From neighboring Tanzania to Kenya, Belgium, Australia, USA, China, and other countries, Rwandans and friends of Rwanda worldwide on Saturday joined hands with countrymen back home to remember their loved ones killed in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi as the country once again paused to honour more than one million victims of the Genocide.
Rwandan police and military peacekeepers serving under the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) also commemorated along with CAR government officials and MINUSCA leadership.
At the ceremony held at the capital, Bangui, CAR President Faustin-Archange Touadéra lit the Flame of Remembrance and laid wreath in honour of the Genocide victims.
Rwandan peacekeepers serving under African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation (UNAMID) in North Darfur, Sudan, as well as those serving under the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), commemorated.
In all these places, a minute of silence was observed in memory of the victims of the Genocide, walks to remember were held and several other commemoration activities as the diaspora Community and friends of Rwanda stood with the nation at the beginning of the commemoration week.
At the Headquarters of the East African Community in Arusha, Tanzania, the Rwandan Community in Arusha and Moshi, as well as the UN Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT) commemorated.
The event was attended by Tanzanian government officials, members of the East African Legislative Assembly, diplomats attached to the EAC, and religious leaders, among others.
There were commemoration events in different parts of China including at the Rwandan embassy in Beijing, in Xiamen, and Guangzhou.
In Brisbane, Australia, the Rwandan High Commission, together with the Rwandan Community in Australia held a commemoration event which coincided with 2018 commonwealth games currently underway in Gold Coast, Australia.
A minute of silence was observed in memory of the victims of the Genocide before a volleyball game between Rwanda and New Zealand at the 2018 Commonwealth games.
The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Sports and Culture, John Ntigengwa thanked Rwandans and friends of Rwanda present for their solidarity and dedication to keep the memories of victims alive and ensuring the story of the Genocide against the Tutsi reaches out to the world. He called on all present to do their part so that Genocide is not repeated anywhere in the world.
Present were Australian government officials including Sen. Andrew Bartlett, and Logan MP, Linus Power.
The event included a walk to remember and “a moving testimony” by Miles Wootten, a former member of the Australian Military contingent of the UN Assistance Mission in Rwanda, who broke down as he recalled how the UN withdrew its forces from Rwanda at a time when they were needed most.
He however shared the high optimism that he returned with from his return visit to Rwanda last year, especially the unity achieved and the rapid development he witnessed.
Amb. Guillaume Kavaruganda, thanked the Australian officials for their solidarity and shared that the determination of survivors of the genocide against the Tutsi to overcome the loss and pain to pursue a unified and better future for next generation is an inspiration to many in Rwanda and beyond.
At Rwanda’s embassy in Ankara, Turkey, there was a night vigil that brought together Rwandans, friends of Rwanda and a group of European Erasmus students and academia from Bosnia, Serbia, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Spain, Albania and other Eastern European countries who are doing Genocide studies from various universities.
Rwanda’s embassy in the Netherlands started the 24th commemoration program in The Hague with Amb Jean Pierre Karabaranga hosting the official Kwibuka24 commemoration at the Hilton Hotel.
The event was attended by more than 200 guests, including Robert-Jan Siegert, Deputy Director Sub-Saharan Africa Department at the Netherlands’ Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Special Envoy Great Lakes region, the diplomatic community, friends of Rwanda, Rwandan nationals living in the Netherlands and many others.
All guests joined the Walk to Remember held prior to the official commemoration.
The commemoration ceremony in The Hague started with a Minute of Silence for the victims and survivors and was followed by “a moving testimony” by Dieudonné Gakire, a survivor of the Genocide.
Amb. Karabaranga said: “We are here to remind that justice for the victims is one of the most important tools to fight forever genocide, for a real ‘Never Again’ and a powerful tool in the healing process of the survivors”.
“This is a moment to share our history. It’s an opportunity to reflect on what made the Genocide happen, a time to try to understand how the unthinkable happened by confronting our past”.
The Ambassador urged host country the Netherlands, “as they have been at the forefront in combating the crime of genocide through justice,” to start thinking about punishing denial of the Genocide against the Tutsi on its soil, as it is being done in Belgium, where a bill is proposed to punish all forms of denial of the Genocide.
He thanked The Netherlands for being among the few countries that brought to justice, prosecuted or extradited the most wanted genocide perpetrators. Two perpetrators were in the past tried here in The Netherlands while two others were sent to Rwanda to face justice at the place where their crimes were committed.
“These are concrete actions that need to be taken, if we want to really fight any new attempt of genocide,” Amb Karabaranga said.
In Uganda and Kenya, people also commemorated.
In Nairobi, hundreds of Rwandans conducted a peaceful procession that started from Uhuru Park down to Central Business District, carrying banners and placards with messages that paid tribute to the victims of the Genocide, support to survivors and fighting genocide denial.
Speaking at the end of the procession, Rwanda High Commissioner to Kenya Amb James Kimonyo, especially thanked participants “for making time to participate in this important event”.
“We organize Walk to Remember procession so as to pay tribute to victims of the Genocide but also say Never Again to the acts of the Genocide in Rwanda and anywhere else in the world”.
He reminded those present on Saturday that the main Commemoration event in Kenya will be held at UN offices in Gigiri on Tuesday where they will be joined by officials from Kenya government and a representative of United Nations Secretary General.
Amb Kimonyo told the solemn crowd at Uhuru Park that the aim of the commemoration is to sensitize and educate the younger generation so that such a thing does not happen ever gain.