Kagame kicks off genocide commemoration amidst coronavirus lockdown

Tuesday April 7 2020

Rwandan President Paul Kagame (left) and First

Rwandan President Paul Kagame (left) and First Lady Jeanette Kagame light the ‘Flame of Remembrance’ at the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre on April 7, 2020. PHOTO | URUGWIRO 

IVAN R. MUGISHA
By IVAN R. MUGISHA
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Rwandan President Paul Kagame on Tuesday led the country in the annual commemoration of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi amid coronavirus lockdown.

President Kagame said that even though activities for the commemoration remain suspended, it should not be a hindrance to paying tribute to the million lives lost in the massacre.

"This year's commemoration is difficult for survivors, their families and for the country because we cannot all be physically together to comfort one another. It is not an easy thing. We are used to coming together through several ceremonies like The Walk to Remember, the night vigil and group discussions in our communities," Mr Kagame said in a recorded speech televised on Tuesday.

The President thanked Rwandans for observing the 26th commemoration of the genocide even as the country is under lockdown to prevent the spread of coronavirus pandemic.

"But the current unusual circumstances will not prevent us from fulfilling our obligations to commemorate and respect our lost souls and comfort the survivors. What only changed are the activities. Today we reflect on what we lost and the horrors we suffered as individuals and as a nation," added Mr Kagame.

The commemoration kicked of Tuesday morning with President Kagame and First Lady Jeanette Kagame laying a wreath and lighting the ‘Flame of Remembrance’ at the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre.

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Activities including the Walk to Remember procession and night vigil will not take place this year.

But all 30 districts convene a delegation of not more than ten people at memorial sites in their regions to honour the victims.

Entertainment shows on TV and radio stations have been suspended with only those of genocide-related themes to be broadcast throughout the week.

The National Commission for the Fight against Genocide (CNLG), an advocacy group for survivors, has planned activities throughout the week including the broadcast of live and recorded shows about the history of the genocide, testimonies, the liberation struggle and survivors' welfare, among others.

Banks and some essential service providers that had largely remained open during the lockdown halted their activities briefly on Tuesday to observe the memorial.

The events will be concluded on April 13 with a ceremony in remembrance of politicians killed during the genocide at the Rebero Genocide Memorial site in Kigali, where 14,000 victims of the genocide are buried.

However, as the country strives to keep the genocide memory alive, it has found itself facing genocide deniers and ideologists yet again.

Last month, Senate president Augustin Iyamuremye wrote a protest letter to the French Senate president, Gérard Larcher, asking him to denounce and cancel a conference scheduled to be held in the French senate, hosting controversial scholars who Kigali considers deniers and revisionists. Despite Rwanda’s pleas, the conference went on.

The meeting took place at a time when diplomatic relations between Paris and Kigali are thawing, but Rwanda’s genocide survivors’ umbrella body, Ibuka, however says the new alliance is fragile and threatened if France continues giving platforms to revisionists.

In January 2018, the United Nations General Assembly designated April 7 as the International Day of Reflection on 1994 Genocide against Tutsi in Rwanda.

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