As you may know, the 20th Commemoration of the 1994 Genocide Against the Tutsi is quickly approaching. April 6th marks the day that the former President’s plane was shot down. April 7th marks the beginning of 100 days Genocide. April 11th marks the day the UN Troops pulled out of Rwanda.
From April 7th through mid-July 1994, over one million men, women, and children were killed at a rate of over 10,000 people per day. For 100 days, seven innocent people were killed per minute – not with guns, but with machetes and clubs, not by a huge army of trained soldiers, but by their neighbors and fellow community members.
In our small village of Gatagara, we have approximately 6,000 men, women, and children of all ages buried at the mass grave at our Genocide Memorial. In Gatagara, a community that was originally inhabited by the Twa “class”, we experienced killings of both the Tutsi and the Twa people. In 1994, any moderate Hutus or Twas were also killed. Twas were considered to be a friend to the Tutsi and, as a result, a significant portion of their population was also wiped out from April to July. To this day, people in our community and throughout Rwanda are still searching for the bodies of their loved ones. Over 6,000 people were killed in our community; however, only 6,000 bodies have been recovered. Throughout commemoration, Rwandans across the country are still burying their loved ones today.
This week was a powerful week for our KPI coaches and participants. On Wednesday, we had guests from the Walk to Remember team in Kigali come to talk to our kids and coaches to prepare us to host Walk to Remember for our Sector. The devastation of Genocide was only 20 years ago, KPI’s youngest coach, Gerrard, is 24. All of our coaches were present and between the ages of 4 and 15 years old during Genocide. They witnessed firsthand the fear, confusion, and trauma associated with being an innocent child during that time. All of our coaches make a conscious decision daily to teach out kids to choose love over hate, peace over war, and hope over despair.
However, following our discussion with the Walk to Remember team, we were forced to acknowledge the harsh reality that our teachings go deeper than that, especially this month. This month we are teaching our kids moral courage. A person with moral courage in 1994 sacrificed his or her life and likely the lives of his or her family members. Men and woman who stood up against the killings sacrificed themselves because they could not accept the wrongs that were being done. Essentially, when we are teaching moral courage to our kids, we are not just teaching them to not steal, lie, or cheat; we are teaching our kids to be heroes.
Genocide ideology still exists in secondary schools. Some suggest the post genocide generation harbors more animosity and distrust than the young generation that survived. For that reason, our coaches are taking their responsibility of educating our kids, of building their integrity and moral courage seriously. Our kids have the opportunity to change the future of Rwanda. They have the opportunity to stand against genocide ideology and do their part to make sure “never again” really means “never again.”
We are all thankful to be living and working in a peaceful country. Following the devastation of Genocide, the older generations have now chosen to live peacefully. KPI and our coaches are putting forth our best effort to ensure that our young generation is a generation of peacemakers. Individuals who will stand up and stand against Genocide ideology, regardless of the cost.