Between songs and speeches at a football ground in Mugina Sector in Kamonyi District, yesterday, was an atmosphere filled with hope as thousands of residents waited to welcome the Kwibuka Flame that arrived from Nyange, Ngororero District
In the afternoon, two Nyange students sporting in grey-themed traditional wears emerged with the Flame that they handed over to two youths, all 20-year-olds.
A procession of about 20 pupils then led the Flame to the podium as they stroke up the Urumuri Rutazima song with their comforting, soft voices.
“This is the light. The light of hope, the light of life. It is everyone’s responsibility to make sure it never goes off,” they sung before concluding: “The Rwandan spirit will never die.”
Kwibuka Flame, which is on a tour of the country as part of activities of the 20th anniversary of the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi, will reach all districts in the country before the start of the national mourning on April 7.
Mugina Sector was chosen to host the torch for its particular experience during the Genocide against the Tutsi.
It is estimated that more than 35,000 Tutsis were killed in the area in what officials and survivors described as “unimaginable and shockingly brutal ways.”
The killings were allegedly committed on the orders of the then Ntongwe bourgoumestre (mayor), whom survivors identified as Charles Kagabo.
Interahamwe militiamen joined hands with Burundian refugees who were living in the area, soldiers and gendarmes to kill Tutsis, most of whom had taken refuge in a church.
The killings in the former Mugina commune was sent rolling after the murder of bourgoumestre Callixte Ndagijimana, whom survivors said had stood against the pogrom and protected Tutsis from former communes of Taba, Runda, Musambira and Bugesera who had taken refuge at Mugina Catholic Parish.
Ndagijimana was at the function hailed as a hero.
“It is after he was murdered in cold blood that killings started here,” said Jean Baptiste Bagirishya, 58, a survivor.
Jean Damascene Niyotumuragije, 33, gave an emotional testimony of how he miraculously evaded his pursuers.
He said he grew up in a divided society where kids were regularly asked of their ethnicity at school.
In April 1994, like many other Tutsi in the area, Niyotumuragije fled his home with his relatives and sought refuge at Mugina parish. But Interahamwe, soldiers and gendarmes joined hands to exterminate the thousands of Tutsi who had gathered at the church, he testified.
However, Niyotumuragije, who lost several members of his family, says what happened has not deterred them from working for a better life, 20 years later.
Fidele Uwamahoro, 36, later joined Niyotumuragije on stage and recounted how his father used to send him to collect loots from murdered Tutsis.
He said he always feel remorseful for what happened and apologised on behalf of the perpetrators. The two then embraced on the podium.
Call for nation building
Southern Province governor Alphonse Munyantwari tasked every individual to safeguard the current achievements in order to realise the country’s vision of sustainable development.
The Minister of State for Local Government in charge of Social Affairs, Dr Alvera Mukabaramba, reminded Kamonyi residents that the remembrance period is an occasion to come up with strategies to improve their living conditions and to live in harmony.
She said this is the time to champion the truth on the Genocide and called on Kamonyi residents to embrace Ndi Umunyarwanda programme
From the New Times