I know I posted a blog not too long ago, but I feel the need to post again in recognition of Remembrance Week. As most everyone back home in Boston prepares for the Boston Marathon, we all know that Boston Strong and the events of the 2013 Boston Marathon have crossed our minds more than once over the past couple days. The people of Rwanda are living through a similar event this week.
For those of you who are not familiar with what I am talking about, let me tell you a little bit about the Rwandan genocide, also known as the genocide against the Tutsi. The Rwandan genocide was a mass slaughter of people in Rwanda by members of the Hutu majority government. Close to one million Rwandans were killed in a 100-day time period from April 7th to the middle of July in 1994. These mass killings took almost 70% of the Tutsi people and 20% of Rwanda’s total population. The Rwanda genocide has been compared to the Holocaust with one exception: the Rwandans killed their own people, friends and family members. It seems so surreal that something like that could happen during my lifetime.
I would like to give you an overview of what I have witnessed while living here through these very difficult times rather than share personal stories considering the sensitivity of what happened and out of respect to all of the Rwandans.
With that said, the week of remembrance is called Kwibuka, which means ’a walk to remember’. The 22nd Commemoration week started on Thursday, April 7th. As part of the commemoration, The President and the first lady lit the Flame of Remembrance. The Flame of Remembrance symbolizes the courage and resilience of Rwandans over the last 22 years.
Because the genocide lasted approximately 100 days, there are 100 days of remembrance. The national commemoration period started with Genocide Memorial Day on April 7th and will end with Liberation Day which is July 4th. The Kigali Genocide Memorial is the final resting place for more than 250,000 victims of the Genocide.
On the first morning of the remembrance week, I was planning to visit one of my players in the hospital because he was involved a moto accident, but none of the buses were running. I was informed that businesses shut down until about late afternoon on the first and last day of this week, so that people could have ample opportunity to mourn and share their stories on what genocide was like for them and their families.
On Thursday, the 7th, a big event was planned at Amahoro stadiums in Kigali. I was planning to attend with some friends. Unfortunately when we arrived in Kigali, the event was rained out. So we just headed back to Kayonza since businesses were closed. We couldn’t even find a place open to get something to eat.
Monday from 6:00 am – 11:00 a.m., a memorial meeting was held for anyone that wanted to share their story of how genocide affected them. They talked about how it has affected their families’ lives today and about making sure it never happens again. Many people talked at the event. There were a lot of meetings of the local people in my sector as well where people were talking about the genocide and how they and their families survived the times. You don’t have to speak the language to know how these people were feeling. I had a friend translate some of what was being said. Those that were committing these murders wanted to make sure that the bodies were not found. To this date, the remains are still found throughout the area, in the woods and in different areas. This year, it was estimated that 100 remains were found in the district of Kayonza, 23 of those were in the sector that I live in. The people continue to look for the remains all year long and then bury them during the week of Kwibuka. One day is set aside to give a proper burial. This year, that took place on the 11th in Kayonza.
Some of the bodies of those killed during the genocides were thrown into Lake Muhazi, which is near Kayonza. So people throw flowers in the lake in remembrance of those people because they don’t have the means to extricate the remains out of the lake.
This week in Kayonza has been very intense and heartbreaking, but it also reminds me of the memorials we visit in Washington D.C., the Holocaust Memorial, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and the World War II Memorial, to name a few. I have visited all of the memorials in Washington. I also was able to pay my respects at the site of the 911 tragedy in New York five months after it happened. Even though I didn’t personally know anyone from any of these tragedies, the atmosphere at all of the memorials is exactly the same. So if any of you have visited any of these memorials in the states, you know what the people of Rwanda are living as we speak.
So to all family, friends, and acquaintances reading this post, the next time you have a moment of silence, please remember Rwanda.
In closing, to all of the participates in the Boston Marathon on Monday, good luck and remember we are all: Boston Strong!