The Rwandan Community in the West Midlands county, UK, commemorated for the 22nd the Genocide Against the Tutsi in Birmingham, the UK’s second city. The High Commissioner for the Republic of Rwanda to the UK, Her Excellency Yamina Karitanyi attended as guest speaker, joining over 200 Rwandans and Friends of Rwanda from different towns in the Midlands area, including Birmingham, Coventry, Leicester, Nottingham and Oxford.
Speaking at the event, The High Commissioner reminded of the threat of revisionism of facts and genocide denial, and urged that we must all challenge this strongly and educate our peers so that they too can know Rwanda’s story and share it further. The High Commissioner called upon Rwandans to stand united for the common good to ensure that what happened in Rwanda 22 years ago, does not happen elsewhere, that we must fight genocide denial and channel our energy into constructive actions to build a better country, a proud legacy to future generations.” Highlighting the remarkable progress Rwanda has made in building a unified, safe and prosperous country, the High commissioner said that Rwanda has lifted more than 1 million Rwandans out of poverty and that the journey to a better and inclusive Rwanda is well underway.
In his address, the Chairman of West Midland-Rwandese community Association, Bosco Ngabonzima, using the words from a well known quote, said “What is known cannot be unknown – it can only be forgotten”, making the point to guests that they must not forget but they should rather share the facts about Rwanda’s story in order to honour the men, women and children that died in the genocide, the survivors, and to ensure that we look back to the faults in our history in order to prevent similar tragedies from happening in Rwanda or anywhere else in the world.
The Oxford Rwandese Community women’s choir performed a moving song of praise in honour of the victims and survivors of the Genocide against the Tutsi, thanking God for turning Rwanda’s days of weeping and sorrow into days of hopefulness and life, adding “akira ishimwe, mana y’uRwanda” (receive all appreciation God of Rwanda). 22 young children from the West Midlands community performed a poem in which they reflected on the significance of remembering, despite how difficult it is for the survivors – “Do I want to remember? No! But how can I forget?” they recited.
Against the theme of Fighting Genocide Ideology, Naila Kira delivered a poignant testimony in which she painted the picture of what a survivor of the brutality and ruthlessness of Genocide has to live with on a day-to-day basis, the struggle to find hope, the trauma and the struggle to lead a normal life in society. Naila’s vivid message highlighted how damaging the continued spread of Genocide ideology and denial actually is to society and why it must be fought at all cost. By the same token, Chantal Uwamahoro, vice chair of URUMURI, a UK based survivors’ association, said that URUMURI’s function is to honour those that lost their lives whilst also acknowledging and offering support to those who have to live with the effects of Genocide.
The High Commissioner, Her Excellency Yamina Karitanyi, invited all 200+ guests in Birmingham to continue contributing in their own ways to producing the best Rwanda there can be.
In Dublin, the Rwandan Community in Ireland, along with some friends of Rwanda, came together at the Jury’s Inn Hotel, Parnell Street, Dublin 1, to commemorate the 1994 Genocide Against the Tutsi. Guest speaker, Fidelis Mironko, First Counsellor of the High Commission of the Republic of Rwanda in the UK, reminded guests that while we remember each soul that perished, we as Rwandans and Friends of Rwanda come united with one voice of harmony. We unite as a global community as we reflect on the causes and consequences of the genocide against Tutsis and our shared responsibility to prevent it.
Speaking on behalf of Friends of Rwanda in Ireland, Dr. Shirley Graham, research fellow at the Institute for International Conflict Resolution & Reconstruction at Dublin City University, said that it is hard to find words to describe the horror of genocide, the devastation it leaves, the lives it ruins, the psychological, emotional and spiritual damage, the physical trauma and the lives lost, but urging that we must learn from the past and share our understandings, knowledge and compassion. She added that it is “heartening to know that Rwanda is one of the most progressive countries in Africa. Women now make up 64% of politicians in Rwanda as a result of gender quota laws. Laws have also been introduced giving women rights such as the freedom to own their own property, keep an equal inheritance upon divorce; and easy access to contraception. These are all important steps in building a more just, equal and inclusive society. We know that more equal societies are less violent.”
The First Counsellor encouraged the guests to collectively go beyond words and effectively safeguard people at risk, and to individually nurture the courage to care – and the resolve to act. He added that only by meeting these challenges can we match the resolve of the survivors and truly honour the memory of those who were brutally killed in Rwanda 22 years ago. Kwibuka22 events continue in different parts of the UK, organised by the Rwandan communities in those areas.