The genocide memorial week begins April 7th each year. This date marks the night that the presidents plane was shot down over Kigali. Along for the ride was also the Burundian president. Within minutes road blocks were erected all around Kigali with militias and the government troops manning them. By the end of the first day, 8,000 people were dead. Tutsi leaders, such as journalists or political leaders, were targeted first.The killings happened at ten-times the rate as the German holocaust and in only one hundred days around 800,000 Tutsi and moderate Hutu were dead.
This holiday is one of the most important in Rwanda. On this day, events are held around the entire country at local government offices to remember that fateful day. People give their testimonies, guest speakers talk about the importance of unity, the President of the Republic makes a public speech and people gather to remember their lost loved ones.
On this first day of memorial week everything is closed all day. Then on April 8th-12th, work continues as usual in the mornings but in the afternoons places shut down again and memorial activities are held. During the entire week no amusement or entertainment activities should be done. The 13th is the official end of memorial week but people never forget. In the following months there are memorial activities around the country and many people take journeys back to the places where their friends and families were killed. All in all, these months are bleak. And during these months we as visitors in the country need to be particularly understanding.
“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
When there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.
Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand,
To be loved as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive,
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
And it is in dying that we are
Born to eternal life.”
St. Francis of Assisi