Rwanda Marks it’s 20th Anniversary of Genocide

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Starting on Tuesday, Rwanda began commemorations marking 20 years since the tragic genocide, with a flame of remembrance due to make a nationwide tour ahead of the anniversary of the horrendous events of 1994.

The country was to light a flame at the main genocide memorial in Kigali by Foreign Affairs Minister Louise Mushikiwabo, before embarking on a tour of the formerly affected towns and villages in the central African country, ahead of the declared period of official mourning that begins on 7 April, officials said.

“The flame will be carried by young people,” Freddy Mutanguha, country director for Aegis Trust, one of the companies helping to prepare the lighting ceremony. The flame will conducted for 3 months from place to place by vehicle and then paraded on foot through each town and village

An estimated 800,000 people, essentially from the Tutsi minority, perished in the genocide, carried out by Hutu extremist militias and troops in the three months from April to June 1994.

Most of the masterminds of the genocide have been tried at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda set up in Arusha, Tanzania, with the backing of the United Nations.

A further two million ordinary Rwandans were tried in grassroots courts known as “gacaca” for their alleged role in the killings, with some 65 percent of the accused found guilty.

A further aim of the gacaca courts was to get local communities to overcome years of silence and to discuss what had actually happened in their villages during the unfortunate mass slaughter.

Beginning this month, genocide memorial activities will start from both the grassroots and national levels, leading up to 7 April when the national mourning period will begin, on the date the slaughter began two decades ago.

Important milestone

During the week of 7th April the official mourning period begins each year. National television shows footage of the genocide, Rwandans wear purple, which is the declared color of mourning, and survivors wash and re-bury bones that had been consigned to shallow graves.
Candlelight vigils are held and films about the 100 days of killing are shown.

Activities for the 20th anniversary will include discussions on Rwanda’s national identity and on the progress the country has made since the genocide, which destroyed its social and economic fabric.

According to the National Commission for the Fight Against Genocide (CNLG), the 20th commemoration will feature countrywide events aimed at cementing memories of the genocide, fostering reconciliation and reflecting on the progress made afterwards.

Planned events include a conference in early April attended by leading academics on the Holocaust and the Rwandan genocide and the renovation of genocide memorials dotted across the country.

Rwanda has taken huge strides forward since the end of the genocide, which was stopped by the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), then a rebel movement and now the ruling party. Its leadership has been championed for its economic reform agenda and clampdown on corruption.
The regimes’s detractors, however, accuse the RPF of President Paul Kagame of clamping down on dissent and committing numerous human rights abuses.

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