Yesterday, April 7th was Genocide Memorial Day for those lost in the 1994 genocide. My colleague TN and I took part in the Walk to Remember from Parliament to the stadium. Commemoration events began in the morning, around 8 am.
I watched the morning’s ceremony on TV. I also watched some music videos made to mourn the events and the awful deaths of millions of people in the genocide. The one musician, who sang about six different songs, sang about the individuals and families who were killed so brutally, and how such acts of hate must never happened again. He sang about the different communities in which the slaughters took place. He even mentioned mine, Kackiryu. He sang to the communities themselves that they used to have such beautiful people and that they had lost precious belongings. He also sang to the people whose names he mentioned that they would always be remembered. Most of the songs where subtitled which is how I got to know what he was saying. BN, one of the brothers who works at the guesthouse, watched with me and was telling me some of what he knew about the genocide and about how things are today between people. Thankfully, he was not in the country when it happened but he returned with his family soon after in the same year.
BN is a fun guy. I’m glad he and his bro are around otherwise I’d be very lonely and besides, they’re just great company. I can’t tell sometimes if BN joking or serious because when he says yes to something he lifts his eyebrows and has this sly little grin. He was only supposed t give a push (see that I got a moto and directions to get there then return home) yesterday so I could go meet TN but the push ended up lasting a good 5 hours. I was a little timid to ride my first moto-taxi , so we got two and BN rode along in front of me. It really wasn’t that bad. There were very few cars on the road because of the occasion- most things were closed and a lot of people were at home or attending memorial events. I held on to the handles just behind my seat, closed my eyes when we leaned into turns, and arrived safe and sound.
BN and I rode to Kigali Business Centre but then found out plans had changed, and so walked about 10 minutes to Parliament. Before we set off for the hour-long walk the president gave and address and I got to see Mr. Paul Kagame himself. He is very tall and very, very thin. He wore a yellow polo t-shirt. It was very cool to see him. (I haven’t even seen the prime minister of my own country although somehow I don’t think it would be as monumental). All eyes, ninety percent of which belonged to youth, were on him. He spoke briefly, cracked a few jokes to which the crowd responded to well, and led the march. Lots of people ran up to walk as close to him as they could.
There were thousands of people at the stadium. The atmosphere was not as tense as I had been anticipating. People were in fairly good moods from what I could tell. I imagine it would have gotten quite sad at the end when they showed a video of survivor testimonies. TN, BN and I left early and so unfortunately did not get to see that part. We had been gone 5 hours already, there was no food or drink in sight, nor did the ceremony seem to be ending anytime soon. This morning my J, my boss told me that people probably spent the night there… really?
Anyway, that was yesterday. Commemoration week is still on until the 14th. Until then businesses are open in the morning and closed in the afternoon for community meetings to discuss the events of 1994. Some say it’s a useful healing process, others say the week discontinue because it continuously brings up too many bad feelings. Standing in the context I have no idea what to think, I just listen and watch, ask questions if it seems okay. It’s all contributing to my reality in Kigali.