Hundreds of residents gathered at a football ground in Kabgayi, Muhanga District yesterday afternoon to welcome the Kwibuka (Remembrance) Flame as it continued its journey ahead of the national commemoration in April.
The Flame’s arrival in the southern district, from Nyamasheke, marked its 12th stop on its national tour.
There was ululation as the torch arrived in the area, as the crowd stood in respect.
The Flame symbolises remembrance as well as the resilience and courage of Rwandans over the past 20 years.
“Today, 20 years after the Genocide against the Tutsi, we can afford to smile because at least there is hope for a better future. We have gone a long way in rebuilding our lives and we have been successful,” observed Oswald Kayihura, a 55-year-old Genocide survivor living in Nyarusange sector in Muhanga.
“But above all, this is time to celebrate the oneness that characterises the Rwandan community today. There are signs that that Rwandans are working together to better their lives,” Kayihura noted.
Kayihura, who survived the Genocide by hiding near Kabgayi church, narrated how several Tutsis who had taken refuge with him were killed by soldiers and the Interahamwe militia.
“Many of them were taken from Kabgayi, bundled into buses and driven to Ngororero where they were slaughtered and dumped in River Nyabarongo,” he testified.
Kayihura says the Flame’s journey should be an occasion for Rwandans, particularly the youth, to reflect on the country’s dark past and draw lessons from it.
“We should not allow this to happen again. The youth, particularly, should learn from our past and commit never to use their strength negatively,” Kayihura observed.
The Southern Province Governor, Alphonse Munyantwari, said the torch is ‘a proof that we all believe in a shared bright future’.
He said the country’s recent achievements have been a result of joint efforts and collaboration between the Rwandan leadership and the people.
Moving from darkness
Speaking at the event, the Minister for Public Service and Labour Anastase Murekezi, told Muhanga residents that the Flame symbolises the journey from darkness and discrimination to liberation and prosperity.
Murekezi said for the past 20 years, Rwanda successfully embarked on a transformational journey which has resulted into building a more sustainable economy and a country where citizens share every resource and gain.
He told the youth that they are lucky to grow up in a society which strives to attain better living conditions for all as opposed to decades ago when young people were taught to hate their comrades.
“Do not waste this chance. You have the opportunity to grow up in a country where leaders value citizens’ lives, a chance we didn’t have in the past,” Murekezi said.
He urged the youth to shun destructive ideologies and oppose anyone attempting to divide Rwandans.
The Flame, which departed from Kigali early last month, will cover districts before the 20th anniversary of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. On Sunday it will make a stop in Rutsiro District, Western Province.
What they said
Dominique Mukeshimana, 41, a Genocide convict who has completed his sentence
While growing up, our parents told us to hate some of our neighbours and fellow countrymen. As a result, I became involved when the killings started. I regret my acts. But today we are writing a new page in our history, a page of hope and life. This Flame is an indication that the Government of national unity has brought us from darkness and showed us the way to light.
Yvonne Mutakwasuku, Mayor, Muhanga District
Muhanga District has had its share of the consequences of bad leadership and dark history. We should always remember that the infamous Hutu Manifesto was signed here and that it is this area which became the headquarters of the genocidal government after they lost Kigali. That is now in the past. Today, we are building a new nation. As we welcome the Flame of remembrance, let’s strive for a prosperous nation.