By Debby Karemera
It has been twenty three years since the 1994 genocide perpetrated against the Tutsis occurred but too many it seems like yesterday. It required tremendous efforts to restore hope, trust, unity and peace among Rwandans considering the atrocities they witnessed and lived through within one hundred days. At the time those who executed the genocide did not take into consideration the long term effects of their actions which have continued to affect the younger generation today.
Every year from April 7th-13th Rwandans pay tribute to their loved ones who perished during the 1994 genocide, which for majority of survivors serves as a symbol of hope for the future generation and as a way to never forget memories of their loved ones. During this period various acts of solidarity are organized to comfort survivors to cope with painful memories of their past which still continue to haunt some.
Rwanda’s case served as a wakeup call to the world at large to act upon early warning signs of violence to avoid future genocides and conflicts from ever recurring again. It is against this background that Never Again Rwanda (NAR) places particular emphasis on promoting peace especially among youth and the community at large. This year’s 23rd remembrance that took place on April 4th on the theme “the importance of memorialisation in healing and fighting against genocide ideology” was an opportunity for youth to share their thoughts on the significance of commemoration for those who survived the genocide and those born in post genocide Rwanda.
For instance during a dialogue session with one of the community groups in Gasabo district, Nduba sector a female genocide survivor stated; “During the commemoration period I recall the suffering I went through but I also acknowledge the fact that I survived of which at the time seemed impossible to me, my life changed when I joined this group (space for peace), I learnt to live peacefully with those who wronged me and in the process I vow to make good use of the remaining days I have on this earth”.
Relieving memories of the past is not an easy process as narrated by one of the members of the spaces for peace above, however in order to educate the population about events that led to the genocide is considered of significant importance in order to promote peace. For instance if youth who were born in post genocide Rwanda are not educated about their past they are likely to become manipulated into committing acts of violence. However youth don’t only need to be educated about their past they also need to be provided with platforms to discuss emerging challenges such as genocide ideology, stereotypes, labeling and wounding language used in their surrounding environment.
Throughout the month of April NAR spaces for peace and citizen forums will engage in discussions on the theme “the importance of memorialisation in healing and fighting against genocide ideology”. This will be an opportunity for NAR beneficiaries to reflect on their past but also address some of the challenges related to genocide ideology with specific emphasis on issues affecting youth and those affecting adults (community members/citizens).