Reconciliation Groups, bringing together reformed perpetrators and survivors of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, have been instrumental in fostering reconciliation and promoting unity among Rwandans.
The remarks were made in different districts of the country on Tuesday during the launch of the annual week-long Unity and Reconciliation Week.
The campaign seeks to consolidate gains made over the past two decades and foster better relations 20 years after the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi that claimed lives of over a million people.
Testifying at the event held in the rural Mukura Sector, Huye District, residents said reconciliation groups have helped Genocide perpetrators reconcile with survivors.
Rose Burizihiza, a Genocide survivor and member of Abasangirangendo group, testified of how she had ealier found it difficult to forgive those who killed her relatives and destroyed her property during the Genocide.
“I wanted to revenge against those who wronged us by killing our relatives and destroying our lineage,” she said.
But after joining the reconciliation group, Burizihiza changed her mind and decided to forgive her offenders.
“I unconditionally forgave those who perpetrated the Genocide thanks to the lessons I learnt through this group,” she says.
Claude Karekezi, another member of the group, testified of how he freely reintegrated into the community after participating in the Genocide.
“The group offered us a platform to approach survivors, apologise for what happened and seek forgiveness. We then picked up the broken pieces and supported each other,” Karekezi said.
“After owning up for my role during the Genocide, forgiveness was all I needed to set me free,” he added.
Speaking at the function, Huye District mayor Eugene Kayiranga Muzuka, told residents that unity and reconciliation are key to socio-economic development.
He urged them to shun divisionism, discrimination and genocide ideology.
He also challenged residents to support those who are still struggling to emerge from the consequences brought about by the Genocide.
Meanwhile, launching the Reconciliation Week in Rwamagana District, on Wednesday, Severna Mujawayezu, a commissioner in the National Unity and Reconciliation Commission, urged opinion leaders in the Eastern Province to own the “Ndi Umunyarwanda” programme and help citizens understand its importance in unifying Rwandans.
“Avoid segregation and guard jealously our new found unity,” she said.
Rwamagana District mayor Nehemie Uwimana gave a presentation on the history of Rwanda before and after the Genocide.
He also stressed the importance of Ndi Umunyarwanda in ensuring unity.
“Ndi Umunyarwanda is an initiative we must conceptualise well. It raises our consciousness to live as one people. The background that characterised our past behaviours no longer holds much, but our new vision for the future matters most. This is done for the good of the present generation and for posterity,” he said.
Participants also watched a documentary about Rwanda’s history. They expressed their commitment to unity and promised to continue sensitising citizens on Ndi umunyarwanda, particularly the youth and children.
Aloys Kanamugire, 48, a Genocide survivor said she feels the impact of reconciliation drives.
“Shortly after the Genocide, I dreaded people who killed my parents. My heart was full of bitterness but this bitterness has since been swept aside and replaced with a new era of Rwandaness that has closed gates to ethnicity,” he said.