Rwandans in diaspora, and back home, have adjusted to the restrictions that imposes the new coronavirus pandemic as they pay respect to the victims of the 1994 Genocide committed against Tutsi.
During the Kwibuka26 week that concluded yesterday, the embassies managed to organize the diaspora community in their respective jurisdictions so that they hold commemoration at home not only on an individual basis but also collectively.
In most cases, embassies collaborated with the umbrella association of Genocide survivors’ association – Ibuka in their countries and below, a recap of the week in some countries.
Rwandans in Germany under the IBUKA-Deutschland association held the Kwibula 26 Commemoration through video conferencing with participation of members of Rwandan Community and friends of Rwanda in Germany.
Also participating at the same occasion were Rwandan communities of Poland, Czech Republic among other European countries.
Rwanda’s Ambassador to Germany Amb. Cesar Igor used the opportunity to encourage youth to take on the mantle of the selfless that RPA soldiers used to stop the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi.
Earlier during a panel discussion on youth, participants highlighted challenges they faced after the Genocide and proposed some practical solutions.
Some of the challenges included: Post traumatic disorders, lack of self identity as families are not open or equipped to share such traumatic history, lack of knowledge of country history, isolation and fear of rejection as a result of family background among others.
“Youth should take it as their responsibility and commit to shape the future of a united, inclusive, peaceful and prosperous nation devoid of divisionism and hatred,” Amb. Igor said.
United Kingdom (UK)
Rwandans were joined by its Commonwealth (CW) family to Commemorate the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi this year with personalized virtual YouTube messages from several Commonwealth officials, Ambassadors, Members of Parliament, UK scholars and Rwandans among others.
In her video message, Rwanda High Commissioner to UK, Yamina Karitanyi asked everyone to work even harder to remain on the good side of history by doing their part especially to ensure that perpetrators face prosecution and remain haunted by the cruelty of the heinous acts they committed.
The UK is home to five Rwandan men accused of playing a significant role in the Genocide against Tutsi but have not been extradited despite years of Rwanda seeking justice.
These include: Dr Vincent Bajinya, Célestin Ugirashebuja, Charles Munyaneza, Emmanuel Nteziryayo and Célestin Mutabaruka- who were all former senior officials in the government that committed genocide.
UK MP Andrew Mitchell said in Britain, they too have issues to resolve in respect of the genocide by genocidaires who have been wandering around Britain freely, and 11 years of legal entanglement has not yet brought justice.
Just as in UK, the 26th Commemoration of the Genocide against Tutsi in the Netherlands was made available online through the Embassy channels starting on 7 April with an official ceremony scheduled to 13 April, with a new video put online every day.
This also witnessed video presentation by Bart Ledegang, a Dutch investigative journalist, on his book- “De perfect onmenselijke – Over-leven na de Rwandese genocide” (“The Perfectly Inhuman – Surviving After the Rwandan Genocide”) – which tells a story of a Rwandan genocide survivor (Josephine) he encountered 10 years ago as an asylum seeker in Netherlands.
Though she had two children with Dutch nationality, her deportation threat was real.
“As a journalist I had the strength to pull some strings and get other media to attract the attention of politicians in The Hague, to make a difference, but we choose a silent approach to get her an indefinite permit,” Ledegang said.
Participants got an opportunity to watch a new film documentary “7 days in Kigali” – a documentary about the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, by Yvonne Mutimura-Galinier and streaming of previous genocide films like ISETA, a documentary movie about the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
Genocide survivors in Belgium chose a few of their community members to lay wreaths on a genocide memorial monument in Brussels and take a minute of silence to pay respect to Genocide victims.
In a French YouTube address, Rwandan Ambassador to Belgium, Amandin Rugira said that it is very hard to gather as usual but technology permits a virtual meeting so as to join hands as we remember the Genocide victims and support families of the Genocide survivors.
“In exceptional situation, exceptional measures, I encourage you to multiply the initiatives which make it possible to surround our brothers and sisters survivors because the mental health of our compatriots is a national inheritance which we must preserve and protect,” Rugira said.
Despite the challenges created by COVID-19 in the USA,, the Embassy organised an event to observe the 26th Commemoration of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
This event was followed on a live stream Youtube with both the national anthem of Rwanda and USA played, followed by testimonies of Genocide survivors.
Carl Wilkens, co-founder of World outside My Shoes-an American who stayed in Rwanda during the Genocide said that the words in this year’s theme: Remember, Unite, Renew are very powerful to him.
At his home in US, Wilkens said: “Twenty six (26) years ago, I was at my home in Kigali with wife and three children and it was a wonderful place we were all excited about and worked four years before the Genocide happened.”
He further said; “I decided to stay and asked my wife to take the children to safety. I mean, we knew it was really bad but who could imagine more than a million people would be killed in less than three months?”
Margin Ensign, the President of Dickson College, said that after what happened and how far the country has reached, Rwanda today is an example of hope to the world.
US based Genocide survivor Thérèse Mukasharangabo said that what happened has given her courage to work hard for Rwanda. She expressed her satisfaction with Government continued support to Genocide survivors and freedom to explore their capabilities.
At the UN Headquarters – Geneva
Rwandans in Geneva, Switzerland also came together to pay tribute to the Genocide victims.
The event included a ceremony of laying wreaths, taking a minute of silence, a ceremony that was led by Rwanda’s Ambassador to Switzerland Amb. Marie Chantal Rwakazina at the Genocide memorial monument located at the United Nations (UN) headquarters.
Amb Rwakazina was accompanied by her spouse, Rwanda Swiss Diaspora chairperson, Yves Cyaka and the Ibuka Suiss representative, César Murangira.
The rest of the program was exclusively conducted online.
“On this Day, we honor those who were killed. And we gain inspiration from the capacity of those who survived for reconciliation and restoration. We must never again let such an atrocity occur,” said United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres in his video message to Rwanda.
In her video and written message, Amb Rwakazina said that keeping memory is rebuilding the Rwandan community and fighting Genocide ideology.
“Commemoration of the Genocide is also a way of valuing Genocide survivors and recognizing their role in building unity and reconciliation,” she said.
The Rwandan community in Switzerland watched a new 60 minute film documentary:”Ma revanche” (My Revenge), a testimony of Genocide survivor- Diane Uwineza.
The documentary, by Karirima Ngarambe is in Kinyarwanda with subtitles in French.
Born in Kicukiro -Kigali, Uwineza narrates how she lost a big family during the Genocide, which affected her to an extent that it became very hard to live without the memory of hearing many children playing and laughing at their home.
She also has great memories of her mother who loved having people and children around her.
“Mom was the most kind and loving person I ever know. She had this nature of loving humanbeing. What pains me so much is when I recall how she told visitors at home that she had high hope in me (Diane). This pains me deep,” Uwineza says.