“Every April I silence my thoughts and lie to myself, that I’m ready and strong enough to conceptualise at least a bit about that of 1994’s Rwandan Genocide.”
From April to June 1994, roughly 800,000 Rwandans were killed – during the space of only 100 days. Most of those who lost their lives were Tutsis, while the majority of those who initiated the violent killings were Hutus. This event went down in history as the Rwandan Genocide and has remained in people’s minds years later. The scale of the tragedy prompted the United Nations to mark 7 April as the Day of Remembrance for the Victims of the Rwanda Genocide, with people all over the globe holding commemoration ceremonies to remember those who were murdered during the genocide.
In remembrance of those who lost their lives during the Rwandan Genocide, 18-year-old Uwera Nina Ntaganzwa from Rwanda writes for the IPF on the infamous phrase that has become associated with the tragedy: “Never Again”.
I wrote ‘My Brother’s Keeper’ on 11 April 2016, inspired by the testimony of a survivor of the Rwandan Genocide, Charles Habonimana. He told his story two days earlier, 9 April, at the night vigil – one of the national events held to mark the 22nd commemoration of the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi.
As I listened to his tragic story, and the words “Never Again” being repeated, I thought about how my parents once lived as refugees as a result of the 1959 Civil War, and how, many years later, the same reasons that kept them from being in their country led to the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi. How could anyone now be so sure about “Never Again”? It was then that I realised the importance of remembering and honouring those who lost their lives in the genocide – and it was then that I wrote this.
My Brother’s Keeper: Remembering the Rwandan Genocide
I read the scriptures and learned that Cain, after killing Abel, became a wanderer. Did he lurk through our hills sometime in April? Did he walk through the rain swinging from man to man, bidding farewell, yet again, his brother Abel? Did he use that man to taste his neighbour’s blood in search of his brother, did Cain walk the hills sometime in April?
Every April I silence my thoughts and lie to myself, that I’m ready and strong enough to conceptualise at least a bit about that of 1994; only to prove that I’m just as pretentious as the last. I constantly remind myself that no man ever will still I whisper words like “Never Again” sometimes leaving me emptier than I was.
I question the possibility that words such as these give hope to the child who watched as they slaughtered his mother or the one who saw his father become a monster overnight and how one day they would have to explain it to their own.
The orphan would one day have to listen to his daughter innocently echo the thoughts about those two words he had tried to suppress. “Dad, how can we be so sure?” and he’d know then by his answer how reassured he was.
And that’s it. He’d have to remember. Always. Not in April, but every day. He’d have to teach his children the greatest commandment. He’d have to love, and teach love for love, love conquers all. And again, he’d have to Kwibuka, kwiyubaka as the resilient people of the hills. That’s their power: resilience.
He’d have to recite a few words to his neighbour who without empathy repeated “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Every day like a prayer he would have to say:
C’est lui qui a peur d’admettre ses craintes
Et c’est lui qui ne pourra pas les surmonter
On trouve la liberté dans la confession
Et la liberté dans la reconnaissance.
And waiting for his response he’d still have to forgive. His child would grow to be as I, born after the atrocities but everyday still, remember. And in remembering, honour. Honour the lives lost, honour the men and women who tirelessly fought, and still fight to see those words become a way of life. She’d have to be one of those honourable men. And she’d have to engrave the words, in her heart, along with “I am, my brother’s keeper.”