Survivors hopeful 20 years later – Speaker

Survivors of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi have over the past 20 years regained hope and are now focused on building a brighter future, the Speaker of Parliament, Domitilla Mukabalisa has said.
Residents listen to speeches during the ceremony to receive Kwibuka Flame at IPRC - Kigali, former ETO Kicukiro. (Courtesy)
Residents listen to speeches during the ceremony to receive Kwibuka Flame at IPRC - Kigali, former ETO Kicukiro. (Courtesy)

Survivors of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi have over the past 20 years regained hope and are now focused on building a brighter future, the Speaker of Parliament, Domitilla Mukabalisa has said.

She made the remarks on Friday night as she graced a commemoration vigil at Nyanza Memorial in Kicukiro District.

Mukabalisa castigated the United Nations for having had knowledge of the preparation of the killings but did nothing to protect the victims.

Nyanza Memorial tells a story of how the International community abandoned Rwanda, leaving thousands of Tutsi to the mercy of Interahamwe militia.

Kicukiro residents and survivors held a walk from École Technique Officielle (ETO) to the memorial in memory of the Genocide victims murdered in cold blood after UN troops abandoned them on April 11, 1994.

“The 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi was carried out by Rwandans against their fellow Rwandans. The 1994 massacre of the Tutsi was, the most brutal the world has ever witnessed. It was organised and executed as the world looked on,” said the Speaker.

She hastened to add that: “The victims we remember today believed the UN troops had the resources and ability to protect them, but the soldiers instead opted to abandon them.  The UN had more than enough information about how the genocide was being prepared”.

Nyanza memorial site is home to remains of close to 6,000 people who were killed in the area.

In 1994, over 2,000 Tutsi refugees camped at ETO Kicukiro under the protection of the Belgian UN troops. The Belgian contingent formed the backbone of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR).

The troops, however, pulled out of Rwanda on April 11, 1994, following the murder by government forces of ten Belgian soldiers.

“The UN had troops, advanced resources and the ability to stop the killings and save the civilians, but they opted not to. Instead, they stood by and watched as innocent people were being killed, they later opted to abandon the remaining few to die,” Mukabalisa said.

She blamed the genocide on ethnic ideology instilled among the Rwandans by the colonialists that caused division among the people.

Reflecting on 20 years

She however called on Rwandans to draw lessons from the country’s ugly history so as to have the courage to rebuild it. “Today Rwandans are thankful of their leaders for reconciling and uniting them as well as implementing policies that are focused on development of the country,” she said.

The speaker observed that commemoration gives Rwandans an opportunity to reflect on the past and look into the history and focus on rebuilding a better nation.

“We need to also be part of several programs that have contributed to national economic prosperity. In doing so, we should promote values of self reliance and finding home grown solutions in dealing with our problems,” she said.

The Speaker also took stock of progress made in reducing poverty and illiteracy levels but noted that a lot still needed to be done.

She praised FARG, a government funded fund that provides for support to survivors saying that the initiative had empowered survivors and made them more hopeful.

“Most of the challenges genocide survivors faced in the past have been addressed mainly though assistance …Justice has played a key role in reconciling Rwandans and rebuilding the nation,” she said.

Dr Jean-Pierre Dusingizemungu, the President of Ibuka, an umbrella organization of Genocide survivors’ associations, heaped blame on countries that have not owned up on their failure to stop the Genocide.

“We commend countries that have come out to apologies for their failure, such as Kenya, but it should not stop at apologising but also contribute to the welfare of survivors,” said Dusingizemungu.

When the UN troops left ETO Kicukiro, government soldiers and Interahamwe militia took control of the school. The Tutsi were taken to Sonatube to be killed but the then mayor of the city, Lt. Col. Tharcisse Renzaho, ordered that they instead be taken to Nyanza because Sonatube was too visible as it was along the road to the airport.

The Tutsi were then forced to walk all the way to Nyanza, amid a heavy downpour. Many had not eaten for a couple of days. Those too weak to walk were killed on the way. When they arrived at Nyanza, the militia asked them to present their IDs to ensure that no Hutu was among them. Killing then started with most of the victims murdered using machetes.

 

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