It was 15 years ago, sometime in April, when Rwandans who had been divided against each other by their Belgian colonialist, suffered man-inhumanity-to-man. Blood soaked the streets, and corpses spread out on every nook and cranny as Hutus went from house to house, and street to street, massacring their Tutsi brothers and sisters. Within 100 days ethnic Hutu militia had killed some 800,000 people across Rwanda.
This week from the capital Kigali to Nyanza, Rwandans mourn those they lost in the 1994 mayhem. And with their memories, hope in three languages was spelled with candle lights. The younger generation is reported to be making efforts at reconciliation, and even though many older people are finding it harder to forgive, they joined in burning the candles of hope in the Kigali Stadium yesterday April 7th, 2009.
“We must remember, but life must go on. We must continue to build a better future.” President Paul Kagame, said after he led a queue of digntaries to light up the candles. He laid a wreath and lit a torch at the scene of a massacre in Nyanza, seen by many as a symbol of the UN’s failure 15 years ago.
He said the international community was part of that history and the root causes of the genocide, but that Rwandans were not like those who abandoned people they had come to protect, he said referring to the United Nations Peacekeeping force that stood by and watched the killings unfold, and the international community that refused to act.
According to eyewitness reports the ceremony brought out emotions from Rwandans and most people in the arena could not hold back their tears and composure, as they wailed, lamented and wept, overcome by grief and sorrow, some had to be carried out of the stadium.
“Preventing future genocide is a collective responsibility. Only by meeting this challenge can we match the resolve of the survivors and truly honor the memory of those who died in Rwanda 15 years ago. The resounding voices of survivors touch us in ways that no other words could. Yet the silence of the more 800,000 innocent victims still haunts our collective conscience,” U.N Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon said as he extended his condolences to Rwandans.
Recognizing the importance and significance of mourning the genocide victims, U.S president Mr. Barack Obama has praised the courageous survivors who he said had demonstrated remarkable strength and generosity in forgiving those who committed these heinous acts. “These individuals inspire us daily by working to restore trust and rebuild hope in Rwanda,” he said. “The genocide was so enormous, so daunting, that it runs the risk of becoming a statistic. It is important to remember that each person who died had their own story, their own family, and their own dreams and that remembering such events deepened the commitment to prevent future atrocities,” he added.