KIGALI, April 8 — Lighting the flame of hope and laying wreath, Rwandans on Saturday marked the start of the 24th commemoration of the 1994 genocide with calls for keeping telling the truth of that history .
Rwandans and friends of Rwanda all over the world joined the small central African country to remember the genocide that claimed about 1 million lives of ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus.
Rwandan President Paul Kagame and First Lady Jeannette Kagame and the dean of foreign diplomatic corps laid a wreath at the genocide victim’s mass grave that houses more than 250,000 remains of the genocide victims.
Later, Kagame and the First Lady lit the flame of remembrance at the Kigali Genocide Memorial at Gisozi in Kigali, the country’s capital.
Representative of the genocide survivors and families of the victims also laid a wreath at the victim’s mass graves.
The flame of remembrance will burn for 100 days until July 4, the date when the genocide was stopped by the Rwanda Patriotic Army (RPA), now Rwanda Defence Forces (RDF).
Kigali Genocide Memorial is home to over 250,000 genocide victims and has three permanent exhibitions to document the 1994 genocide.
This year’s genocide commemoration is observed under the theme “Remember, Unite and Renew.”
Speaking at the event to kick-start commemoration activities, Kagame said the truth about genocide in Rwanda holds key to sustainable unity and reconciliation among Rwandans.
“We should continue writing history about genocide and telling the truth behind the cause of the it. Rwandans must remain at the forefront of this fight to remember and keep the memory alive, to tell the truth,” he noted.
“We must keep rebuilding, increase our strength at every level, economically, security, and ensure our society is functioning well. This will help us to be resilient despite our bad history,” the Rwandan president said.
At the event, Jean-Damascene Bizimana, executive-secretary of Rwanda’s National Commission for the Fight Against Genocide (CNLG), said the 1994 genocide was planned many years back by the then government leadership.
“We must resist all attempts to deny or revise the history of the genocide against the Tutsi,” he noted.
The memorial observance will begin with a commemoration week of visiting and laying wreaths at memorial sites, according decent burial to exhumed genocide remains, giving testimonies, public lectures, and candle lighting vigils.
The activities officially last a week, but the commemoration continues up to July 4. No form of entertainment is allowed during the main commemoration week from April 7 to 13.
Throughout the week, the Rwandan flag will be flying at half-mast in honor of the victims, while civil servants will work for half a day during weekdays and join community discussion organized as part of the commemoration.
Later in the afternoon, hundreds of youth participated in the “Walk to Remember” from the Rwandan parliamentary building to Amahoro National Stadium in Kigali.
On April 6, 1994, the then Rwandan president Juvenal Habyarimana, an ethnic Hutu, died in an air crash, swiftly triggering a three-month genocide against Tutsis and moderate Hutus.