Over 200 members of the diplomatic corps, Rwandans, and friends of Rwanda gathered in Washington, D.C. to remember over one million lives that were lost during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
The Kwibuka23 events in Washington, D.C. were organized by the Embassy of Rwanda in Washington, D.C.
A group of knowledgeable speakers reflected on this year’s theme: Remember the genocide against the Tutsi - Fight genocide ideology – Build on our progress.
Prof. Gatsinzi Basaninyenzi, a genocide scholar and associate Professor of English at Alabama A&M University where he teaches Postcolonial Literature and Literary Criticism gave his remarks on the different dimensions of denial.
In her remarks, Dr. Arikana Chihombori Quao, the Ambassador of the African Union Mission to the United States explored the question of the origin of the hatred that led to the systematic killings of the Tutsi in 1994. Dr. Chihombori explored the role of colonialism and urged those present to actively seek freedom from a colonial mindset that we are different, emphasizing that the goal was to divide and conquer.
Dr. Margie Ensign, President of Dickinson College and a widely published scholar whose work focuses on peace and development, took the attendees through the numerous development strides that have been made by Rwanda since 1994.
Dr. Ensign praised the Rwandan leadership for their reconstruction policies that have focused on the people of Rwanda and building a knowledge-based economy. Dr. Ensign highlighted Ubudehe and Imihigo as two original concepts that have propelled Rwanda in all aspects on socio-economic development. “Imihigo is a contractual way of governance that we should all be looking at as means to ensure accountability from leaders that we elect to represent us,” said Dr. Ensign.
The speakers were followed by a powerful testimony from Mr. marcel Mutsindashyaka, a young entrepreneur who survived the genocide at age five. Despite having gone through the horrors of the genocide at such a tender age and having lost many close relatives, Mr. Mutsindashyaka continues to overcome his past and is now the CEO of a leading IT and multimedia companies in Rwanda, Umuseke Ltd.
The testimony was followed by candle lighting, symbolizing the everlasting memory of the victims and hope in the future and a poem shared by Ms. Liliane Pari Umuhoza, also a genocide survivor who lost her father during the genocide at the tender age of two.
Peter Henry Barlerin, the Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of African Affairs at the Department of State spoke on behalf of the United States. Mr. Barlerin reassured Rwandans that America stands with Rwandans as they remember and that the U.S. will continue to support Rwandans in their efforts to rebuild their nation.
The Rwandan Ambassador to the United States, Prof. Mathilde Mukantabana urged those present to denounce and fight genocide ideology in the strongest way possible.
“The memory of our national suffering is under assault by genocide deniers. Deniers find perverse satisfaction and personal vindication in a fictionalized account of what happened in 1994. Let’s preserve the memory of our past, all of it, the chaff and the grain, the beauty as well as the tragedy,” said Ambassador Mukantabana.
The Embassy of Rwanda in Washington, D.C. observes the commemoration every year on April 7th. Embassy representatives will continue to attend commemoration events in different communities across the country.