The Genocide Against the Tutsi took the lives of more than one million people.
Rwandans were deeply traumatised by the horrors they witnessed in 1994. Twenty-four years later, while the official mourning week ended on April 13, commemoration activities will continue for the next 100 days.
As President Paul Kagame put it, “Every time we commemorate, we come face-to-face with our history and learn once again how to live with it.
It is a time to reminisce about our tragic past, a history that was not meant to happen, and it is also a reminder that if we don’t stay vigilant, it might happen again. We are reminded of what we need to do to ensure that genocide never happens again.”
It is everybody’s responsibility to ensure that the genocide never happens again while preserving the memory of the millions of innocent lives lost.
Samantha Lakin’s research published on page five of this paper explores how people relate to these memorials and events that are held to remember the genocide against the Tutsi.
The findings of her study suggest that genocide memory in Rwanda is diverse and dynamic, implying coping mechanisms also differ. For example, many people — including genocide survivors and former perpetrators — have a more holistic concept of justice than punishing perpetrators.
And there is a huge desire for space for dialogue about how memories of genocide emerge impact everyday life. These spaces would bring together survivors, perpetrators, returnees and ordinary citizens.
There is also a great desire for knowledge about how to use these memories to seek justice, validation and promote coexistence, especially for future generations.
The research shows that although some survivors feel validated when former perpetrators join them at commemoration ceremonies, others fear that requiring former genocidaires to attend when they still don’t accept their guilt might result in a backlash.
Some individuals attend kwibuka to support their neighbours but do not consider it their “own story.” Others consider it to be one of the most significant and emotional days of their lives each year.
Some embrace kwibuka as a chance to remember their loved ones among the comfort of friends and neighbours. Yet, others fear it, because of the retraumatisation, grief, depression and anger they might feel.
These are some examples of the diverse perspectives of kwibuka, all of which are valid and coexist in the same physical and emotional space every April in Rwanda.
Therefore, Kwibuka 24 asks that we remember the terrible events of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi. By remembering, we honour the memory of those who died and offer comfort to those who survived.