Rwanda: Kwibuka20

3 Apr 2014

Rwanda 15 years on by Tiggy Ridley for DFID on Flickr

The word kwibuka means ‘remember’ in Kinyarwanda, the main language spoken in Rwanda. During 2014 a series of events took place worldwide to remember the genocide that occurred in Rwanda over 20 years ago, culminating in a national commemoration in Rwanda on 7 April.

You can read more about this on Rwanda’s Kwibuka20 website.

Over the course of 100 days from 6 April 1994 when the the plane carrying Rwanda’s President was shot down, approximately one million people were killed in Rwanda, in state-supported violence against the Tutsi ethnic group. View a 100 days timeline on the Guardian website.

This is a horrific episode to discuss in school, but a recent survey by the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust found that just one in five 16-24 year-olds could name a post- Holocaust genocide, while one third were unable to give the correct definition of “genocide”. (Read more about the definition of genocide on the BBC News website.)

Schools already teach about the Holocaust in order to try and prevent such a terrible event from happening again. Surely the same should apply to the Rwandan genocide. This Guardian article from 2009 gives examples of how some teachers have covered the issue: Teaching the Rwandan genocide in schools.

As Sam Hunt, one of the teachers in the article says:

“Genocide is a shame on all humanity, and the reason genocide happens is because enough good people stand by and do nothing to stop it from happening. I think it is very important that we empower young people today to make a positive difference in their world.”

Here are further links to information and resources which support teaching about the genocide, and about Rwanda today.

In this 7-minute film made for HMDT, Apollinaire tells the story of how he survived the genocide:

You can also read the story of Eric Eugene Murangwa who was on the Rwandan national football team at the time of the genocide and now lives in the UK, running an organisation called Football for Hope, Peace and Unity.

  • Survivors Fund (SURF) is a UK charity working to rebuild the lives of survivors of the Rwandan genocide. Their website has an education section with case studies, lesson plans and education packs, exploring life in Rwanda before, during and after the genocide: Survivors Fund – Education. These have been developed with support from UK teachers and are based on the filmed and written testimonies of survivors supported by the charity.
  • rYico (Rwandan Youth Information Community Organisation) has produced a set of Teaching Resources based around their Keeping Memories project, which explored the experiences of 10 Rwandan people living in the UK.
  • Film Education has developed online resources based around the films Shooting Dogs and Hotel Rwanda which both deal with the Rwandan genocide.
  • SOS Children have produced the Our Africa website; this uses films created by children across the continent as a way to talk about their lives. The Rwanda section of the website includes films by children discussing the impact and effects of the genocide.
  • CAFOD have a ‘Remembering Rwanda’ section on their website featuring a short animation, resources for reflection and prayer, plus blog posts about their work in the country.

The following news reports look back at the events of 1994 and examine how Rwanda and its people are coping today. They present a range of perspectives, some positive, some less so.

The Independent: Twenty years on, Rwanda still bears the scars of its genocide

The Observer: ‘We live with those who killed our families. We are told they’re sorry, but are they?’

The Guardian: Rwanda stories: tales of hope emerge from shadow of genocideWarning: These are six young people who were born from rape; despite that they are generally optimistic about their future.

Thomson Reuters Foundation: Genocide and Justice: Rwanda 20 years on – Warning: Content includes testimony from a killer as well as humanitarian workers and survivors.

BBC News: A good man in Rwanda – Tells the story of Capt Mbaye Diagne, a United Nations peacekeeper in Rwanda. Originally from Senegal, he saved many people during the genocide.

Background reading, both factual and fiction:

  • Gil Courtemanche – A Sunday at the Pool in Kigali
  • Lt Gen Romeo Dallaire – Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda
  • Philip Gourevitch – We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families: Stories from Rwanda
  • Gaile Parkin – Baking Cakes in Kigali
  • Julian R Pierce – Speak Rwanda
  • Paul Rusesababinga – An Ordinary Man: An Autobiography

Finally, this short film features a wide range of recent photos from Rwanda. It is from a King’s College London exhibition which aims to show how Rwandan photographers see their country today. It gives a much broader perspective than just the ‘genocide, hills and gorillas’ that are mentioned at the start of the film.

If you have further resources and news items to suggest about Rwanda, please let us know in the comments box below.

The photo at the top of the page was taken by Tiggy Ridley for DFID and is used under a Creative Commons licence. It is part of a Flickr series of photos taken fifteen years after the Rwandan genocide.

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