More than 300 Turkish citizens joined the Rwandan community, diplomats and friends of Rwanda to mark the 23 Commemoration of the genocide against the Tutsi in a sombre ceremony held in Kecioren municipality, Ankara, earlier this week, an official at the Rwandan embassy said.
The commemoration kicked off with a Walk to Remember by more than 200 people led by Rwanda’s Ambassador to Turkey, Williams Nkurunziza.
Eric Rugamba, an embassy official told Sunday Times that the walk to remember, which started at the Municipality headquarter’s square, followed the city’s main boulevard before ending at the Kecioren’s old palace building where a formal commemoration ceremony was held.
Participants lit candles of remembrance and observed a minute of silence before watching a video that sketches the genesis of the genocide.
“For 100 days from April to July 1994, my country was gripped by an incomprehensible madness as the architects of the genocide against the Tutsi unleashed an extermination campaign with senseless barbarity that left over a million dead and a nation in tatters,” Amb Nkurunziza said.
“We commemorate to remember and honor the memory of those who perished in the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi. It is also time to comfort those who survived; a time to recall and celebrate the ennobling acts of courage and human sacrifice that stopped the genocide as well as a moment in which we renew our commitment to a better future for Rwanda’s children, including a world without prejudice, genocide ideology and genocide deniers.”
The Ambassador thanked participants that included the Mayor of Kecioren, Mustafa Ak, members of the diplomatic community, Kicioren residents and students as well as Friends of Rwanda “for pausing to reflect on our tragedy, and caring enough to pay attention to our pain.”
“If I may borrow famed poet Maya Angelo’s words, your presence and compassion today, is ‘the rainbow in our dark cloud’ of mourning,” the Ambassador added.
Mustafa reiterated his Council’s and Kedioren community’s solidarity with Rwanda, adding that they shared Rwanda’s pain and could never forget the more than one million people killed during the Genocide against the Tutsi.
The municipality and the Rwandan Embassy in Ankara jointly organised the Commemoration.
Speaking at the same event, Turkish Academician, Prof Ahmet Sadat Aybar expressed profound regret at the senseless loss of human life during the Genocide and lamented the rising wave of Genocide deniers among western academicians.
While calling for the isolation and condemnation of Genocide deniers, he also highlighted the need for collaboration in expanding homegrown research and publication initiatives by African academicians as a counterforce to misrepresentations of Rwanda and Africa by western intelligentsia and media.
The Ambassador reassured participants that Rwanda had made positive gains since 1994, adding that the country is working hard to defend these gains against genocide deniers.
“Twenty three years ago, we took the path to self-annihilation because we had lost our sense of dignity under very bad leadership. Since then, President Kagame and his government have led Rwandans on a path to self-liberation.
“He has entrenched an inclusive political dispensation that has led to a phenomenal decline in the torrents of hate that fuelled the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. In its place, we see a swelling tide of care and compassion that has enabled Rwandans to journey together on a firm path of national healing, reconstruction and development.”
We are not yet on the mountain top, but our shoulder is stuck firmly on the twin wheels of hope and purpose. And no Genocide denier can stop this momentum,” he noted.
The Mayor then led participants in officially opening a photo exhibition to commemorate the Genocide against the Tutsi at the municipality’s old palace building.
The four-day exhibition was open to all Kecioren residents, including university and high school students.
The Embassy, in collaboration with partner institutions, is scheduled to hold two more commemoration events, one at Ankara University on May 11 and the other at the Istanbul-based Aydin University on May 10.