On Wednesday, April 7, Rwanda and the rest of the world will begin activities to commemorate the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi that claimed one million lives in just 100 days. This is the 27th commemoration to be held.
Different from last year’s commemoration that happened when the country was in a total lockdown, there are a few changes this year in regards to programming and guidelines to follow, thanks to a decrease in Covid-19 infections.
Below are ten things you should know about the upcoming commemoration.
1. National commemoration day
On Wednesday, few officials will convene at the Kigali Genocide Memorial located in Gisozi to light the flame of hope that will kick-start the remembrance activities.
On the same day, a national event is scheduled at Kigali Arena and will bring together different officials and representative of different groups of people such as diplomats, genocide survivors, women, youth, clerics, the private sector and others.
At the event, President Paul Kagame is expected to deliver a keynote address and this, like all scheduled activities will be aired on national television and live-streamed on other social media platforms.
2. No walk to remember
Another departure from the annual activities, this year there will be no ‘Walk To Remember’, an activity organized by the youth which brings together thousands, including top government leaders among others, to honour genocide victims.
The walk was struck off the programme this year also as part of the measures to contain the spread of Covid-19.
The commemoration vigil that used to be held at the Amahoro National Stadium on the night of April 7 has also been canceled.
3. No community gatherings
No community gatherings will be allowed during this year’s commemoration.
Before the outbreak of Covid-19, during the commemoration week, people would gather at village level and participate in discussions around the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi with intent to prevent a repeat of the atrocity.
Nonetheless, people will be able to follow different talk shows on radio stations and television channels throughout the commemoration week.
4. Visiting genocide memorials
The public will be allowed to visit different genocide memorials across the country during the upcoming 27th commemoration of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi with adherence to Covid-19 preventive measures.
Also, the remains of genocide victims which were discovered throughout the past year will be laid to rest in different areas during the 100 days of commemoration in different parts of the country, without exceeding the recommended number of mourners- 20.
According Jean Damascene Bizimana, the Executive Secretary of the National Commission for the fight against the Genocide, people visiting memorials should be time-cautious to allow many groups to visit.
5. Youth conference
In a bid to educate youth on how the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi was planned, implemented, and can be prevented, there are two conferences scheduled on April 9 will be aired on Rwanda Television.
The meetings, according Bizimana, will feature different speakers with the different presentations aimed at demonstrating the role of the youth in safeguarding the memory of genocide.
6. Paying tribute to politicians killed in the genocide
The closing date of the official commemoration week, April 13, will see the nation pay tribute to politicians who opposed the idea of killing Tutsis and ended up being killed during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
On the same day, another virtual conference will be held to discuss the role of political parties in building a peaceful nation among others.
7. Mental health assistance for trauma cases
During the commemoration period, cases of trauma tend to increase, especially among Genocide survivors. However, due to the need to limit human contact, services normally offered to patients will now be accessed virtually.
According to the Rwanda Biomedical Centre (RBC), in case a person identifies any sign of trauma among any member of the community, a phone call should be made to report the situation to Community Health Workers (CHWs) who have been trained to provide emergency mental health assistance via telephone.
The CHWs are available in every village and people can call RBC’s toll-free line of 114 to get assisted.
8. Covid-19 vaccination exercise to continue
Except on the first day of commemoration, Covid-19 vaccination will continue country-wide at different designated places in the country.
Currently, the vaccination exercise is focusing on people who received the first dose of Pfizer and are being given the second shot after an interval of 21 days.
9. Hospitality facilities to remain accessible
Restaurants and hotels will be operational during the week-long national commemoration in observance with the opening hours provided for under the current Covid-19 guidelines.
Previously, these facilities would not operate in the afternoon for people to attend commemoration dialogues at village level, which will not be possible this time round owing to the global pandemic.
10. Offices to remain open
Other than the first day of commemoration, offices will remain open, again in observance of the guidelines in place for Covid-19 in terms of opening and closing hours and number of workers allowed for each shift.
However employers are being asked to give permission to their employees who want to go to given places to pay tribute to their loved ones who were killed in the Genocide.