Rukumberi: The best way to honour departed loved ones is to carry their legacy forward

Mourners tour Rukumberi Genocide memorial on May 19, 2019. The memorial is home to over 40,000 victims of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. / Jean de Dieu Nsabimana

Rukumberi, one of the areas that saw the worst killings during the Genocide against the Tutsi, yesterday laid to rest over 40,000 victims of the slaughter.

Some of the remains were recovered in recent days while others were removed from a rundown memorial, before they were accorded decent burial.

At the commemoration and burial service mourners paid tribute to their slain loved ones, reminiscing their camaraderie, bravery, endurance and the brotherly bond they had built over years despite the inhumane conditions they had been subjected to by successive genocidal regimes since 1959. 

Survivors travelled back in time, even performing some of the songs and poems their loved ones used to perform during Ibitaramo (cultural evenings).

Rukumberi, now in Ngoma District, has a long history of Tutsi persecution and killings. Like neighbouring Bugesera, this was one of the areas where the former governments experimented their genocide agenda, having been gazetted to host Tutsi families that were being forcibly uprooted from their ancestral homes elsewhere in the country. The relocations were part of an agenda to exterminate the Tutsi as Rukumberi was at the time heavily infested with tsetse flies; indeed so many of the early arrivals died from tsetse bites.

Nonetheless, the Tutsi of Rukumberi endured and outlived the tsetse flies, something that did not go down well with the fascist governments of the time. Like other Tutsi in other parts of Rwanda, they were persecuted and systematically killed because of who they were, until the Genocide against the Tutsi in 1994 when the ‘final solution’ was unleashed by the regime. 

Fortunately, there are some survivors in Rukumberi. Thanks to them, the victims of genocide in Rukumberi will never be forgotten, we will continue to honour and cherish their memory and remember the good times we spent with them and every moment of their lives. 

But, even as survivors remember their departed loved ones, they should continue to uphold their enduring spirit and carry their legacy forward by working hard and spreading love and the best of humanity for the benefit of all the people of Rwanda.