NYANZA - Hundreds of survivors of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, their families and friends, yesterday, gathered at the Centre for the Handicapped in Gatagara, in Nyanza District, to remember and bury the remains of victims.
They prayed, listened to heartbreaking testimonies, and poems, before the remains of 38 newly discovered bodies were accorded a decent burial. This adds to 4,300 others laid to rest there.
At the peak of the Genocide in April 1994, handicapped Tutsi students from the centre and staff were isolated and killed. Thousands of other people from neighbouring areas who sought protection at the centre were murdered as well.
Saturday, tears welled up and overflowed as a poem was recited by a young woman whose father and relatives were cruelly murdered.
Under the midday sun, pain and despair showed on many faces and many broke down in distress.
Evode Kalima, a Genocide survivor and lawmaker in the lower chamber of deputies, was the guest of honour. He urged survivors to remain brave because Genocide deniers degrade commemoration events.
He condemned people like Celestin Ugirashebuja, the former Mayor of the area who allegedly fanned hatred and masterminded the killings, instead of protecting people. Ugirashebuja reportedly works at a nursing home in the UK.
Kaslima praised heroic former Hutu leaders like Jean Marie-Vianney Gisagara, the former Mayor of the then Nyabisindu Commune, for his efforts to save lives.
“He refused to join the killers and was killed. It is good that we let the young generation know about such good examples,” the legislator said, and assured the gathering that the government will not allow what occured in 1994 to happen again.
Abdallah Murenzi, the district Mayor, laboured to comfort survivors and stressed the government’s resolve in nation building. He appealed to those who had a role in the Genocide, to look back, take the blame and seek for forgiveness to set their hearts free.
Another survivor told how the Interahamwe militia killed babies, the handicapped, and the elderly.
Vincent Musare was 14 in April 1994 and, like many other survivors, witnessed horrific deaths of family members and friends.
“The machetes they used to butcher our cows are the same ones they used to kill our families. Our neighbours turned against us.
What is so agonizing is that I watched as people were hacked to death.”
Janvier Forongo, an official of IBUKA – the umbrella organization of Genocide Survivors’ association, noted that the war against Genocide denial is what concerns everyone.
“Presently, this is the war we are fighting as survivors and as Rwandans in general,” he said.