LIBERATION DAY 19 MARKS END OF ANNUAL GENOCIDE COMMEMORATION PERIOD
(Posted 04th July 2013)
Today, 19 years ago, did the then RPF take complete control of Rwanda after completing the liberation of the country. The killer militias had been driven out of the country, across the border into the Congo – where until today they enjoy a status almost as treasured and honoured guests, a root cause of much of the ongoing troubles in the wider Great Lakes region. They were driven out but left behind a country ravaged by one of the most gruesome genocides in modern history, during which they killed, and caused to be killed, nearly a million Rwandans and even foreign residents living in the country back then.
The genocide started almost immediately after then President Habyarimana’s plane was shot down by hardliners in his own administration, who were vehemently opposed to him having made concessions at the Arusha peace talks, while they were busy scheming up and preparing for a mass slaughter of the innocent. April the 07th is now a day of nationwide memorials in Rwanda, commemorating the start of the 100 days of brutal killings, and year after year are tributes paid to those who lost their lives, the babies, the children, the women, the boys and the men, the elderly, the able and the disabled, in their houses, in their fields and most foul, in their churches with many priests collaborating with the killers, luring the innocent to their place of worship only to have them killed. The 100 days are marked each year across the country to remember, to remind the survivors as well as the perpetrators, to remind the world at large of the saying ‘Never Again’, but said with a resolve and conviction which surpasses anything other nations with a genocide in their past have done.
Today, Rwanda commemorates Liberation Day, only a few days after Independence Day. From my own experience, while other nations celebrate their Independence Day with parties and fireworks, in Rwanda that day is laden with the memories of earlier genocides, before and after independence from Belgium, the time of brutal repression and killings, of discrimination and of an entire community being targeted for a treatment of impoverishing them, denying them human rights and robbing them of their dignity. In the Rwanda of today, the Liberation Day is the one which supersedes Independence Day, and yet, it is not a day of celebrations as seen for instance in the United States, where the 04th of July is truly celebrated. In Rwanda, such days are days of commemoration, of national remembrance, only too aware that the enemies of progress, of democracy and of economic opportunities for all Rwandans are ready, armed to the teeth and standing by to once more pounce, like the proverbial orcs and goblins in Tolkien’s tales were set to destroy the Elf Kingdom, given only the smallest of chances.
Today in Rwanda is a day of solemn marches, prayer services and remembrance, held at grass root levels across the country, ending the annual 100 days of facing up and looking back at events, which should never have happened.
Then the world stood by and watched from the sidelines and today it is hoped that the world will stand with Rwanda, as allies and friends, extending support to accomplish a lasting peace which will howver only be possible once the dark forces of the past are defeated, politically, ideologically as well as on the battlefield, should it come to that once more.
Today I bow my head as I too look back over 19 years, as I stand side by side with my many Rwandan friends, before we all raise our heads again to look into a brighter future for The Land of a Thousand Hills.