Rwanda has held a national act of remembrance to mark 25 years since the genocide that killed an estimated one million people. The Commonwealth was represented by the Secretary-General, who solemnly paid her respects and reflected on Rwanda's "journey of transformation" over the last quarter century.
The mass slaughter in 1994 lasted for 100-days, from 7 April until it was ended in mid-July.
The Commonwealth’s Secretary-General, Patricia Scotland, was among the international leaders, dignitaries, survivors and their families who attended The Day of Remembrance in the capital, Kigali. Guests of honour laid wreaths at the Memorial Centre where more than 250,000 victims of the genocide are buried in a mass grave.
The Secretary-General said: "We are here to remember all those who died so tragically 25 years ago and to stand with Rwanda as its people continue to heal and grow their nation anew. The horrific events of the past cannot be forgotten, but Rwandans are building a better future and have set an inspiring example of reconciliation to the world. Rwanda's journey of transformation has been truly remarkable and as we remember the victims, we reflect on how much progress has been made."
The commemoration period, called Kwibuka - the Kinyarwanda word for remembrance - is a time to pay homage to the victims and reflect on Rwanda's progress since the genocide. Under the theme "Remember, Unite, Renew", the commemoration focuses on the legacy of strength, resilience, and unity that the new generation must uphold to sustain the gains that Rwanda has made since the genocide.
During his keynote address at the commemoration, the President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, said: “In1994 there was no hope, only darkness, many people died and after sometime sisters became mothers and strangers became friends, we became a family that's why we still exist.
Our children enjoy the innocence of peace. They know trauma and violence only from stories. Our aspirations rest in this new generation. Mature trees can no longer be moulded, but seed comes endless possibility”.
A minute's silence was held in remembrance of the victims. Events also included a stage play telling the story of the Genocide and a song composed and performed especially for the 25-year commemoration.
Rwanda joined the Commonwealth on 29 November 2009.
In May 2013, representatives of Rwanda’s Government took part in a Commonwealth roundtable on reconciliation at Marlborough House, the Commonwealth’s headquarters in London. Together with officials from Kenya, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka, South Africa, Uganda and the United Kingdom, the roundtable allowed participants to share insights and experiences in dealing with truth, accountability, guarantees of non-recurrence and reconciliation.
In 2014, the Commonwealth and the High Commission of Rwanda in the United Kingdom conducted the first in a series of ‘Kwibuka20’ events to mark the 20thanniversary of the slaughter.