Commemoration marches and other ceremonies were on Sunday held in Brussels - Belgium, Swedish capital Stockholm, Maryland - USA, Kinshasa – DRC, and in Denmark, among other places as thousands of Rwandans and friends remembered loved ones lost in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
In Stockholm, Rwanda’s envoy to the Nordic countries, Venetia Sebudandi said remembering serves both to “preserve the memory of our loved ones” and to raise awareness to what happened and sensitise the world about “this most heinous crime of Genocide so that it does not happen again anywhere else in the world.”
Sebudandi outlined the different social, political and economic gains Rwanda has made over the last 19 years after the Genocide and how Rwandans are stepping up efforts to attain self-reliance.
“Unique home grown solutions were successfully used to provide answers in situations that seemed impossible,” said Sebudandi.
Nordic countries have taken a relatively strong stance towards Genocide fugitives over the last few years with arrests of suspects in Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland.
Sebudandi urged Rwandans in Sweden to interest their children in the story of the Genocide so that they can carry on the struggle for the preservation of the memory and quest for justice as well as fight revisionism and trivialisation of the Genocide against the Tutsi which, she observed is on the rise in the region.
In Maryland, Rwandans in the USA and Canada, read poems, lit candles and sung songs. Genocide survivors, Tabitha Mugenzi and Kizito Kalima, shared heartbreaking stories of tragedy and triumph.
Scholars spoke about a range of topics from trauma counseling to transitional justice mechanisms, to Genocide denial. Taylor Krauss gave remarks on the importance of documenting survivors’ stories.
Of challenges and solutions
In a presentation titled “Who speaks for the survivors of the Genocide against the Tutsi,” Dr. Chantal Kalisa discussed the role of survivors in western media and academic literature.
Patricia Crisafulli, author of Rwanda Inc, echoed the importance of self-reliance, stating “Rwanda’s challenges will be addressed by Rwandan solutions.”
In Viborg town, in Denmark, prayers were held in Kinyarwanda and Danish, followed by a three-kilometre Walk to Remember through Viborg town.
Later, Hans Henrik Lund, Director and founder of Church Integration Ministries (KIT), an interdenominational evangelical said that it was important to always commemorate as well as “educate the children and youth about their roots and history.”
On Monday, a commeration event was held at the Permanent Mission of Rwanda to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland.
UN officials, diplomats and international staffers in Geneva, as well as Rwandans and their friends lit candles of hope and observed a minute of silence in honor of the victims of the Genocide.
Minelik Getahun, the Permanent Representative to the United Nations and other International Organisations in Geneva, noted that Rwanda had come a long way and that the world could learn a lot from the people of Rwanda.
He said through home-grown solutions Rwanda had achieved reconciliation and had registered commendable economic prosperity and peace.
Soline Nyirahabimana, Rwanda’s Permanent Representative to the UN, in Geneva, said: “Self-reliance is about the choices one makes for oneself. We, Rwandans, have learnt from the genocide and in the last 19 years that we must work together, face our challenges and not wait or expect others to address them for us.”
“The people and Government of Rwanda have deliberately set out to define themselves, to define our challenges and, collectively, define the solutions to those challenges.”