Days like today put everything in perspective

Kwibuka25 night vigil at Amahoro Stadium in Kigali, Rwanda. Photo: David Toovey

I woke up to epic rainfall in the wee hours of the morning, my heart beating fast unaware that the calendar date had transitioned to April 7th. Mother nature had set the loudest reminder that could not be missed, lest we forget.

Today my heart beats only for Rwanda as I am reminded of the events that took place 25 years ago, the Genocide Against the Tutsi. My beloved country with whom I had a unique love at first sight encounter thirteen years ago. The circumstances that delayed our meeting were not pleasant ones, yet I was too young to know any of it. It took me a long time to comprehend, but can one ever truly understand the incomprehensible?

Unthinkable and unspeakable acts committed in the name of ethnic cleansing.

Can you imagine waking up one day with death staring you in the face? No chance to bid farewell to your loved ones and in rare instants, mere seconds to run for your life? I can’t. Yet, I live among a community of individuals who were faced with similar scenarios. They hung on to life by a thread, each day survived more dire than the previous one.

Today, we walk through life side by side. Our history is common, but our circumstances are different. Yet we are all here, unified by our love for Rwanda, determined not to let history dictate our future. Over the past 25 years, Rwanda has rebuilt itself, it has demonstrated a model of self-reliance that speaks to none. Rwanda has claimed a seat at the table, refusing to be left behind ever again. What can I do but marvel at present day Rwanda? At the unbelievable stories of survival. At a nation that has literally risen from the ashes. At the incredible acts of bravery and the indomitable spirit that has been at work since 1994.

While I sit here with my ten-month-old boy watching the commemoration events unfold on television, I can’t help but wonder how I will recount the history of Rwanda to him. Will he even believe me? Will he believe that in 1994 our country was reduced to nothing and a quarter of a century later the same country is prospering? Will he believe the stories of reconciliation, survivors and perpetrators living alongside one another? 

 “Forgiveness is not a weakness, but a choice,” said a genocide survivor during his testimony at the night vigil. Faced with the same situation, would I ever be able to make such decision? I don’t know and I thank God I’ll never need to know. I give credence to the promise ‘Never Again’ with every fiber of my being. The Rwanda I live in today will not give way for history to repeat itself. It can’t. It won’t.

At times like these, I feel so grateful that my son has a bright future to look forward to in this beautiful and peaceful country he will soon call home. I pray that Rwanda continues to be a universal model of peace and reconciliation. I pray that Rwanda continues to be a safe country for all its citizens. I pray that the Rwandan value of agaciro will continue to prevail in our hearts and that our actions will speak to it.

If there’s one thing I know, it is that tomorrow is not promised. I don’t want to be complacent. I want to live my life fully. I want to leave a mark in the world while I can. Let my life have meaning. May the sacrifice of those who stood before me not be in vain. 

I wish to conclude with a quote from our president’s #Kwibuka25 speech which totally echoes my feelings, “looking at Rwanda today it is clear that God has come home to stay.” We welcome His presence.


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