Rwandans across the country Tuesday paused for solemn observance of the 26th anniversary of the 1994 genocide against Tutsi, with limited ceremonies due to COVID-19 lockdown.
The national mourning week will go until April 13, 2020 under the theme “Remember-Unite-Renew.”
A ceremony at Kigali Genocide Memorial at Gisozi, where remains of more than 250,000 genocide victims were buried marked the launch of the national mourning week.
President Paul Kagame and First Lady Jeannette Kagame, head of the diplomatic corps in Rwanda, laid wreaths on the graves.
They also bowed in honor of about 1 million lives lost in the genocide.
Kagame then lit the flame of remembrance at Kigali Genocide Memorial, beginning the 100 days of mourning.
But fewer people attended the ceremony, while similar ceremonies were banned in the countryside unlike previously, due to the new coronavirus lockdown which was extended until April 19.
The new coronavirus has infected 105 people in Rwanda, four of whom have cured.
The National Commission for Fight against the Genocide advised people to follow the national launch of the mourning week and other related week-long discussions about the genocide through media platforms.
Kagame acknowledged that this year’s commemoration is not easy for survivors, families and the country– because citizens cannot gather in national ceremonies to comfort one another due to COVID-19 lockdown– which led several national ceremonies to be cancelled including the Walk to Remember, a night vigil and remembrance of Rwandan politicians killed in the genocide which normally took place on April 13.
“But the current unusual circumstances will not prevent us from fulfilling our obligation to commemorate this solemn anniversary, honour those we lost and console survivors. The only change is the way we commemorate,” Kagame said in a televised address.
He said the lessons of the country’s history united Rwandans, teaching them the value of good leadership that cares for the well-being of all citizens.
We learnt the importance of working together to build a better future for all Rwandans, he said.
Kagame noted that globally all people are interconnected, reaffirming Rwanda’s continued contribution to making the world a better place by “sharing our story and ideas.”
Jean Pierre Dusingizemungu, the head of umbrella association of genocide survivor organizations in the country, (IBUKA), urged Rwandans to collaborate during this period, especially in attending to trauma related cases which are common in this period.
Others who laid wreaths were families that lost their loved ones, and senior government officials including the Prime Minister, Speaker of Parliament, Senate President and the Chief Justice.