This week marks the 18th year since the Rwandan genocide. Genocide Commemoration week is one of the most important times of the year for Rwandans. It is a time to remember and reflect on the past so that tragedies such as this will never happen again.
Ally, Elizabeth, and I decided to partake in one of the many ceremonies happening this week called the “Walk to Remember.” We met at the Rwandan Parliament and were joined by hundreds of others to make the 30-minute trek to Amahoro Stadium. This walk was organized by Rwandan secondary and university students many years ago and has since been adopted by the government as a kick-off to the commemoration ceremonies.
As the rain slowed, we walked with many other purple-clad people up the blocked-off street. On a normal day, the main road to Remera is packed with honking cars and buses. On Sunday, April 7th, 2012, it was silent. I couldn’t help but think about what the road must have looked like on April 7th, 1994 after President Habyarimana’s plane was shot down. Did Hutus set up roadblocks on this road, killing any Tutsi that tried to pass?
|Walking down the road in Remera to the stadium|
When we reached the stadium, every seat had a candle next to it. President Kagame lit the first candle and soon, everyone in the stadium held their very own flame. It was a very moving sight to see thousands of people, holding a candle in memory of those who were killed during the genocide.
|Rwandan students who helped organize the event took |
center stage for the candle-lighting ceremony
|More people arrived throughout the night|
The ceremony was predominantly made up of songs about the genocide with the message that Rwanda must learn from its past. It was definitely an emotional experience for the Rwandans who had lost their friends and family. A few people needed to be removed from the stadium as they were reliving the trauma they had experienced 18 years ago. If there is one thing I’ve learned during my past seven months, it’s that the scars of 1994 are still present in every day lives.
During this week, it is impossible to avoid the past. Radio stations are only allowed to play songs concerning genocide. Purple, the official color of genocide memorials appears on billboards, signs, and clothing to remind everyone of the tragedy. Although this is a painful time for many, I believe it is so very necessary.