The Rwandan community in Nigeria and in South Africa on Sunday joined their compatriots to remember, for the nineteenth time, the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
The commemoration at the Rwanda High Commission in Abuja, was also attended by Amb. Martin Uhomoibhi, Permanent Secretary in Nigeria’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, foreign diplomats, journalists and others.
Rwanda’s envoy to Nigeria Joseph Habineza reminded the gathering in Abuja how, in April 1994, innocent people: women, kids, old people were slaughtered by their neighbours using machetes, clubs, and hoes, and “the privileged ones paid to be shot dead!”
Habineza explained that even though Rwandans share culture, “the principle of divide and rule used by the colonialists, bad leadership, ignorance and poverty were the major causes of the Genocide.
Habineza said: “When the colonialists arrived in Rwanda, they were surprised to find a well-structured nation where the king was a representative of God on earth. All Rwandans respected him and he was devoted to his people, ensuring their wellbeing and security. They believed in one God, Imana.”
100 days, no where to hide
The Genocide lasted 100 days and there were no hiding places, he said.
“Even the churches that people used to fear and respect became butcheries where priests were organising the massacres of their church members.”
The envoy spoke of how, in the beginning of the Genocide, some media tried to inform the world about events in Rwanda “but many were reporting an entertainment event” and for some, “it was just tribal clashes.”
“Where was the international community during these dark days? The UN peacekeepers, who were in Rwanda from 1993, were withdrawn when the Genocide started, leaving innocent people at the mercy of killers!”
Habineza also shared the story of contemporary Rwanda’s rebirth. He narrated how the RPF took control of Kigali on July 4, 1994, and halted the massacres to kick-start rebuilding.
Habineza said: “It was not an easy task, some of those who claim to be Africa specialists were advising us to divide the country into two and others were proposing to put it under UN authority. This showed their ignorance about Rwandans’ courage and resilience.”
Amb. Uhomoibhi, who was in Kigali, last year, as the RPF celebrated its 25th anniversary, commended the efforts of the Government of Rwanda to raise the nation from the darkness.
The memorial in Abuja ended with a candle light procession in remembrance of victims of the Genocide.
Meanwhile, in Pretoria, about 200 people, including Rwandans living in South Africa, gathered at the High Commission in a commemoration ceremony marked by lighting candles, poems, and dirges.
Vincent Karega, the High Commissioner of Rwanda in South Africa, highlighted the importance of remembering, and called upon the Rwandan community to strive for a Rwanda that is self-reliant and full of dignity.