Rwandan people on Sunday night gathered at Amahoro National Stadium in capital city Kigali for a night vigil to remember and honor some 1 million lives lost during the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi.
The Rwandan government on Sunday morning started commemoration marking the 25th anniversary of the genocide, raising the curtain of a three-month remembrance period. Rwandan President Paul Kagame and First Lady Jeannette Kagame, and other dignitaries including current and former heads of state and government took part in the event.
The night vigil started with young people reciting names of the victims of the 1994 genocide and reading messages of hope before lighting candles as a symbol of light from the darkness. Kagame, the first lady and other dignitaries walked down to the field from the stand, and joined the youth to light candles. At the same time, candlelight started diffusing on the audience stand until the full stadium was lit. The stadium was a refuge for the Tutsi during the genocide.
“Commemoration night vigil is part of Rwandan culture where people would keep closer to the grieving family in case of the death of a loved one. What we are remembering today is special,” said Johnston Busingye, Rwandan Minister of Justice, at the event.
The Rwandan government has focused on building a bright future for Rwandans based on love and humanity instead of hatred and destruction, said Busingye. “As genocide survivors, the support from Rwandans and friends of Rwanda during the commemoration period reassures us once again that we have a country that cares for us and does everything to help us heal from the wounds left by the genocide,” said Jean Pierre Dusingizemungu, President of the umbrella of Genocide survivor organizations IBUKA.
Dusingizemungu also said the genocide survivors have been hurt by the early release of genocide fugitives and the short sentences that have been handed on to them. “We hope the incoming President of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals, Judge Carmel Agius, will exercise restraint and consider the seriousness of crimes of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi while making final decision on early release and handing down sentences,” said Dusinginzemungu.
“The night vigil signifies unity with the stand against genocide and a chance to remember innocent people who lost their lives in the atrocities,” genocide survivor Samuel Dusengiyumva told Xinhua during the night vigil.
Dusengiyumva, who lost all of his family members during the genocide, said he is looking forward to a bright future for his new family based on unity and reconciliation and he has forgiven the genocide perpetrators who committed atrocities to his family. “Despite all the tragedy that befell our country 25 years ago, we do not forget the horrors of the genocide against the Tutsi in 1994. I lost my family members in the genocide but I have decided to move forward for a bright future,” another genocide survivor Francine Uwera told Xinhua.
Unity and reconciliation has helped to heal the wounds of the genocide survivors, Uwera said, adding that she looks forward to taking part in the social economic development of Rwanda that is full of love, unity and patriotism among citizens.Before the night vigil start, dignitaries, thousands of Rwandan people and other guests walked from the Rwandan parliament to Amahoro National Stadium to remember the victims of the genocide.