As Rwanda marks the 25th anniversary of 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi this year, Rwandan people who helped the innocent during the 100-day bloodbath are optimistic about future development.
Ahead of the annual commemoration, some Rwandans have come forward and shared their salvaging deeds during the genocide with Xinhua, while voicing their optimism in the nation’s future development.
“Rwanda’s future looks bright on the various fronts. The reason for this positive outlook is that the country has good leadership working to keep up the momentum (of development),” 56-year-old bishop Celestin Hakizimana told Xinhua.
After the Genocide, trauma was written on people’s faces, but gradually they restored hope and one can sense what the future holds, said the bishop, who was awarded with Abarinzi b’Igihango, by the country for his outstanding acts of courage and humanity showed during the genocide.
Hakizimana resided at Saint Paul Church in Rwandan capital Kigali as a catholic priest during the Genocide, where many Tutsi people sought refuge from the massacre.
He, together with other priests and church guards, thwarted militias’ attempts to kill Tutsi people in the church and protected about 2,000 people in the church from the beginning of the Genocide until mid-June 1994, when they were rescued by the Rwanda Patriotic Army (RPA), the armed wing of the current ruling Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF).
Now unity and reconciliation has reached appreciable levels, he said, adding that the key reason is the government’s stance in uniting all Rwandans through the National Unity and Reconciliation Commission and all citizens are treated equally as Rwandans.
The church has also played a major role in reconciling and uniting people, according to him.
“Rwanda’s future development undoubtedly will keep on improving to be much better than now,” said Gerald Mbanda, who served in the Rwanda Patriotic Army during the Genocide and also worked as a journalist for RPF’s radio Muhabura.
He cited effective and transformational leadership, hardworking people, home-grown solutions as reasons for the prospective.
During the Genocide, the media was used to incite people to commit genocide, while Muhabura played a role to save people from being killed, said Mbanda.
After the genocidal government and militias started killing innocent people, Muhabura could somehow get information of the lists of people who were being targeted and informed them to find safe places to move to.
Some people heard radio messages and left their homes for safe places to hide. After 1994’s genocide, efforts were made to build the unity of Rwandans, and avoid any forms of discrimination based on different issues, he said.
“What Rwanda is proud of today is good leadership that stopped the genocide and put in place means to heal and reconcile the Rwandan community,” he said.
“Rwandans are to remain united owing to the government’s reconciliation efforts...Rwanda will remain on the right path,” said Martin Mutsindashyaka, who saved 18 people during the 1994’s genocide and holds the title of Protectors of Friendship Pact.
Ethnicity was a decisive factor in the genocide, but now Rwandan people “live without ethnic divisions, sharing and working together,” said Mutsindashyaka.
Immediately after the Genocide began, the then 30-year-old Hutu policeman, who disassociated himself from Hutu extremists after listening to his heart, sheltered his neighbours in Kigali and then “whoever” came to seek refuge. As the number of people protected at his home increased, he dug a hole near his compound, and those protected by him stayed in his home and the hole in rotation.
Mutsindashyaka’s acts of protecting Tutsi attracted extremists’ attention, but fortunately he escaped death after his father bribed them. The Rwandan government put concerted efforts in fostering unity and reconciliation after the Genocide, said Mutsindashyaka. “Development projects are planned in a way that nobody should remain behind. In education, for example, there is equal access for all children, and welfare programmes target all Rwandans,” he said.