A sombre mood engulfed Nyaruguru as hundreds of residents gathered in Kibeho on Sunday to pay their respects to the victims of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
Residents braved bad weather and sat in silence as they listened to testimonies, songs, poems and speeches – all urging unity, reconciliation, forgiveness, reconstruction and hard work.
There was a requiem mass attended by hundreds of residents including relatives and friends of those who were murdered in the area.
The previous night, residents and leaders kept a night vigil in honour of the victims.
During the 1994 Genocide, Kibeho was the scene of the mass murder of students from Marie Merci School. Thousands of Tutsi were also killed at a local church where they had taken refuge.
Today, part of the Kibeho church is a memorial site in honour the memory of those who perished there. The remaining part is still used for mass.
Outside the church stands a memorial, home to over 28, 000 victims.
Speaking at the event, the Southern Province governor, Alphonse Munyantwari, urged residents to continue to reflect on the country’s past despite the closure of the official mourning week.
He told residents that commemorating the Genocide is a key factor in Rwanda’s renewal.
“As we reflect on the Genocide, we strengthen our commitment to the ‘never again’ resolve, draw more lessons and help heal the wounds caused,” Munyantwari said.
He called upon residents to desist from genocide ideology, warning of severe consequences to anyone who espouses such ideology.
Observing that cases of genocide ideology have significantly decreased, Munyantwari advised individuals still harbouring such beliefs to change and join with other Rwandans in nation building.
“Be humane and join others in rebuilding the country or be ready to face stern consequences,” he said.
Nyaruguru District mayor Francois Habitegeko said the past 20 years had been productive in the country’s reconstruction journey and serve as proof that the country will continue to prosper.
“Today our hearts are united as we remember those who were killed and put our energy to bare as we rebuild our lives and country,” he said.
He urged residents to keep supporting survivors.
Meanwhile, in Gisagara District, hundreds of residents gathered in Kibilizi Sector to mark the closure of the mourning week.
After a requiem mass at a local church in honour of those who perished in the area two decades ago, residents heard testimonies of survivors who narrated how Tutsi were mercilessly butchered during the Genocide.