25th Commemoration of the 1994 Genocide Against Tutsi

25th Commemoration of the 1994 Genocide Against Tutsi

Fiacre Batera

After a quarter of a century, the Rwandan communities are still getting together to commemorate the 1994 Genocide against Tutsis.  Rwandans who live in London, Ontario organized different events on Sunday, 7th April, the day that marked the beginning of mass killing of the Tutsi 25 years ago.  In a hundred days, over one million people were killed, a haunting statistic of roughly ten thousand people per day were slaughtered.

Sunday's memorial began with a walk to remember that started at the City Hall downtown.  In the interview with John Ruhinda the organizer of the event, he mentioned that the objective of the walk to remember was to raise the awareness of the 1994 Genocide against Tutsis.  “It is not even the question of just the Rwandan diaspora, we want the whole human community, the whole world, to keep vigilant for genocide not just in Rwanda, but genocide anywhere.” he said while leading the walk.  Also, John showed strong concerns and dismay regarding the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi denials.

Later towards the evening, the Rwandan Community of London hosted the commemoration event where around 200 people including Londoners and other people from neighbouring towns showed up.  During the event which took place at Centre Communautaire Régional de London (CCRL), different speeches and testimonies emphasized on the historical background of the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi, the slow intervention of international humanity, along with how Rwanda is striving to rebuild.

In part of the testimonies, Clarisse Cechetto who was just a child in 1994 shared her story: “In the eyes of nine years old, my home, my neighbourhood was a perfect place” she started with.  In her testimony, she said that all of a sudden all that changed after the crash of the President's airplane on the night of 6th, April 1994.  She mentioned that all the terrible events thats followed in the coming days changed her life forever.  Thinking that fleeing and seeking shelter in a nearby hospital would be safe, it was not.  Gutless killers would come and throw grenades through windows from time to time.  After the Belgians helped the westerners to flee, the trained killers (Rwandan soldiers at the time) attacked the hospital.  On one of the many days of mass killings, Clarisse at just nine years old managed survive only by hiding in the blood of her aunt who was shot.  This tactic saved her because the killers with machetes who would kill survivors at the last round thought she was already dead.  By the end of that day, more than three hundred people were killed including her parents, siblings, grandparents, friends and neighbours. 

In the interview with Munanira Kaleke, the current President of the Rwandan Community of London, he mentioned that the Rwandans keep the tradition of remembering not just to educate the new generations about the tragic history, but to avoid another genocide from happening elsewhere in the world.  In terms of some challenges the Rwandan Community of London is facing regarding hosting this event, Kaleke pointed out that there is a lack of involvement on the side of the London City officials.  For instance, they invited different MPs, and no one showed up or their delegates.  Also, they asked to lower the flags to honour the victims of the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi, but the response from the city was negative.  However, the Mayor of London Ed Holder did send a letter of support that was read to the audience. 

Among the guest speakers were Huron Assistant Professor Lindsay Scorgie-Porter and Western Professor Henri Boyi, who not only do research on the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi, but both take part in taking Western students to Rwanda in the Experiential Learning trip every year.  In her speech, Lindsay Scorgie-Porter (PhD) explained how the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi was prepared and executed. In an interview, she discussed the research on the history 1994 Genocide against Tutsi, how denial slowed down intervention from the international community, where the international politicians and institutions failed to intervene.  She suggests that genocide denial ideologies need to be combatted more openly now more than ever.  Professor Henri Boyi’s speech was on how Rwanda is fast reconstructing in different sectors such as: economic, education and health.  The man who helps run the Africa Institute at Western went on to talk about the Western students who go to Rwanda to experience the yearly trip, stating that they want to be part of those who tell the story.  In answering what the Canadians are learning from that experience?  Professor Boyi believes that “we are all survivors of any genocide--, if we believe that genocide is a crime against humanity and we belong to that humanity--, and we should be part of the reconstruction of that humanity that was wounded and sometimes destroyed.”