The month of April has been, internationally, designated as Genocide Awareness and Prevention Month each year. It is in April 1994 that a genocidal government in Rwanda started to execute a plan to exterminate a group of its population; the Tutsi.
Every year, for the past 23 years, from April 7, Rwandans all over the world take 100 days to commemorate the genocide perpetrated against the Tutsi.
For a couple of years now, the fight against genocide ideology has been a central topic during the commemoration of the genocide perpetrated against the Tutsi in 1994 in Rwanda and across the globe.
This theme resonates loudly with Rwandan Communities across the United States.
This year, the Embassy of Rwanda in Washington D.C. registered a remarkable increase in community-led commemoration events and Walk to Remember events that were held across the country.
Some of the communities were holding Kwibuka events for the first time.
This unprecedented wave of commemorations, though positive for the most part, has shed light on some challenges within Rwandan communities in the U.S.
Genocide, though a widely-discussed topic, can also be difficult to understand. There are many Rwandans who left Rwanda in the wake of 1994, and have seldom maintained a connection to their country.
With the many narratives that one is exposed to through media, academia, and undeniably that of genocide deniers, it is sometimes harder for the younger generation to discern truth from propaganda.
It is therefore crucial that, as our communities engage in commemoration events, relentless education about the genocide remain a focus.
To this problem, the Embassy of Rwanda in Washington, D.C. continues to be a resource for communities by being present and supporting Kwibuka events with knowledgeable speakers and by engaging genocide survivors who can contribute to and engage others in the conversation about genocide.
The other challenge that has been noted is that of lack of content for some communities.
The embassy of Rwanda, with the help of CNLG and other organisations involved in the fight against genocide and/or memorisation of Genocide continue to provide communities with content that allows Rwandans in the diaspora to understand the Genocide through multimedia materials such as videos and pictures, speeches, and other important content on the genocide.
This year alone, over 15 communities across the U.S. have held commemoration events, and that does not include events held by students on their campuses.
The Rwandan community across the US, by standing strong together, and by publicly denouncing acts of genocide denial through Kwibuka events, are posing a serious challenge to genocide deniers, and are offering to many Americans and to a generation of young Rwandans who left the country after the genocide, an opportunity to understand truly what happened in 1994.
By being visible, and by truthfully recounting the regrettable history of their country, the Rwandan community in the U.S. narrows the stomping ground of genocide deniers and allows many who have been away from the country to understand the cost of the progress that Rwanda has made today.
It is not by entertaining historical amnesia that Rwanda developed itself, and nor will the diaspora thrive in a meaningful way by erasing the reality that their fight against genocide ideology and genocide denial is vital to the nation’s development.
Genocide ideology and denial must be fought unremittingly, both by the countries facing it and by the international community. The Rwandan community abroad must not relent in their vigilance against any attempt to blur the historical record of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi.
It is indispensable in order to ensure healing for the survivors, but also promote Rwanda’s unity and reconciliation policies.
With a better understanding of the history of the genocide comes a greater appreciation of what commemoration means.
There is increased strength in tackling denial and negationism, more involvement on the part of higher learning institutions, and a collaborative atmosphere between the embassy and communities.
With the solid partnerships that have been built between the Embassy of Rwanda and the various communities in the U.S. there is no doubt that a learning environment for Rwandans will continue to be fostered, allowing Rwandans abroad to further learn about the history of the genocide in order to fully understand the vision of the country, and discern where they can contribute to the development of the nation.
The writer is the Communications and PR Officer at the Embassy of Rwanda in Washington D.CFollow https://twitter.com/ElodieShami