Kwibuka21 is almost here – a few days in April we dedicate to remember the events of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. Incidentally, like in Rwanda, Rwandans living in other parts of the world observe Kwibuka events by organising several activities in their respective communities.
This year on April 7, the Rwandan community in the UK will convene in London for a walk-to-remember followed by workshops to tackle Genocide denial and revisionism, among other commemorative events.
With this in mind, a friend of mine in his early twenties asked me; don’t you think that the more we focus on remembering the events of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi the more we risk being defined by those events in the future?
No, I replied, before adding that the notion of remembering is a vital piece of the puzzle necessary if we are to have a future at all.
Now, it is entirely conceivable that as time goes by, and with multiple factors at play such as growing up in the diaspora, some young people may indeed find it confusing to understand why, as a nation, we persist to commemorate events of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi every year.
Here, I wish to take this opportunity to reach out to young Rwandans everywhere to explain why we must ensure that we continue to remember the events of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi for many years to come.
Why must we remember?
Presently, many of us who were children at the time of the Genocide have come to gradually understand the magnitude of the tragedy that befell our country.
We have come to learn the root causes of the Genocide, its consequences on our country, and more importantly, how to ensure that such events can never happen again.
Also, we understand that remembering the events of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi is relevant to the process of eliminating prejudice and discrimination because all of the worst aspects of humanity and injustice are reflected starkly and horrifically in this sad episode of our shared history.
And so we understand that it is imperative to come together every year from all four corners of the globe to honour the memory of those who lost their lives and to offer our moral and practical support to those who survived.
In essence, we remember the events of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi because if we do not spend time remembering and reflecting on the atrocities that took place, we risk a much heavier burden of repeating these actions, which is far worse than being defined by such historical events.
Additionally, when we remember, it allows all people from all ages, Rwandans and non-Rwandans, to reflect on what the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi has to teach us, not only in this generation but in future generations.
It is a sad fact, but we must recognise that the crimes committed against humanity during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi have been repeated elsewhere in the world.
The repetition of these human tragedies reminds us that we must be vigilant and continue to learn and remember the lessons of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
How can we ensure remembrance?
Education, education, education! Education programmes on the events of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi offer young people the opportunity to reflect, discuss and undertake research into a range of issues which may not seem so obvious in the beginning.
These issues help to raise awareness and understanding of the events that characterised the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi as a warning for all humanity.
By recognising that such events could happen again, anywhere and at any time, we ensure that our society, both home and abroad, is vigilant in opposing all ideas that promote Genocide denial, revisionism, and other forms of bigotry.
Similarly, education is important in highlighting the values of a tolerant and diverse society based firmly on the premise of equal rights, universal dignity and respect for all.
This, of course, wasn’t the case in pre-1994 Rwanda as those who were considered different were marked out for persecution because of ill-conceived political and social agendas.
However, it is not enough to remember events of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi; we must look to the future and make a commitment to support all efforts aimed at uniting us as a people of one country.
We all have an individual responsibility towards our fellow citizens not to stand by while others are being victimised or persecuted. Likewise, we should recognise and applaud both the Rwanda Defence Forces and Rwanda National Police for their peacekeeping missions which, in many ways, help to ensure that we share our past experiences so that other nations can avoid what we went through in 1994.
Ours must be a generation of change – a generation capable of delivering and keeping peace in Rwanda and around the world.