Braving cold showers in Bumbogo Sector of Gasabo district in Kigali City, MTN Rwanda’s top leadership and a section of the company’s staff joined the community in commemoration of fallen compatriots during the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda.
The visit to Bumbogo was part of the company’s larger involvement in activities geared towards social transformation. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda in which over a million people lost their lives and left many more wounded physically and psychologically.
Besides taking part in honoring the fallen lives at the Bumbogo bwa Nkuzuzu memorial site, MTN Rwanda offered Rwf2.5 million to be used in fencing the site.
At the genocide memorial where over 1000 bodies are laid with more being discovered and put to rest up until today, the MTN Rwanda CEO, Ebenezer Asante evidently struggling to suppress overwhelming sorrow told a congregation including genocide survivors, that irrespective of the extreme evil Rwandans witnessed during the genocide, “good will always triumph evil”.
For survivors however, healing the wounds of genocide they continue to nurse to date may never be successful if left in solitude hence the high value attached to the kind of support that MTN offered.
“I cannot withhold from thanking MTN for taking lead in enabling us bury our loved ones in a decent place. As genocide survivors however, we also appreciate the efforts made to join us in mourning which convey the message that we are not alone; that there are people willing to offer a shoulder,” 53years old Theogene Mbanda, a lone survivor in a family of over 64 all killed in the genocide offered.
MTN’s support to the community of Bumbogo dates back to 2008 when the memorial site was built. According to local leaders, Rwanda’s leading telecom extended financial support worth Rwf8 million at the time.
The Bumbogo bwa Nkuzuzu memorial site came to supplement an older site which was over crowded. Together, the sites hold over 7000 bodies of genocide victims.
Telling his story, Mbanda confirmed that while the year 1994 saw many killed in a short period, killing of Tutsis was the order of the day for many years before.
Killing especially of males was rampant in Bumbogo and Nduba sectors both of which were highly settled by Tutsi. Over 40,000 are expected to have fallen in this sector.
For instance in the year 1990, Mbanda said, “there were roadblocks with French army reinforcements where anyone who carried an ID card with Tutsi identity found it hard to pass. Many were killed during this time while others were displaced.”
“Initially, we tried sticking together in defense but later the army was used to disperse us. My uncle had been a policeman before and had a uniform which when found, killers denoted us RPF supporters (ibyitso) and hunted us down like Game”.
But like this year’s theme suggests, “Remember, Unite, Renew” Mbanda says that as genocide survivors, they have come to terms with the horrible realities they beheld and are willing to move on. So seems the entire Rwandan community in the perspective of this man who was robbed of everything he ever called family.
“We have chosen to carry on with life, socializing with people who at one point rejoiced in our death. We have decided to put the dark these dark memories behind us in respect of our fallen families who undoubtedly would love to see us forge forward.”
He acknowledged and appreciated Government of Rwanda support activities which have since the genocide ensured continued wellbeing of survivors like constructing houses for poor widows and orphans among many other interventions.
Ntaganzwa J.M.V, the Executive Secretary of Bumbogo sector concurs that local authorities with support from institutions like MTN have worked tirelessly to improve the standards of living for survivors of the genocide equally with the rest of the Rwandan population.
Of the over 1600 survivors of the genocide who call Bumbogo home, houses have been constructed for the widowed, orphans taken to school while others helped to create income generating activities to support them in daily living.