Action Aid International Rwanda staff, last week, visited Ntarama Genocide Memorial Site in Bugesera District to pay respects to the victims of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
Honouring the victims, including Action Aid’s nine workers who were killed 22 years ago, buried at Ntarama, the staff laid a wreath on the graves and followed the history of how thousands of Tutsi were relocated to the area from where more than 5,000 lost their lives.
Marie Chantal Umugwaneza, a memorial guide, also a survivor in the area, told the staff how Bugesera was reserved for only Tutsi who were relocated from different parts of the country with a view to kill them easily.
She explained how the area was not appropriate for human settlement because it was infested with tsetse flies.
Thereafter, the staff and victims’ relatives and friends gathered at Action Aid office in Remera where a vigil was held.
It featured lighting a flame, a lecture on the Genocide, testimonies from survivors, sermon, and dirges.
Claver Mutabazi, the in-charge of memory and prevention of Genocide at the National Commission for the Fight against Genocide, said the Genocide was a result of bad leadership.
He said genocide ideology was sown in the minds of people and spread countrywide which led to genocide, blaming the perpetrators who still have such ideology.
“Everyone should learn from commemoration activities. Action Aid commemoration should be an example to other NGOs in joining Rwandans to honour the victims,” Mutabazi added.
In his sermon, Pastor Aphrodidas Ndamyumugabe thanked God for the country’s good leadership, which has been instrumental in reconciling Rwandans.
He testified of how he spent days and nights among dead bodies after after escaping slaughter at the hands of militia.
“It was difficult to swallow anything whenever I occasionally got it,” he said.
He urged survivors to spend time reflecting on the purpose of their survival rather than the bad history that took the lives of their loved ones.
The word of God is able to heal the wounds and shocks, we are still alive for a purpose, he said.
A survivor from Nyanza shared an emotional testimony, recalling how she was gang-raped.
Together with other relatives, the survivor said she sought refuge in the church believing it was a holy place and safe from attacks. Not to the militiamen.
“My relatives were tortured to death. The situation was beyond human understanding. A gang of five militiamen raped me.”
The survivor nursed bitterness and had vowed never to marry. But due to counseling she forgave, reconciled and finally got married and has five children.
Josephine Uwamariya, the country director of Action Aid Rwanda, comforted the victims’ relatives and friends, adding that commemoration is the time to remember and think more on how to ensure a better future.
Uwamariya called for collective efforts to foster unity, reconciliation and respect of human rights to develop the country and fight against ideology.