Rwandans have been urged to uphold unity and reconciliation during the upcoming 22nd commemoration of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, due to start April 7.
Fidele Ndayisaba, the executive secretary of the National Unity and Reconciliation Commission (NURC), made the remarks on Wednesday while visiting local mediators (abunzi) and members of an association that brings together both survivors and perpetrators in Rubavu District.
He was there to assess the progress made thus far in the area of unity and reconciliation.
“Reconciling has undoubtedly helped you to settle social conflicts and do away with suspicions amongst yourselves. This has also guaranteed you mental peace as it has led to harmonious living as testified by many of your colleagues,” he said.
“As we approach the commemoration period, let’s take a moment to reflect on how genocide ideology led to the Genocide in Rwanda 22 years ago and recommit to the cause of strengthening unity and reconciliation to reflect the real Nd’Umunyarwanda spirit.”
The Nd’Umunyarwanda concept seeks to promote national identity (‘Rwandanness’) as opposed to the divisive politics of the past.
Ndayisaba said peaceful co-existence was key to sustainable peace.
“It also helps to heal the wounds left behind by the Genocide and the sad history of genocide ideology that characterised the country for decades before culminating into the (1994) Genocide that claimed a million of Rwandans,” he said.
Boniface Mudenge, the president of Inyenyeri, the association of Genocide survivors and perpetrators, said promoting unity and reconciliation helps in the healing process.
“By worked together, we managed to address the problem of properties destroyed and looted during the Genocide…We decided to create Inyenyeri association through which we sensitised people on unity and reconciliation. This led the offenders to seek forgiveness and survivors to forgive them in relation to properties worth over Rwf110 million,” he said.
He added: “Currently, we engage in development activities together, and pay no attention to ethnic differences.
This has helped us to heal the wounds left behind by the Genocide; I can say that we have realized social cohesion among ourselves as a result.”
Nicodeme Ntaganzwa, a Genocide survivor in Bugeshi Sector in Rubavu District, a member of Inyenyeri association, testified how he forgave Abdallah Habimana, who played a major role in the burning of the former’s nine children in a house.
He said he found it better to overcome his bitterness, forgive and look to the future.
“It was sorrowful for us after our families had been wiped out. However, we deemed it necessary to forgive the perpetrators to restore harmony in our community. We found that it was important to lead by example to our young generation to avoid further ethnic divisions,” Ntaganzwa said.
On his part, Habimana noted that he felt relieved after being forgiven by Ntaganzwa.
Inyenyeri association was created in Rubavu District in 1994 after the Genocide against the Tutsi.
It was initiated to deal with mistrust and hatred in the community brought about by the Genocide.
It has since been credited with repairing relations among members in two districts – Rubavu and Nyabihu.