Members of the Rwandan community in the city of Oxford in the UK were last weekend joined by academics at Mansfield College chapel and area residents to mark the 24th anniversary of the Genocide against the Tutsi.
The commemoration was linked to the opening of a new exhibition, Kwibuka Rwanda, curated by Dr Julia Viebach, examining memorials of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda.
The exhibition demonstrates the role of preserving human remains and honouring victims in societal grief process and gives voice to the ‘care-takers’ who work in these spaces, honouring the dead by cleaning and preserving their remains.
The creator of the exhibition, Dr Julia Viebach, noted: “During the Genocide people were killed in unthinkable ways and this process of commemoration and caring for the bodies of the dead allows survivors working at the Genocide memorials to give victims their dignity back after death, at least symbolically.’
The audience also heard a moving testimony from a survivor of the Genocide against the Tutsi, Antoinette Mushimiyimana, who was only 12 years old during the Genocide in 1994.
Mushimiyimana spoke of how she lost her mother and three brothers, including one called Emile, who gasped for his last breath while young Antoinette was trying to provide any help she could after being hacked with machetes by Interahamwe militia.
“Surviving is a responsibility. Memories of my loved ones will never leave me – I survived and live to carry forward their legacy,” she said.
Lord Mayor of the City of Oxford, Councillor Jean Fooks, noted that the world must strengthen resolve to ensure that genocide never happens again anywhere in the world.
“Oxford is very proud to host this significant remembrance and we shall do all we can to support Antoinette and other survivors of the Genocide against the Tutsi living in our city of Oxford.” she said.
In her remarks, Rwanda’s High Commissioner to UK, Yamina Karitanyi, talked about how being Rwandan comes with the responsibility to comfort Genocide survivors and to be on the frontline of fighting Genocide denial.
“This is why this event is significant and we thank the organisers,” the envoy said, adding, “Let us carry on that path of renewal. Today’s Rwanda should give us the resilience and energy to create a better world for generations to come.”
The commemoration event also involved a ‘walk to remember’ from Mansfield College to Pitt Rivers Museum.
John Binama, the Chairman of the National Association of Rwandan Communities in UK, who was also the event MC, said ‘Theirs was a cry never heard. Through the commemoration and the Kwibuka (remembrance) Rwanda exhibition, we remember them and are united in our resolve to act against those who seek to bury the horror of the crime of genocide in revisionism.’
The event was the result of a partnership between the Ishami Foundation (a new organisation bringing together two organisations founded by former international Rwandan football player Eric Eugene Murangwa, Football for Hope Peace and Unity and Survivors Tribune), the National Association of Rwandese Communities in UK, Oxford Rwandese Community Association, Mansfield College, Oxford, the University of Oxford Faculty of Law, and the Pitt Rivers Museum.