The 25th Commemoration of the Genocide Against Tutsi in Rwanda
Today marks the beginning of the 25th Anniversary Commemoration of Genocide Against the Tutsi in Rwanda; in which an estimate 800,000 people were killed, with thousands more injured and hundreds of thousands of women subjected to rape. The commemoration will last one week and the mourning period will last 100 days — the length of the 1994 atrocity.
The below article is a reflection from survivor Gloriosa Uwimpuhwe, the Grant Coordinator and Cultural Attache for the Peace Corps, originally printed in the Turi Kumwe (We are Together) Times.
The scars are still there. Hidden from you, obvious on us. The scars still hurt.
When you are left in suspense regarding how your loved ones were killed, and where they were thrown, when you didn’t have a chance to bury your loved ones in dignity,
When you have no pictures of them, or were too young to know them well,
When you can’t go back “home”, because it was completely destroyed, or too scary to go back,
When you survived alone, with no one else in your family – Imena,
When you live with the perpetrators of the Genocide – whether they confessed or not,
When you continue to interact with the people who used to harass you but whose actions were not strong enough to go to court,
When you know those who received reduced sentences because the pleaded guilty and are now praised for revealing some of the information even though they didn’t tell you anything about your loved ones,
When you see the outside world continuing to behave the same way as they did during the period prior to the Genocide Against Tutsi,
When you remember that you have to fight for the name to be spelled out right, not the Genocide, not Rwandan Genocide, not Genocide and Massacres, not the Rwanda tragedy, but the Genocide Against Tutsi,
When you think how calling it simple “abuse” may lead to a repeat of the Genocide,
When you have children, and at first you don’t have grandparents to take them to, then they ask where the grand parents are and you tell them they are in heaven, then the age comes when they ask you what the Genocide is, from which definition they ask you who were the killers and the victims;
When they grow up and ask you if X, Y, or Z is a Hutu or a Tutsi and if s/he also killed during 1994,
When you avoid talking about your memories of the Genocide not to annoy other people who may not be concerned,
When people approach you as a forever victim – with compassionate words – only during the commemoration period while they seem not to realize their actions and words under normal circumstances may be fueling some hatred,
When you realize that you don’t all share the thirst to work hard for a better World and you remember that is how your Country once fell apart,
When you go home to find your nannie, a young person born a few years before the Genocide and feel like asking her if she saw something during the Genocide and if she is willing to say it, then you remember you may be hurting her feelings,
When you know survivors, 25 years later, who don’t have a shelter, who are struggling to make a living,
When you see scars, physical scars where arms, legs, or even heads were almost cut from the individual and those scars are not completely healed,
When you learn that in places like the Southern region of Nyanza District, known as Amayaga, has more than 89,000 bodies yet to receive a dignified burial,
When you learn that in fact, it is not the only place, and the issue has been the lack of means to build a memorial and burial place for these bodies still lying in different places including mass graves, latrines, trenches etc.
You may feel touched.
As a survivor, you feel much pain. You feel guilt for not having done enough. You feel desperate that other people are not helping enough. You wonder when all these injustices will be resolved.
And at the end of the day, it is a huge scar that continues to manifest in different forms.
My own healing lies in taking every opportunity available to speak up, work hard and do my best for a better me, a better Rwanda and a better World.
Can I count on you to help heal the physical and emotional scars, to be a better person, a better people, a better humanity and create a better World?
Can I count on you, to help me hold that light – the light shed by those who risked and lost their lives to save us? And who continue to save lives beyond their own borders? Can I count on you?