Aviation community pays tribute to Genocide victims, survivors

Members of the aviation community listen to a guide inside the Campaign against Genocide Museum at Parliamentary Buildings on April 10, 2019. Samuel Ngendahimana.

Employees of Rwanda Airport Company (RAC), RwandAir and Rwanda Civil Aviation Authority (RCAA) yesterday met at Kigali International Airport to mark the commemoration of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

It was a culmination of a three-day commemoration that the aviation community was marking.


The event was preceded by a walk-to-remember from Amahoro National Stadium to the Parliamentary Buildings where they visited the Campaign against Genocide Museum to learn the history of the liberation struggle.

The official commemoration was graced by Gen. James Kabarebe, who delivered a public lecture on how the Rwanda Patriotic Army (RPA) fought to liberate the country and put an end to one of the brutal tragedies ever seen.

Gen James Kabarebe helps one of the attendees to light a commemoration candle.

“There was a possibility that today we wouldn’t be sitting here commemorating our people whose lives were lost at the hands of a brutal regime. What sets this leadership apart is the desire to allow people to reflect on important moments, what it means to them and how they can learn from them,” he said.

Kabarebe gave a long history of the role that people who were refugees at a time came together to fight for their rights and the steadfast commitment of the RPA forces to save people.

He indicated that there were possibilities that genocide could happen, based on a series of historical events that were happening all the way from 1959 when Tutsi homes and families were being looted by Hutu extremists.

“It was a completely a bipolar society. There was a gap between the elite class and the poor. The elite class entrenched the idea that those who were poor had been because of the Tutsi,” he narrated.

Some of the members of the Aviation community during commemoration.

In this sense, the former defence minister said, it was easier for the political leaders whose personal interests where at the top of their agenda to mobilise the extreme poor to turn on the Tutsi.

In such a society, it required unusual knowledge and a different thinking to put an end to such a genocidal regime.

Isabelle Umugwaneza, Deputy Managing Director, Rwanda Airport Company and James Kabarebe light a candle. 

Kabarebe said the few RPA forces that went to war had a high level of discipline.

“Many RPA soldiers knew their families had been killed, they would pass by the bodies of their families who had been killed, but they would continue the fight to save people. We demanded a lot from them and they delivered,” he said.

L-R: Firmin Karambizi MD, Rwanda Airports Company Ltd, Yvonne Makolo, CEO, RwandAir, Isabelle Umugwaneza, Deputy MD, Rwanda Airports Company,  Gen James Kabarebe, Special Advisor to the president on defense, Silas Udahemuka, DG, Rwanda Civil Aviation Authority and Patrick Nkuliyimfura, MD Akagera Aviation during the event.

Such should be a lesson to Rwandans to make sure that they play their part in fighting anything that could lead to war of any kind, he told the participants.

According to available data, the aviation community lost about 22 people who were former employees of the then companies that were operating the airport.

Solange Uwanyiligira whose four family members (former airport employees) were killed during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, recounted that the then environment was filled with hate and discrimination.

Rwanda airports company Ltd join other members of the aviation community during a march to remember the victims of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

Uwanyiligira survived with her young sister.

Silas Udahemuka, the Director General of RCAA, encouraged the aviation community to join hands and fight genocide ideology and denial and be part of the journey that the Government has embarked on to develop and transform the country.

“That is all we ought to do to,” he said.