Rwandans on Friday honor the memory of the 1994 genocide that claimed the lives of more than 1 million people.
The “remember, unite, renew” theme of the Kwibuka observance begins with President Paul Kagame lighting the Flame of Remembrance, with daylong events planned at the Kigali Genocide Memorial Memorial – the final resting place of 250,000 victims – and other regional locations in the coming week.
Nearly 100,000 people participated in last year’s memorial.
The April 7 commemoration marks the anniversary of the beginning of the ethnic attacks that claimed about 80 percent of the Tutsi population by July of the same year. The genocide also destroyed the country’s infrastructure, including its political and economic structures.
Decades later, the legacy remains, as was clear in March when Pope Francis issued the Vatican’s official apology and appeal for forgiveness because of the Catholic Church’s role in failing to help victims, with clergy in some cases actively supporting the violence.
While questions persist about Rwanda’s human rights record under the authoritarian Kagame, the country has moved forward from its difficult past and for many, its poverty.
Still the trauma of 1994 and the years that followed, with painful reconciliation processes and often complex legal and judicial scenarios, shape the nation today. The experience of Rwanda’s 10.5 million people – and the commemoration of the genocide – also serves as a reminder of the cost of other crises driven by ethnically inspired violence in neighboring countries and across the continent.
To view a livestream of 2017 Kwibuka events, see this link.