Kigali and most parts of the country woke up to a foggy, somber and serene atmosphere on the morning of the 20th commemoration of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi under the theme “Remember, Unite Renew”.
Across the city, activities were geared towards converging at the Amahoro stadium for the commemoration event.
Whether it was at Parliament Buildings where dignitaries and invited guests from across the world converged to be transported to the stadium, or at the KBC centre where local and international journalists converged, everyone was in a sombre mood with the events of 1994 seeming to cloud their minds.
At the Amahoro Stadium entrance, the venue of the commemoration event, there were long queues of Rwandans and visitors, most of them clad in memorial colours – grey and black.
Government institutions, public offices and embassies lowered their flags to half mast in respect for the lives lost two decades ago.
Business operators in solidarity and to honour the solemn moment closed their businesses for most of the day with most of them hanging banners with the season’s slogan “Kwibuka 20”.
Those who could not make it to the stadium, stayed in their homes and followed the proceedings that were aired live on public Radio or Television.
As people were continually streaming into the stadium filling it up and members of the fourth estate setting up their equipment, select guests were streaming in at the Kigali Memorial Centre in Gisozi for the first event on the programme, wreath laying and lighting of the Flame.
At a quarter past 10am, President Paul Kagame and First Lady Jeannette Kagame led guests in the wreath laying among them foreign heads of state, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, African Union Commission chairperson, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, and former heads of state.
Other dignitaries who laid wreaths include, presidents Yoweri Museveni (Uganda), Denis Sassou Nguesso (the Republic of Congo), Ali Bongo Ondimba (Gabon), Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Hailemariam Desalegn, Salva Kiir, (South Sudan) Uhuru Kenyatta, (Kenya) Hassan Sheikh Mahmoud (Somalia), Ibrahim Boubakar Keita (Mali), and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, among others.
President Kagame, the First Lady, UN Secretary General, and the AU Commission Chairperson were later presented with a Flame that had been taken across all the country’s 30 districts by two 20-year- olds.
The four jointly lit the Flame of Mourning in remembrance of the more than one million lives lost in the Genocide, as the army band belted out solemn tunes.
The dignitaries then headed to the Amahoro stadium for the main event.
Many people took to the various social media platforms to convey messages of support, encouragement, sharing in the feelings of the moment and posting remarks of various speakers. @nathanMugume tweeted Shadows of Memory; a very touching play, we can’t change our past, but we can determine our future, #Rwandan prevails #Kwibuka20
There was heavy media presence at the stadium all looking to cover the event to commemorate what various speakers referred to as one of the darkest moments of humanity’s existence.