As the country marks the 23rd anniversary of the Genocide against the Tutsi, Rwandans living abroad yesterday joined their compatriots back home in remembering lives lost during the Genocide.
In Tanzania, a walk to remember was held in Arusha after which more than 300 people, including students and East African Community (EAC) officials, congregated at the EAC Headquarters for a memorial ceremony.
Eugene Kayihura, Rwanda’s High Commissioner to Tanzania, thanked the regional bloc’s leadership for taking the lead in organising the event and all who attended for standing with the Rwandan people in this year’s commemoration.
“Rwandans are moving with their heads held high and are determined not to be prisoners of their bitter past, they are very positive and optimistic about their future,” Kayihura said.
“We are grateful to President Paul Kagame whose visionary leadership has brought about peace and stability that has moved the country from the darkest periods of despair to a more optimistic future.”
As Rwandans and friends of Rwanda commemorate, Kayihura said, the whole world – is implored to take concrete measures to fight genocide ideology and denial, the latter of which he noted has been “at its peak” in different parts of the world.
The envoy reminded the audience that before its closure, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) legally recognised that genocide took place in Rwanda between April 6 and July 17, 1994.
Unfortunately, he said, in the recent past and even presently, genocide perpetrators and their henchmen are offered platforms to deny the 1994 Genocide, a situation that is absurd.
Kayihura nonetheless thanked the governments and people of the region for “always trying as much as they can to stand in solidarity with the government and people of Rwanda during these very trying moments.”
Focus on youth
At the ceremony, attended by the Arusha regional commissioner, Mrisho Gambo, commended the big number of youth who attended the commemoration event.
The youth, he said, are usually misled and used in cases of violence, conflicts and “as we witnessed in Rwanda the youth were very active in the killings of their peers during the Genocide.”
Gambo called upon the EAC leadership to do all it takes to design programmes to support “our youth” to grow into responsible citizens.
If the youth are well guided and mentored, he said, they can play a positive role in preventing and combating “such heinous crimes,” he said.
“By this, the slogan ‘Never Again’ will become reality indeed.”
East Africans must always find solutions within their means to prevent and stop conflicts in “our” region, Gambo said. “We should desist from the tendency of expecting solutions from elsewhere because the experience of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi which was committed while the international community was watching should serve as a lesson that we must always be ready to provide home-grown solutions to our problems.”
U.S, Alberta send messages of solidarity
The United States, meanwhile, in a statement said it stands side-by-side with the Rwandan people in remembrance of the men, women, and children killed in the 1994 Genocide.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said: “We bow our heads honoring those who suffered and the family members who each day keep their memories alive and close at heart.”
The United States said it remains steadfast in “our support for the Rwandan people as they work to overcome this dark period in their history, hold accountable the perpetrators of such heinous acts, and strengthen the fabric of their country in preventing a recurrence.”
Meanwhile, in Canada, the office of Rachel Notley, the Premier of Alberta, issued a message of solidarity with Rwandans which also puts emphasis on the importance of educating the youth.
“Our thoughts are with you today as you pay tribute to family, friends, and all Rwandans. Today is also an opportunity to educate our youth so that they will build a more peaceful world,” the Canadian politician’s message reads in part.
‘‘On this day of commemoration, we are reminded once again that we are part of a global community, united to emphasise our shared values of inclusivity, peace and tolerance.”
Commemoration events abroad were held at different times in Stockholm, Sweden, Dakar in Senegal, and at the UN Headquarters in New York, among others.
In Rwanda, President Paul Kagame, First Lady Jeannette Kagame and the Chairperson of the AU Commission Moussa Faki Mahamat on Friday led mourners at the beginning of the commemoration activities in Kigali launched by lighting the Flame of Remembrance at the Kigali Genocide Memorial.