1994-2016. It’s twenty-two years ago today that the unimaginable happened; a government unleashing a militia of extremists to eliminate a section of the population.
A hundred days later, the Genocide against the Tutsi had killed over a million Rwandans. It remains the fastest killing spree ever recorded.
And, today, Rwandans will be joined by the rest of world to honour the victims.
This year’s commemoration (Kwibuka) is taking place under the theme; “Kwibuka22: Fighting Genocide Ideology.”
According to the Minister for Sports and Culture, Julienne Uwacu, remembrance events will be kicked off at Kigali Genocide memorial, where Genocide survivors, government officials, foreign leaders and diplomats will join President Paul Kagame in the morning in the laying of wreaths at mass graves at the site before lighting the Flame of Hope (Urumuri Rutazima).
The Flame symbolises the courage and resilience of Rwandans over the last 22 years, according to officials.
The President will then later in the day join thousands of Kigali residents in the annual ‘Walk To Remember’, which will start from the Parliamentary Building in Kimihurura and end at the Amahoro National Stadium.
At the arena, President Kagame is scheduled to address the nation, according to Uwacu.
One of the foreign leaders to attend the Kwibuka event at the Kigali Genocide Memorial is Tanzanian President Dr John Pombe Joseph Magufuri, who arrived in the country yesterday for a two-day official visit, according to a statement from the museum.
The memorial is home to more than 250,000 Genocide victims. “We are a home for survivors, relatives and friends of victims to remember their loved ones,” the statement added.
The minister called on members of the public to observe the week-long order of commemoration “as a way of paying fitting respect to the Genocide victims.”
Throughout the week the Rwandan flag will be flying at half-mast in honour of the victims, while civil servants will be working for half a day during weekdays to afford them time to participate in community discussions organised as part of the commemoration during the week.
Today is a public holiday. Across the country, commemoration events are taking place at the village (umudugudu) level.
“We ask Rwandans to fully participate in commemoration events, attend communal evening vigils and conversations, and be mindful of any incidents or speeches that might lead to trauma, especially among Genocide survivors,” Uwacu said.
She also called on members of the public to steer clear of genocide ideology, recalling that such cases are punishable by law. “Instead, let us all support and stand with Genocide survivors, especially during this commemoration period.”
Meanwhile, in addition to the commemoration events inside the country, more vigils and ‘walks of remembrance’ are scheduled to take place across the world, mainly organised by Rwandan communities abroad.
Government officials announced last month that during this year’s commemoration period, Rwandan Diaspora community will be more engaged in the fight against genocide ideology and revisionism.
The official mourning period, due to end on April 13, will conclude with a commemoration event at Rebero Genocide memorial in Kigali’s Kicukiro District, which hosts the remains of several politicians slain during the Genocide, among other victims.
However, commemoration events will continue across the country through July 3, the day on which the Rwanda Patriotic Army seized power and effectively stopped the Genocide.
Prof Jean Pierre Dusingizemungu, the president of Ibuka, the umbrella organisation for Genocide survivors, told The New Times that a number of events are lined up during this year’s commemoration period.
He said the focus will be fighting genocide ideology and improving survivors’ living conditions.
“Different survivor organisations are planning a number of events throughout the 100 days of Genocide commemoration. We call on everyone to do all they can to support survivors during this difficult period,” he said.
He added: “It is our hope that during this period we will see more houses of Genocide widows and orphans renovated, property disputes settled, pending trials conducted, and help for the most vulnerable survivors as far as their access to healthcare is concerned”.
Dusingizemungu also called for the documenting and preservation of the truth surrounding the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, warning that there were many people out there, including fugitives and their sympathisers, who are keen on distorting the history of the Genocide, with some going as far as denying it.
The Executive Secretary of the National Commission for the Fight against Genocide (CNLG), Dr Jean Damascene Bizimana, also called on Rwandans and friends of Rwanda to join the fight against genocide ideology.
“Genocide ideology should be relentlessly fought because Genocide perpetrators and their backers have continued to distort the truth around it,” Dr Bizimana said in a statement.
Honore Gatera, the Manager of the Kigali Genocide Memorial, invited the public to visit the museum during the 100 days of remembrance and “pay their respects by touring the memorial and laying a flower on the burial place”.