For the 22nd time, Rwandans and friends of Rwanda paused to commemorate the 1994 genocide in which more than a million people, mostly Tutsi and moderate Hutus, were killed.
To mark the day, a series of activities were organized across the country with the main commemoration being held at Kigali Memorial Center, where Rwandan President Paul Kagame, was joined by his visiting Tanzanian counterpart, John Magufuli. They laid wreaths on graves in which more than 250,000 victims were buried.
The two presidents also lit, the Flame of Remembrance, marking the beginning of the 100 days of mourning.
From April to July 1994, between 800,000 and one million people were killed during a 100-day killing spree planned and perpetrated by ethnic Hutus against the Tutsi’s.
Under the leadership of Mr Kagame, Rwanda has been able to rise above the social, economic, and political blemishes that scourged the small African nation.
Rwanda’s Gross Domestic Product is estimated to rise to 7.5% in 2016 from 4.7% in 2013 and 7.0% in 2014. This can be attributed to the country’s efforts to reduce tailbacks in transport, and energy infrastructure to bolster economic growth.
This day that many believe could have been prevented but no one acted in time was also marked by individuals and states across the globe.
Ban calls for a firm stand against hate speech
In his message for the International Day of Reflection on the Genocide in Rwanda, the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon noted that genocide is not a single event, but part of a process that takes time and preparation.
He called on the international community to “fight genocide ideology.”
Mr Ban also urged Governments, the judiciary, and civil society to “stand firm against hate speech and those who incite division and violence.”
“One of the key warning signs is the spread of hate speech in public discourse and the media that targets particular communities,” Mr. Ban said, noting this year’s theme for the Day, ‘Fighting Genocide Ideology.’
“We must promote inclusion, dialogue and the rule of law to establish peaceful and just societies,” he said reminding people within the Great Lakes to draw inspiration from the survivors’ courage in showing reconciliation is possible even after such a tragedy.
The commemoration in Kenya was led by Kenyan Senate Speaker Ekwee Ethuro who paid tribute to the Genocide victims.
Speaking of those who died in the atrocities, Mr Ethuro said the victims of the genocide were human beings who had “hopes, aspirations, and dreams”.
Ethuro noted that hundreds of thousands of people in the world are still murdered, raped, violated or terrorized every year.
He noted that the “world in the 21st Century is still looking more dangerous to live in than ever before.”
Countries in armed conflicts and civil war see massive violations of human rights taking place with abandon. These countries which include South Sudan, Burundi, Syria and Iraq are constant reminders that more has to be done to end such atrocious acts.
Preserving genocide memorials
As a way to remember those who died, empower survivors and create awareness about human rights violations, Emery Rutagonya, a survivor of the Rwandan genocide, has been telling his story to more than 25 Ontario schools and to thousands of people around the world. He is a co-founder of the Toronto-based Rwanda Survivors Foundation.
Mahmood Thobani, a Ugandan of Asian origin is among many people in collaboration with the Government of Rwanda who are dedicated to preserving memorial sites in Kasensero in Rakai District, Lambu in Masaka and Ggolo in Mpigi District.
These sites hold the remains of Rwandans who were washed downstream to the Ugandan shores. During the 100 days of bloodshed in Rwanda, several bodies of the victims were thrown into Akagera and Nyabarongo rivers, both tributaries of Lake Victoria, and ended up in Uganda and beyond.
In Canada, the parliament unanimously passed a motion eight years ago to set aside April 7th as a National Day of Reflection on the Prevention of Genocide. On this day, Canadians and the parliamentarians are called to reflect not only on the horrors of the Holocaust but also to reflect and act upon its lessons.
Even as Rwanda and the rest of the world join hands to commemorate the happenings of the 1994 atrocities, it is time to come up with lasting solutions to ensure that the vow – “Never Again” taken by the world is actualized. Since the Rwanda genocide, there have been more horrendous acts where “Never Again” has been replayed over and over and over again.
Image credit: DFID