Monday, April 15, 2013

Rwanda Genocide Memorial 19th Anniversary...

19th Genocide Memorial Sign
April 7th, 1994 is the day the Rwanda Genocide against Tutsi began. It lasted for 100 days, killing at least 800,000 people, including Tutsis and moderate Hutus. It has been recorded as the fastest progressed genocide. It ended even before any of UN's armored vehicles arrived in Rwanda.

For a week from April 7th to 13th, Rwanda commemorate this tragedy. All over the country, commemoration ceremonies are held. People remember the horror, pains, agony, fear and death. Many deaths. Actually most of the deaths were slaughters performed by machetes.

Cruel. Horrible. Terrifying.

There is an on-going debate whether it is good or bad to remember the horror. I am sure there are pros and cons on both arguments. But it is the fact that the genocide occurred and it is the desire of all that it does not repeat again. Ever. People tend to forget the past, whether glorious or painful, as time goes by. This tragedy should not be forgotten. From this argument's perspective, it makes sense to hold the commemoration services for people not to forget. The other argument is that such ceremonies only relive the past pains that make the scars deeper. It has a point but I am not sure if it is convincing enough.
Kigali Genocide Memorial Center in Gisozi

This year is the 19th anniversary and the mourning week ended on April 13th. I noticed a couple of differences in this year's anniversary billboard signs from the past.

The first one is the change in color that decorates the billboard signs. It used to be predominantly purple, but now it has changed to gray. People explained that the purple came from the color of the Lent, Christian 40-day period of repentance primarily for the Anglican church and the Roman Catholic. Rwanda's traditional color for the sorrowful event is gray. So the color change signifies the shift from the religious focus to the cultural one.

President Kagame among mourners
The other change I noticed is the theme. Previously it was "Never Again." This year, the theme has changed to "Striving for Self-reliance." To me it signifies the shift from "looking back" to "looking forward." I think it is positive. Not repeating the past is important but the best is the status quo. The new slogan projects hope into the future. This theme is relevant because Rwanda is still going through the tough times coming from reduced or suspended foreign development aid because of an UN report alleging Rwanda to have been involved in backing M23 rebels in DR Congo. This pain is real and now while the genocide pain is in the past.

At any rate, the mourning week is now over. Until the Liberation Day on July 4th, the mood of people may show some swings from time to time, but the country will move on. The immediate task is to normalize the flow of foreign development aid and the economy that is putting tremendous pressure to many Rwandans, particularly the poor. It is my prayer that God spares His favor and grace upon this emerging country that striving for self-reliance. Amen! - Jeffrey

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