Rwandans yesterday held an event to commemorate the victims of the March tsunami that hit Japan’s north eastern coast.
The event started with a church service in the morning and proceeded with a fundraising, to mobilise funds to support survivors.
The tsunami, which was triggered by an earthquake, left many buildings destroyed, thousands of people dead or missing, and many desperate survivors with no food or shelter.
Marie Louise Kambega, a Rwandan who lives in Japan, who is presently on a visit in the country, witnessed the tragedy and decided to organise a fundraiser.
In her remarks Kambega stressed the significance of providing assistance to the tsunami survivors.
“It is our culture, as Rwandans to assist those in trouble. There are many people who still live in temporary shelters; some have lost their loved ones and their jobs, and need our assistance now.”
Kambega, also a founder of “Think about Education in Rwanda,” a Japan aided NGO, added that the Asian country recognised Rwanda as one of the African states that reached out to support it during the recent tragedy.
The Minister of State for Energy, Coletta Ruhamya, who was guest of honour hailed Japan’s assistance to Rwanda, and asserted that the commemoration event portrayed the good relationship between the two countries.
“Japan has escorted Rwanda in its reconstruction process, since the 1994 Genocide; it is our duty to also reach out to them in any way possible, especially now that they face hardships caused by the tsunami.”
“Japan and Rwanda have enjoyed a good relationship as reflected by the establishment of their embassy in Rwanda and instituting offices of its organisation, JICA (Japanese International Cooperation Agency).”
The Japanese ambassador, Kunio Hatanaka also thanked Rwandans’ solidarity and sympathy.
“Rwanda was the first of the 53 African states to send some assistance to Japan, which expresses your solidarity. Now that it is not your government donating but you as individuals, I must repeat that we are very grateful. “
He also underscored the weight of the tsunami to the Japanese, as it left behind aftermath effects like gas leaks which led to fires, and also nuclear extrication which forced people to remain indoors, afraid of getting across accidents.
In a separate interview, Honda Takashi, a Japanese living in Rwanda, appreciated the generosity portrayed by the fundraising,
“I am challenged by how Rwandans live as one family, chasing one goal. This fundraising alone might not be enough to satisfy all the needs Japanese now, but shows us how the world stands with us.”
The day also observed related tragedies; the September 11 terror attacks on the United States and Saturday’s sinking of a ferry off the Tanzanian coast, which claimed the lives of hundreds of people.
The contributions made to the Japanese were both in cash and pledges.