Remember, Unite, and Renew

Fighting against Genocide Ideology

Fighting against Genocide Ideology

Every year from April 7th to April 13th, Rwandans take one week to remember the 1994-genocide against Tutsi, Remembrance Week, as officially called. This week is one of the most difficult times for many Rwandans, in Rwanda, and elsewhere in the world. This year of 2016, for the 22nd times, we remember over one million lives killed within a period of 100 days, starting from April 7th to July 4th 1994; Rwandans, killing other fellow Rwandans, brothers killing their own sisters, who shared the same culture and country. This week is a very tough week for everybody; especially for the younger generation, who were not old enough to understand the dynamics and the complexity of what was going on at the time, and still have had to experience and endure the consequences and the aftermath of one of the most horrific atrocities of the 20th century. During this week, Rwandans hold a series of events, remembering innocent lives lost, comforting the survivors, educating the youth about what happened, while learning from this horrific past to plan and to build a better future Rwanda for every Rwandan; all of this happening to ensure that what happened in 1994, never happen again in Rwanda. Never again.

During the remembrance week:

It is that time of the year again we say never again

It is that time of the year when we remember innocent lives lost during the 1994 genocide against Tutsi

It is that time of the year when we remember fellow Rwandans killed and murdered in cold blood for nothing else other than how they were born

It is that time of the year when we remember about 1,000,000 innocent souls murdered during a period of 100 days: Our mothers, our fathers, our grandparents, and children. Innocent people killed, murdered for how they were born, where they were born, and what ethnic groups they belonged to.

Kwibuka Flame Meaning

Figure 2.  Kwibuka is a Kinyarwanda word, which means, remember [1]

Unfortunately, it is very difficult to understand what was going on through the minds of the perpetrators.

  • Rwandans, killing other Rwandans, their fellow countrymen who shared the same culture at all levels of life. Whether be speaking the same language, eating the same food, and living the same lifestyle at all levels.
  • Friends, killing their own friends; neighbors killing each other; families killing each other.

It is that time of the year when I seat down trying to find answers, but unfortunately, I end up with many questions than answers. Always multiple questions wondering through my mind.

  • How did this happen in my nation? Why did it happen in my motherland?

The country I Love, the country I am proud to have born in, Rwanda.

Despite all the history I have learned in schools, books I have read about it, the stories I have heard from my friends, and the people I know, I always end up with many questions than answers. Again, I cannot figure out why and how this happened in my home nation, Rwanda.

Just thinking about for a moment:

During this week,

We remember to honor the lives of our fellow Rwandans whose lives were cut short for nothing.

We remember to comfort those who survived, ensuring them that their loved will never be forgotten.

We remember to teach the world what happened in Rwanda so that it never happens again anywhere else.

We remember to learn from our horrific past while setting a path for a better future for every Rwandan.

 

During this week, Rwandans do a series of event to remember the 1994: Below are a few of them

  1. Kwibuka Flame: This flame is lit on by the president of Rwanda on the beginning of the remembrance week for a period of 100 days, marking how long genocide lasted from April, 7th to July 4th, 1994. This flame stays on at the Kigali Memorial Center 24/7 and other regional memorial centers.

Flame2020

Figure 3. Kwibuka Flame at the Kigali Memorial Center, President Paul Kagame of Rwanda; UN secretary general, Ban Ki-Moon, and other international leaders.  Photo credit: New Times Rwanda

  1. Walk to Remember: This is another common practice during the remembrance week. Basically, it is a silent walk from 2-3 or 3-5 miles, whereby people walk with posters carrying the message of unity, peace, reconciliation, sustainable development, and a better future Rwanda.

WalkOnFacebook

Figure 4.  Poster made for a “Walk to Remember event” [1]

WalkToRemember2016

Figure 5. Walk to Remember Photo Credit: New Times Rwanda

  1. Other events include:
  • National dialogues and discussion about fighting against genocide ideology at all level of government institutions such as schools, universities, districts, and provinces.
  • Recovering bodies not buried properly yet and honoring them with proper burial
  • Visiting national and regional memorial centers
  • Visiting victims such as orphans, offering them financial and moral support needed

The above events go on throughout the year, but in these 100-days, they are intensified.

  1. Kigali Memorial Center: The Kigali Genocide Memorial Center is the national memorial center. In this museum, about 259, 000 bodies are buried here [1]. It has archives of Rwandan history regarding genocide, from how it was prepared, and how it was executing by the regimental government, that was on power at the time. This memorial has pictures, names of the victims and many more information you would need to know about the 1994 genocide against Tutsi.

NameOfVictimsRwanda

Figure 6. A section of names of victims who remains are buried at the Kigali Memorial Center [1,2]

  1. Ntarama Church Memorial Center: This is a regional memorial center, known for the massacre, happened at this church. People had come to find refuge at this Catholic Church, thinking that no one would kill them in the “House of God”. You have to understand to logic behind this because Rwandans were and are still a very religious and Christian dominated country. However, when they were gathered, the Interahamwes, the government supported militias group came in, bombed the doors by grenades, killing everybody who was in that church with mostly machetes, clubs, and guns; very few people survived this massacre. About 5, 000 people were killed in cold-blood at this church. After genocide ended, this church became a memorial center. The picture below shows how bad the atrocities was. The viewer discretion is advised if you click on this reference to see more pictures of the remains at this church.  You can see old clothes and shoes, which the victims were wearing, the bracelets, and other marks. Their remains were also cleaned and are rested inside the church. May these innocent souls rest in peace.

NtaramaChurch2016

Figure 7. Ntarama Church Memorial Center [3]

anotherPoster

Kwibuka22, poster showing remembering genocide!

How is Post-Genocide Rwanda?

Twenty-two years after genocide, Rwanda has made tremendous and significant strides in creating a united society, of Rwandans, who are proud to be Rwandans, above their ethnic groups. Today, Rwanda is a very safe country. At all levels of government leadership, whether, on political, diplomatic, and financial basis, Rwanda has shown that there is nothing a united society cannot achieve if they join forces together.

For the past 10 years,

  • Rwanda has averaged a yearly rate of 8% economic growth
  • Rwanda has tripled FDIs, foreign direct investments
  • Rwanda is one of few countries, where 9 out of 10 trust in the leadership of their country; Corruption is also very low comparatively.
  • The only country to have more women representatives in the parliament. Today, 63% of members of parliament are women.

Although Rwanda has made amazing progress, we still have a long way to go. We are not where we want to be yet. However, given what Rwandans have done in the past 22 years,  I have no doubt that we will continue to do well, using the foundation we have set up to build a much stronger, and more inclusive economy, and most importantly a more unified country.

  • This is a country I am proud to call mine
  • This is a country I am proud to be from
  • This is a country I am proud to belong to
  • A beautiful country, situated in the central-east Africa, the heart of Africa
  • A country of a thousand hills, in which, anytime God decides to sleep, he comes to rest in Rwanda, for its beauty. Our ancestors actually believed this and up until today, this saying is still widely used. “God might travel around other countries during the day, but when it comes to bed-time, he comes to rest, home to Rwanda.

My next blog is going to focus on what Rwanda is today describing and elaborating more on the progress we have made. As Rwandans, we have decided to not be defined by our past. We will learn it to build a strong nation, remembering, uniting, and renewing ourselves to build a better Rwanda together. By now, I hope you have learned something new whether you already knew a lot about Rwanda or you did not. If you have not visited, I hope I have or will convince you include Rwanda on your vacation lists too. It is truly an amazing country, wonderful people, and your vacation there would be a blast.

Contact me know for any questions

Until then, Peace and Love

Didier Champion

 

 

References

[1] The official website of Kwibuka: http://www.kwibuka.rw/

[2] Genocide Archives of Rwanda: http://www.genocidearchiverwanda.org.rw/index.php?title=Welcome_to_Genocide_Archive_Rwanda

[3] Ntarama Church Memorial Center: http://www.rwandanstories.org/genocide/ntarama_church.html

[4] Revisiting the Rwandan Genocide: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/04/140407-rwanda-genocide-today-anniversary/

[5] Rwanda, a beacon of hope:

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/apr/06/rwanda-genocide-beacon-hope-healing-nation

[6] Official facebook page of Kwibuka: https://www.facebook.com/Kwibuka-Rwanda-541941032558681/photos

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