The former Giti commune, now in Gicumbi district, like anywhere else in the country, bore the brunt of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, contrary to popular belief, a representative of Genocide survivors in the district has said.
Emelite Nyirarukundo, president of the national umbrella of Genocide survivors, Ibuka, in Gicumbi, said while massacres in Giti might not have been at the same scale as elsewhere in the country, there are many Tutsis who were targeted and killed in the area.
She was speaking to The New Times during the closure of commemoration week in Ruvune sector, Gicumbi district, at the weekend, and vowed that survivors will not allow the Genocide history in the area to be distorted by deniers.
“At first people thought this area was safe for Tutsis during the Genocide, but later testimonies revealed damning details. Many survivors continue to complain about their loved ones who perished in this area but are yet to be accorded decent burial,” she said.
Nyirarukundo explained that they have since pulled down a billboard which said there was no genocide in the former Giti commune. “In this area, there are Genocide widows, orphans and widowers…We also had Gacaca courts (semi-traditional tribunals that adjudicated Genocide cases) in Giti.”
Nyirarukundo urged Genocide perpetrators to seek forgiveness and live peacefully with those whose relatives they massacred.
“There are survivors who have not yet buried their deceased relatives, some memorial sites are not in good conditions and some survivors don’t have decent houses to live in, all these are issues which need to be settled to help set survivors on the healing path,” said Nyirarukundo.
“Shortly after the Genocide, I couldn’t talk to anybody, I was traumatised. But as time went on people started approaching me and we started talking. In 1998 residents built me a house which I now live in,” said Jean Bosco Hasingizwemungu, one of the survivors.
“From that time, I feel comfortable with my neighbours, when I go to school I leave my house without fear that someone will break into it. When I return my neighbours welcome me with open arms,” he added.
Immaculee Mukankusi, 58, a resident of Manyagiro sector in Nyiragifumbwe cell, said unity and reconciliation in the area is on the right course.
“We have lived through a tragic history, came out of it and we are now trying to rebuild our lives and help move our country forward. As residents we try to help each other, and I can confirm that we don’t have cases of genocide ideology in this area,” she said.
Hope is real
Addressing mourners at Nyarurama memorial site in Ruvuna sector, the Mayor of Gicumbi district, Alexandre Mvuyekure, said Rwanda, and Genocide survivors in particular, had come a long way.
He said it Genocide commemoration is an opportunity to reflect on the country’s difficult past, while laying the foundation for a bright future.
“It is encouraging that Genocide survivors are striving to put that ugly past behind them, we should all continue to support them in their quest to lead decent life,” he said.