Rwanda Marks Terrible Anniversary

Apr 7, 2014

Today, Rwanda and the world remember the beginning of one of the bloodiest periods in modern history.

It’s been 20 years since the Rwandan genocide resulted in the massacre of at least 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus in just three months.

The BBC’s Prudent Nsengiyumva reports from Kigali.

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  • Prudent Nsengiyumva, BBC reporter based in Kigali. He tweets @nsengaprudent.
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Well, now another somber story. Today marks the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide, one of the bloodiest events in modern history. Beginning on April 7th, 1994, at least 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus were brutally killed in just a three-month period. The BBC's Prudent Nsengiyumva reports from Kigali.

PRUDENT NSENGIYUMVA: Twenty years ago today.


CHRIS BICKERTON: BBC World Service at 1515 Greenwich Meantime, this is Chris Bickerton with Focus on Africa. The presidents of Rwanda and Burundi die in an air crash. Was the plane shot down? Violence in Kigali, ministers abducted and reports that the prime minister has been killed. And reaction in Burundi...

NSENGIYUMVA: That news led to a hundred days of bloodshed here in Rwanda. Men swept through homes with machetes, clubs and guns. Radio incited neighbors to turn on each other.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Foreign language spoken)

NSENGIYUMVA: Everywhere on the roads and the streets: bodies. Even now, the breadth of the genocide is difficult to comprehend.

I'm here at Nyanza Memorial. This is one of many memorials in Kigali. I can see here hundreds of names of family members here, you know, Zingezar(ph), Zingezar, Zingezar. That's one name which explains that this is a family that has been exterminated. There is a lot of graveyards here. There's just about more than 600 names, but people who were here, Tutsis who sought refuge here, they believe there were thousands of Tutsis who were murdered here. I'm joined by one of the people who survived from this same memorial. His name is Venoust Karasera, and he lost his arm.

VENUSTE KARASIRA: They say (foreign language spoken), meaning stop killing. It's a mass killing, (foreign language spoken). We're killed, killed, killed up to late night at Rwanda, may be nine. The only way of - to survive was to go down. You go down, you try to hide yourself under somebody. They may call it a swimming pool of blood, two to 3,000 people with their blood. The next day, very early in the morning, at around 5:30, we saw RPF soldiers passing this way. That's how we were saved. I can tell you that we are not more than 100 who survived this place here. So it's a sad history, but it's our history. We have to live it.

NSENGIYUMVA: But it's a painful, challenging history to confront. The government demands that people must reconcile and talk about the genocide in the right way to avoid bringing up the hate that fueled the killing in the first place.

ILDEPHONSE KARENGERA: When you go to a bar or a restaurant, nobody will ask you for identity card showing that you are a Huti or a Tutsi. That is much more different than before genocide.

NSENGIYUMVA: That is Ildephonse Karengera, director of memory and prevention of genocide for the government. He explains why remembering today is so important.

KARENGERA: Remembering genocide is not only important for Rwanda. It's also important for the whole world because of many reasons. Genocide is a crime against humanity. The international community banned Rwanda during the genocide. The people who committed the genocide, some are roaming outside Rwanda. We know that to construct the country, we need to know what happened so that even the young generation or the people who were not there can know the truth to avoid any future occurrence.

NSENGIYUMVA: So, the efforts to force a reconciliation now are there. We are all Rwandans is the mantra insisted on by the government. Divisionism has become one of Rwanda's most serious crimes. But as we remember 20 years today, the wounds are still so fresh for many here, it feels like just yesterday.

CHAKRABARTI: That report from the BBC's Prudent Nsengiyumva. This is HERE AND NOW. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.