Genocide is not a matter of numbers

WHEN the April rains come the grey weather they bring also comes with a sense of foreboding. It brings back sorrowful memories of a nation.

WHEN the April rains come the grey weather they bring also comes with a sense of foreboding. It brings back sorrowful memories of a nation.

It reawakens the pains of a people, especially now that we commemorate 20 years of the Genocide against the Tutsi. The solemn mood is noticeable to even first-time visitors to Rwanda.

Maybe it is human to run away from bad memories. This is especially true when the memory is about horrible events like genocide. 

A visit to the Kigali Memorial Centre gives insights into other genocides around the world. Such a dark side of humanity!

The attempt to annihilate an entire ethnic, race, creed of people seems to be as old as history itself. 

Closely related, is the vehement denials about the act by the guilty parties. 

The fact that Rwanda remembers and gives honour to the fallen innocents is thus a very unique and noble thing. 

But beyond dignity and honour, this is a very personal affair for every Rwandan household and all Rwandans, within and outside the country. The pain of the Genocide is not just in the numbers. 

To the rest of the world, it may be a statistical matter, with everyone coming up with round figures of the victims. To Rwandans, it is someone’s father, mother, brother, sister, uncle, aunt, grandparent and so on whose lives were tragically cut so short. It is up close, it is personal, emotional and very painful. 

Rwandans honour their loved ones because they must. It is the restoration of their very ‘ubuntu’ (humanity). It is as much for them as it is for fallen victims of the Genocide. It is a journey to renewal.  

As a matter of fact, the Genocide against the Tutsi started way back before 1994. There were pogroms as far back as the fifties. 

All these ‘practice genocides against the Tutsi’ built up to the 1994 catastrophe partly because they were not exposed for what they were. They were given other names that somewhat legitimised them by design or default while dehumanising the victims.

Thus commemoration is important in working towards ensuring that ‘never again’ is not an empty slogan. To ensure a minimal chance of recurrence of this evil.  It is humanity’s best shot at putting a stop to this, not just in Rwanda but anywhere in the world. 

Genocide commemoration, however, has to go beyond Rwandans as a country and a people. It should be global and for each one. If the Genocide left us with lessons on what not to do, the post-Genocide recovery has given us rich lessons on how everyone can be better human beings.

Heroism was and has been alive in the midst and in the aftermath.

Rwandan recovery is often described as a miracle. And indeed it is, but it has been a miracle pulled off by Rwandan themselves through incredible faith and hope and hard work and focus right from the top.

Commemoration gives Rwanda and every Rwandan (an indeed every human who cares) an opportunity to refocus and rededicate themselves to being a better nation and person.

It is also an opportunity for us to learn from and emulate those that have sacrificed all to bring the country back from the brink. We have an opportunity to make Rwanda and the world a better place. 

Thus the questions everyone, Rwandan or otherwise, should ask themselves is; What is my personal role? How do I define myself?  Does someone else define me? Do I contribute positively to the development of my country? 

Rwanda’s home-grown initiatives, like Ndi Umunyarwanda, are thus laudable. But the big question is, has the world learned? Events in Central African Republic seem to suggest otherwise. 

God bless Rwanda.

The writer is an entrepreneurship Development Consultant based in Kigali.

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