SO, IT’S APRIL 7 – genocide commemoration day.
Nineteen years today since 100 days of intense killing began. The general mood we have picked up here is one of remarkable hope and determination. Still, this day, and the many individual days coming up of remembering specific family members and friends who died and in terrible circumstances, is difficult and it is important. Anyone who has lost someone close to them knows that anniversaries are always painful and sad. As I saw written at the Gisozi memorial, ‘they should still be here with us’.
Around us, in the early morning, we can hear church bells ringing, and some gentle, sad but soothing music from a nearby house. There are birds chirping and a noticeable quiet hangs over the whole city. Later, we will join Rwandan friends in the local neighbourhood commemoration, then the Walk to Remember, where the politicians join the ordinary citizens to walk through the city, and tonight we will be honoured to join in a candle-light vigil with a group of child-headed households. Not really sure how to be… self-consciously white-skinned and bearing a sense of collective guilt and angry shame about the role of the west in this most horrendous of genocides which took place in these very streets.
So this is my tiny note of the inexpressible respect I have for the millions of Rwandans out there, over these thousands of hills, who are joining to remember today – most of all the survivors, the families of victims, and also the perpetrators, their families, who also have shocking memories and a guilt made tangible today.
This is also my tiny tribute to the tens of thousands of deeply good men and women who are on full alert today and always, determined to help others get through this time, and to reconnect with their worth as human beings and their ability to live, to do good, to love and to enjoy the life they have been given.
I feel very out of place, but very privileged to be in Rwanda on this 19th commemoration of the genocide.