How Nyaruguru survivors overcame bitterness to work for common good

THE 1994 GENOCIDE against the Tutsi did not only take the lives of more than a million people, but also left a society deeply divided and shattered. The country was in total ruins and full of blood.
Mourners pay tribute to Genocide Victims buried at Kibeho memorial site last sunday. Residents have said reconciliation efforts are yielding positive fruits for the population.   The N....
Mourners pay tribute to Genocide Victims buried at Kibeho memorial site last sunday. Residents have said reconciliation efforts are yielding positive fruits for the population. The N....

THE 1994 GENOCIDE against the Tutsi did not only take the lives of more than a million people, but also left a society deeply divided and shattered. The country was in total ruins and full of blood.

But 19 years down the road, the success registered in restoring unity among the citizens has closed the gap that existed shortly after the Genocide, with nationals living in harmony towards developing their country.

Over the years, reconciliation has taken its course in the heart of the people enabling the country to embark on a journey of socio-economic transformation.

Testimonies from residents of Nyaruguru district attest to the success with their ties restored and the people determined to sustain and strengthen the achievements so far registered.

Clad in khaki jacket, a grey T-shirt, navy-blue trousers and green plastic sandals (bodaboda), Fidele Seburinkaho, 53, says deepening reconciliation efforts in his community has enabled residents to live together in harmony and work towards self-development.

Seburinkaho, a survivor, lost all his relatives during the Genocide and is the sole survivor in a family of four.

It is Sunday afternoon and he has been attending a commemoration event, including a requiem mass for victims at Kibeho parish and a wreath laying ceremony at an adjacent memorial site.

This is the spot where Seburinkaho’s relatives were killed 19 years ago.

The future holds


Although he remembers with a sombre mood, and meditates on the 100 dark days of the Genocide with sorrow and sadness, the resident of Nyange cell has hope that the future holds the best for him.

“The population lives in harmony. We entertain good relationships,” he says. “We have turned the [Genocide] page and, together, we are working on rebuilding our lives,” he adds, looking to the future with optimism.

“We share everything, be it good or bad, with our neighbours.”

His wife, Domitile Mukaratubana, 43, also a Genocide survivor, stands by him holding a blue and red umbrella–it had been raining in the morning.

She expressed the same feelings as her husband about the deepening reconciliation and unity among local residents.

Mukarutabana says she is part of a local women cooperative which is uplifting the members’ living conditions.

“Whenever we meet, we are just like a family,” she says. “We don’t attach much importance to our background; we just work to help each other achieve a better life.”

“Whenever we meet, we discuss, exchange ideas on how to better our lives and, of course, we crack jokes,” Mukarutabana notes.

“We trust ourselves,” Odette Mukarubayiza, 63, a resident, says of the reconciliation process.

According to the residents, today’s efforts are directed towards improving their lives though they say they still face challenges.

Self-reliance

Speaking in Nyaruguru district, last weekend, at an event to mark the end of the 19th Genocide commemoration week, the Governor of the Southern Province, Alphonse Munyantwari, said Rwanda has gone a long way after tragic the traumatic phase in her history.

He noted that efforts to rebuild the country have paid off while reconciliation continues to prevail.

Addressing thousands of mourners who had thronged Kibeho parish playground for the occasion, Munyantwari stressed the need to strive for better living conditions.

He noted that the foundation has been laid and that it was time for citizens to contribute to rebuilding the country from the ashes of the 1994 purging.

Advice to residents


He urged residents to make use the of available opportunities and resources as well as the achievements so far registered in the social, economic and political life of the country so as to improve their lives.

“As Rwandans, we all know what our responsibilities are: we must strive for improved living conditions and self-reliance,” Munyantwari said.

“But we must also stand against genocide ideology and Genocide denial,” he added, noting that some individuals within and outside the country are still harbouring it.

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