Victims of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi who were thrown into Akagera River were Wednesday honored.
The function was held near Rusumo Falls on the Tanzania-Rwanda border in Kirehe District where flowers were thrown into the river.
Akagera River forms a natural border between Rwanda-Tanzania, Tanzania-Uganda border and flows into Lake Victoria.
The function was organized by National Commission for the Fight Against Genocide (CNLG), in conjunction with students from East African universities under their association, Dukundane Family. CNLG Executive Secretary, Jean de Dieu Mucyo, said remembering the victims was important because it enables proper documentation of the Genocide.
“Many people lost their lives while survivors lost their livelihood. We have a moral obligation to remember those who were brutally murdered and be able to say no to Genocide in future,” he said.
Relatives and friends of the deceased attended the function amidst tears, as survivors relived the horrific pain in the water.
“It was horrible… having part of you submerged in water for long, many could not bear the pain,” a survivor said.
They told stories of how they were lured out of their hideouts and loaded on trucks on false promises better shelter, only to be dumped in chilly water in the river.
“We saw pregnant mothers dying in labour pains, mothers drowning their starving children before they could drown themselves too, decomposing bodies, it is an ugly history,” said Richard Gihana, a survivor.
Decomposing bodies in their thousands were washed to the shores of Lake Victoria in different parts of southern Uganda after floating on Akagera River for months.
Akagera is remembered by many Rwandans as a death river, which was used to drown the Tutsi. “Memories are still live in our minds, when extremists like Léon Mugesera announced an apocalypse,” said Edward Kirenga, also a survivor.
Mugesera in one of his infamous speeches said that the Tutsi came from Ethiopia and identified Akagera River as a short cut (inzira y’ubusamo) to take them there.