18th GENOCIDE COMMEMORATION “Learning from our history to build a Bright Future”
The month of April for many religions, is a time of hope, renewal and remembering over 800 000 Rwandans who were massacred during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsis. Today, this dark Rwanda history is collectively remembered by the world on the 7th of April as the International Day of Reflection on the 1994 Genocide in Rwanda.
The month of April shall forever be recorded as a dark month in the history of Rwanda. This April, as the world commemorates the 18th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide, Rwanda takes note of the lessons learned in transitional justice and the challenges that remain with regard to the principle of responsibility to protect and stop Genocide from occurring in Africa ever again.
According to the National Commission for the Fight against Genocide (CNLG) the 18th Genocide commemoration period focuses on the importance of reflecting on the historical aspects of genocide against the Tutsi, as a way of planning for a better future. Ildephonse Karengera, the CNLG Director of Memory and Prevention of Genocide, said that at least 80% of the activities planned for this 18th commemoration have been confirmed ready.
“The local media is very vital in sensitizing the community and report the activities in a descent manner, which is focused on the theme of this year. The vocabulary must be very clear and well prepared so as to communicate the message of commemoration” Karengera said.
This year’s commemoration week will be officially launched at the national level on April 7, at the Amahoro Stadium, in Kigali, under the theme: “Commemorating Genocide Against the Tutsi: Lets us Learn from History to Shape a Bright Future”.
During the March 2012 Umuganda (Monthly Community Cleaning Day) all local government units finalized discussions on their planned activities for the commemoration. The national radio will also host a talk show “Kubaza bitera kumenya” -in which the public is expected to give their views on Genocide. Kigali will also host a high level international conference on genocide: under the theme- “18years after the genocide committed against the Tutsi: Testimonies and Reflections” which will be held at Kigali Serena hotel, from April 5-6.
Commemoration activities will also be held by the rest of the communities at the village level, with public talks, showing of films on genocide, and other commemoration related activities. “The official week will go from 7th through 13th April- and will be observed at the national level.
However, commemoration of genocide against Tutsi will continue for the next 100 days in accordance to the Association of Genocide Survivors, and it should continue for the rest of the days” Karengera announced. For 100 days, from April to July, a candle burns from the flame that stays lit for the entire period at Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre to small commemorations across the country in memory of those killed in the genocide.
Within the three months several activities of helping genocide orphans and widows, decent burial of genocide remains among others.
CNLG officials also called on Rwandan within the country and abroad to respect the importance keeping memories of genocide committed against the Tutsi and their activities to be held in ultimate discipline and calm mood.
Several public talks will also be held countrywide at various levels. These will be in line with this year’s theme: Some of the aspects to be discussed will include-history, trauma, fighting genocide and its ideology, the involvement of the outside world in fighting genocide.
All these will be in line with the four government pillars of development- economic development, good governance, justice and social welfare. The Executive Secretary of the National Commission for the Fight against Genocide (CNLG), Jean de Dieu Mucyo, said that the 18th commemoration will also focus on supporting genocide survivors, giving a decent burial to genocide victims, and `visiting the memorial sites. The 18th commemoration brings on board a wide coverage of genocide memorial activities from around the world. Rwandans all over the world have been encouraged to organize the event within the 100 days of mourning.
Rwandans in Diaspora will also be part of the memorial period and more countries are expected to organize the event in their respective countries of residence. The US, Singapore, UK, Sweden, Netherlands, Belgium, France, Denmark, Uganda, Kenya, and many other have previous participated in the event. The “Walk to Remember” one of most recent initiative of keeping memories among youths of East Africa is expected to make a major impact on the youth saying NO to Genocide. This event is held all around the region, with youth teams travelling around the East African countries (in Bujumbura the capital of Burundi, Nairobi, Kampala and Dar-el-Salaam) to connect with their counterparts in these countries so as to mobilize for the walk in demonstration against divisive ideology which can lead to genocide,” reads a statement from the organizers.
Mr. Mucyo remarks that Rwandan youth have a great responsibility. “The youth of Rwanda have the great responsibility of - and opportunity to - learn from the past and work together to build a united country, free of genocide ideology,” said Mucyo.
He added that walk to remember was a great way to raise awareness about the negative effects of genocide while encouraging youth to be better leaders of the future.Walk to remember East Africa was championed by CNLG, Peace and Love Proclaimers, Aegis Students and As We Forgive Rwanda initiative.
The objective and goals during this 18th genocide memorial will be as follows: to continue the fight against genocide denial in and outside Rwanda, extensive participation in the genocide memorial activities, education in families and associations and workplaces, putting in place mechanisms of preventing genocide denial.
Rwanda has continued to stress the need to keep memory of what happened during genocide in Rwanda and to enforce on strategies of fighting genocide and its ideology. The commemoration of genocide and activities in line with supporting genocide survivors is one way to fight the denial of genocide and not to forget what happened in Rwanda.
Genocide survivors especially those under the Association of Genocide Survivor Students also known as (Association des Etudiants et Elèves Rescapés du Genocide (AERG), have made a commitment to make the world know the Truth about what happened in Rwanda in 1994 and the present situation of the country. These youth group will gather information and write on every aspect on Rwanda, and respond to the false information published about Rwanda and fight against genocide ideology, revisionism and the negation of the genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda.
The President of AERG, Egide Gatali, said that the program intends to use other internet websites and the AERG websites in schools to post their publications, in addition to other social networks such as Twitter, Facebook, and local broadcasting outlets such as radio and TV.
He noted that AERG is prepared to work with CNLG, Ibuka, and other administrative organization to document the history of genocide, its impact and the progress made 18 years along the path. “No one else can document our own history, but ourselves” he said. Gatali also noted that despite the bad past, Genocide survivors in Rwanda have managed to hang on and grow with integrity and commitment to making a fruitful life with hope with the support of the government.
Genocide Archive Rwanda has apparently documented many testimonies of genocide survivors in video and audio- all are copyrighted to the individuals and/or organizations responsible for creation of the material.
This can be accessed on http://www.genocidearchiverwanda.org.rw The issue of remains of Genocide victims continues to bother genocide survivors and remains a major concern in general. CNLG officials say that there is a challenge of budget constraints needed to preserve the remains and handle trauma cases.
The commission told the parliamentary committee on the fight against the Genocide that there is a challenge of chronic budget constraints needed to preserve the remains and handle trauma cases despite the fact that countries like South Africa and the UK, have accepted to provide room for memorials on the Genocide against the Tutsi, but this requires huge sums of money. “Let us just look at memorial sites alone. They need a lot of money. Just consider three of them in Murambi, Bisesero, and Nyarubuye. Each of these requires about Rwf100 million for rehabilitation. We do not blame the government because even in other sectors, they trim budgets”.
There are about 300 Genocide memorial sites in the country. Presently the commission is faced with a problem of recovering remains of genocide victims. It is believed that there are many remains hidden in places where important economic activities have been established, before clear information on the victims was revealed by key witnesses.
Some of the places include Rwinkwavu lowlands, in Kayonza District; there are rice plantations as well as very deep water filled mines believed to contain remains of victims; Old tin mines in Rwinkwavu are believed to contain remains, and some buildings in urban areas, like the, Kigali suburbs (especially Nyakabanda zone) are also built above remains of Genocide victims. MP Jacqueline Mukakanyamugenge noted that the issue of providing information on where remains are located should not be left to survivors alone. “Every Rwandan should own this. If we really think about it, it is not the survivors who know where remains are. They are not the ones who killed these people!” she said.