Monday, April 16, 2012

Reflections on the Genocide Commemoration Week

Health Sector commemorates 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, 2012
Photo from:

I published the following piece in The New Times on Monday, 16 April 2012

On Saturday, April 7, I was fully moved by the atmosphere in the Amahoro stadium during the opening of the 18th anniversary of the Genocide against the Tutsi. The ceremony was a mix of events: somber music; a testimony of a young, bright man left for dead during the Genocide when he was a little boy, but currently living with a handicap that has not diminished his enthusiasm for life.

Then the reminder of the importance of ownership during the speech by President Paul Kagame, where he reminded us that we need to stand and refuse the double standards of the countries in the North and West, that protect major actors of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

He also declared that the history of Rwanda belongs to Rwandans above all, and that our history has taught us that we must fight to ensure that there is not one chance in a million that Rwanda will return to the horror of the 100 days.

During this event, all morning, in the circle of the stadium, mournful, deep, lamenting cries rose continuously, so palpable that I felt as if I could touch them. Sometimes the cries were in high tones, sometimes they were low, but they were always audible and communicated the suffering of memories of traumatised souls. All of these experiences together set the tone for my week - one of deep emotion, and intense reflection on how to take the negative energy from this sombre part of our history and transform it into positive energy towards our bright future.

Later, I had an exchange with four American students about their views of the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi. My discussion with them gave me the hope that the history of Rwanda is taking hold globally to encourage all people across the world to fight against genocide so that it never happens again.

On Sunday inhabitants of my Umudugudu (neighbourhood) came together just as was done last week in each Umugudugu across the country, and, together, we commemorated the victims of the Genocide against Tutsi. Neighbours shared testimonies on their day-to-day life in Kigali before and during the Genocide.

On Monday, April 9, I accompanied my family and the American students to see an interesting play in Cambodian and Kinyarwanda called "Breaking the Silence". The actors were so good that I felt as if I understood Cambodian simply from their emotionally expressive acting. The play explained the Cambodian Genocide with a melancholy rhythm of songs, testimonies, drumming and guitar strumming. Two Rwandan actors interacted with their Cambodian colleagues and helped the audience to understand and question the driving factors and consequences of genocide. The play displayed the story of two countries with a lot of similarities and illustrated how the consequences of genocide are the same across cultures and civilisations, which increased my resolve to fight against it. The difference between the two countries is that, in Rwanda, the RPA stopped the Genocide and is a pillar of our current development. In Cambodia, on the contrary, an army, the "Khmer Rouge", led the horror.

Throughout the week, while at work and also outside of work, I felt sadness deep within me over what happened in 1994. This feeling culminated on Thursday, April 12, when we commemorated the workers of the health sector who were killed during the 1994 Genocide.

We started the day by visiting the Kigali memorial, it was not the first time I had visited it, but it was the first time I was interviewed right afterwards. I was incapable of talking; my throat felt stuck and I was on the verge of tears. In the afternoon, we did a walk in memory of our fallen colleagues.

Every step I took during this walk punctuated the memory of those colleagues who I never got to know because their lives were cut short. I thought about the heroes who continued to work valiantly during the 1994 Genocide to provide health care for Rwandans and paid for that with their own lives. I also thought, with immense fury, about all the murderers who used their positions in the hospital to kill vulnerable, sick people, instead of giving them the health care they were trained to provide.

This year, we commemorated the Genocide with our Development Partners in the health sector, and we also remembered those among them who were killed because they decided to stay in Rwanda in solidarity with our people. In memory of the Genocide victims, I lit a candle as a continuation of all the candles that have been set alight this week, starting with President Paul Kagame at the opening ceremony. The fire from my candle was passed throughout the people present. The glow from the flames reminded me of the Genocide victims within our health sector, but also of the optimism I have for our country's future. As a family, Rwandans and international partners, we supported the relatives of those who died during the Genocide. It was a very moving sight.

On Friday, April 13, we closed this week of commemoration in Rebero, where I took time to think about victims of the Genocide who were politicians. We remembered that across several political parties, courageous Rwandan politicians died so that Tutsis could retain their right to life.

This event closed a week rich in emotion: pain, compassion, rage, sadness, but most importantly hope.

At the end of the week, as I reflect on the lessons learned from the courage of brave Rwandans, both dead and alive, I feel stronger and more motivated than ever to better contribute towards our country's bright future.


You can access this article here, too