President Paul Kagame and the First Lady, Jennette Kagame, joined other Rwandans at Gisozi Genocide Memorial where they lit the flame of remembrance marking the 21st Commemoration of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
The Flame of Remembrance will burn for 100 days reflecting on the period through which the gruesome massacres occurred from April 7, 1994 during which a million ethnic Tutsi were killed.
President Kagame said, “People were hunted down and killed by those with whom they were supposed to share equal rights.”
He said the hunting was done by both Rwandan and foreigners who spread the gospel of who had to be killed. The President, however, said, “Today, hunting down to kill is no longer easy, but is done in form of denial and denigrating survivors”.
This year’s event is organized under the theme; “Fight Against Genocide Denial and Revisionism.”
Kagame who commanded the Rwanda Patriotic Army, then a rebel group, that stopped the genocide and defeated the genocide regime observed that, “Our past has given us the unprecedented strength to face our challenges”.
“This country has changed. It has changed for good and forever. We are a people who give ourselves dignity,” he said.
Commemoration events also include laying of wreaths at various genocide memorial sites across the country where victims are buried.
Five days later, on April 12, Rwandans will march from KBC to Amahoro stadium in a ‘Walk To Remember’ campaign for the victims. Walk to Remember was created by young Rwandans against genocide and mass atrocities.
Then hundreds of thousands will gather for a candle-lit vigil at the stadium which will include songs, photo montages and footage from Kwibuka2 (Commemoration) events from around the world.
During this morning period, the nation goes silent, business activities scale down, schools are closed for the first term holidays and communities gather under trees, public buildings and memorial sites to discuss, listen to testimonies and pay tribute to the victims.
The commemoration will end on July 4, 2015, which is liberation day. Liberation Day is a time the country celebrates the struggle that stopped the genocide and restored , peace, freedom and dignity to Rwandans. Its a time the country reflects on the process of reconciliation and nation building for self-reliance.
President Kagame said last week that the country is still confronted with genocide deniers, whom he said might never go away, even during the painful commemoration period, but he challenged Rwandans to fight back.
“We cannot give up or let anything stand in our way.To do so would be to dishonor the lives we honor here today,” he said.
Kagame assured Rwandans that, “If it is for peace, we are more than ready. If it is war to take us back… we are more than ready”