughest tribulations.
From 1994 to present, Rwanda has been walking a labyrinth of painful recovery.
We remember, how on April 7th 1994 the mighty hills of Rwanda looked down with pity at what was happening. The Tutsi were left in the hands of evil— nothing, not even the powers of heavens could come to their rescue. In three months alone, over one million souls suffered agonising death.
Rwanda remembers and never will it forget the horrors of 1994. The nights when God turned a blind eye on us, and ears of heavens and earth went death on us. Rwanda, the forgotten world was left to rot with no hope of returning.
Twenty years have passed yet the wounds are still drenching open.The wounded memories of 1994 hunt us in our nightmares. In the past two decades, stitching the cracks in the Rwandan social fabric and sewing the broken souls remains a lifelong journey for Rwandans.
Our past history remains. In two decades alone, Rwanda went from being an encyclopedia of unfinished dreams to a land of colourful promises. As Rwanda commemorates the Genocide against Tutsi for the 20th time, I pause to look back at what it all means.
As a young boy in the mid 90’s, I saw a shaken Rwanda whose mornings were hailed by pounding mortars. Dawns like sunset were feared equally. Wild dogs and the interahamwe militia roamed villages in Rwanda, thirsty to feed on more blood.
Those days have not long gone. I remember not long ago when a week would not go by uninterrupted by bullets and news of violence. Rwanda endured more than a country can take. The rivers suffered the same fate – I remember the floating bodies in Nyabarongo River and decaying corpse in the fields of Rwanda’s Western Province.
On the occasion of the 20th commemoration, I remember the thick smell of rotting bodies on the hills of Rwanda. The soothing breeze that once blew down the valley fresh air was hated for its toxicity. Our mountains bled and sipped blood of innocent people whose lives were cut short.
The blades of 1994 left marks on the soul-searching Rwandans. As big as the number twenty may sound, for Rwandans it is a blink of an eye. Those who survived machetes and bullets, spears, clubs, sharpened sticks or whittled down hoes, each of us are a hardened shell of history.
The then hopeless Rwanda evolved to becoming a renewed land I survived to witness. The echoes of the song Intsinzi bana b’uRwanda… njye ndayireba…mubice byose… “Victory children of Rwanda, I can see victory in every part of the country…” are remarkably real today than in the past when it was sung to strengthen people.
To put this victory into historical perspective, go back only a few years ago when Rwanda was a country whose citizens lived outside its borders. Worse yet, the challenge to reconcile Rwandans and absorb the past together – to me is the epitome of what has made Rwanda the country it is today.
HOPE is not a good enough word to define what Rwanda has become. Instead Rwandans have chosen a path of Agaciro “(self-respect)” as a motto towards a brighter and more prosperous future for Rwanda.
As Rwanda refused to be defined by its past, we remember to commend the new pathway Rwanda’s leadership has traced for its future generations. Together we remember. We remember to never forget. We remember to keep the memories of what happened alive as we honour the lives of loved ones. Together, we remember to never let it happen again.
The writer in a Rwandan living in the United States