Victims of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi who were thrown into Akagera River were on Wednesday honoured at an event held in Mpanga Sector, Kirehe District.
The sector neighbours Rusumo Falls on the Tanzania-Rwanda border. Akagera River snakes along the border line between Rwanda and Tanzania, then Tanzania and Uganda, before flowing into Lake Victoria.
The Mayor of Kirehe District, Gerald Muzungu, said it was important to honour the innocent victims killed in the Genocide.
“Many people lost their lives and livelihood. We have a moral obligation to remember the victims of the Genocide and say no to genocide in the future,” he said.
Relatives and friends of the victims attended the function amidst tears, as survivors recounted the ordeal they went through.
“It was horrible… having part of your body submerged in water for such a long time unbearable,” Elizabeth Muzarehe, a survivor, said.
Survivors told stories of how they were lured out of their hideouts and loaded onto trucks with false promises of better refuge only to be dumped in the river.
“We saw decomposing bodies and mothers drowning their starving children before finally drowning themselves. It is a horrible history,” said Claire Mbabazi, a survivor.
Thousands of decomposing bodies were washed to the shores of Lake Victoria in southern Uganda after floating on Akagera River for months.
Akagera is known to many Rwandans as the river of death.
“We still vividly remember when extremists like Léon Mugesera announced an apocalypse,” said Father Laurent Rutinduka, a Genocide scholar.
Mugesera, in one of his infamous speeches, said that the Tutsi came from Ethiopia and identified Akagera River as a short cut (inzira y’ubusamo) to deliver them to “where they came from”. Mugesera is currently on trial.
Fr. Rutindika urged religious leaders to tell the truth about the Genocide, adding that their followers needed the truth.
“Religious leaders also preached hatred and sectarianism. They should be courageous enough to tell Christians what went wrong and help them forge a new life,” he said.