- April 7, 2019
On April 7th, 2019, about 400 people gathered at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. to mark the 25th commemoration of the Genocide against the Tutsi.
This event was hosted by the Embassy of Rwanda in Washington D.C. and was widely attended by members of the Diplomatic Corps, various Defense Attachés, representatives of Think Tanks in the Greater Washington area, friends of Rwanda, and the Rwandan community members.
The wide array of topic covered by speakers of the day covered the following:
- “Upholding the Memory of Genocide”
Ms. Zilfa Irakoze, Rwandan Youth Representative
- “Origin of the Genocide Against the Tutsi, Confronting Revisionism”
Dr. Jean Pierre Karegeye, Visiting International Scholar, Dickinson College
- “Personal Experience During the 1994 Genocide Against the Tutsi”
Ms. Linda Thomas-Greenfield, Senior Counselor, Albright Stonebridge Group
- “25 Years of Reconstruction, Progress and Future Prospects”
Dr. Margee Ensign, President, Dickinson College
- “The Role of Writers In Responding To The Genocide Against the Tutsi
Dr. Boubacar Boris Diop, Award-Winning Journalist & Novelist
This year’s commemoration focuses on the call to the new generation to uphold the legacy of strength, resilience, and unity of all Rwandans. Ms. Zilfa Irakoze, a young Rwandan currently pursuing her studies in the U.S. delivered remarks offering the perspective of young people in upholding the memory of Genocide and Fighting Genocide Denial. “We are the present and the future of Rwanda; it is required of us to understand our history because it is for us to make sure we uphold the memory of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi, today and in the future, everywhere we are, so that Never Again may be a reality. We have the responsibility to fight denial and revisionism. This story is ours to tell,” said Ms. Irakoze as she cautioned the youth.
Various speakers expressed their regard for what Rwanda has accomplished in the last 25 years post genocide. Dr. Margee Ensign a long-time friend of Rwanda who has closely followed the development of Rwanda, as well as Dr. Peter Pham who delivered official remarks from the Department of State, both pointed out several markers of unprecedented developments in Education, health, security, and women empowerment. Dr. J Peter Pham stressed that the Rwandan people and government, under President Paul Kagame’s leadership is serving as an example to many African nations, and beyond, of what accountability and dedication to excellence can lead to. “The indomitable will of the Rwandan people proved the world wrong, “said Dr. Pham as he recalled the projections many made on the country 25 years ago.
“Rwanda is a country with vision, with honest and capable leaders, focused on the future, developing new models of development, dealing with its history, caring for survivors, and empowering hope,” said Dr. Ensign.
Ms. Jeanne Celestine Lakin, a survivor of the 1994 genocide gave her first account story of what she experienced during the genocide at the age of nine, delivering a riveting, heartbreaking, yet inspiring account of her story of survival and how she continues to lead a life that seeks to tell the truth about what happened during the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi. As she concluded her testimony she left those present with the following: “My parents and siblings were killed, I was raped, I was homeless, I was broken, and suffering from PTSD. In the wake of the genocide, I had a choice to make. I chose love, compassion, and giving. I chose forgiveness too because it was also about letting go of a weight that was not mine to carry. Forgiveness is as much for the perpetrator as it is for the victim.”
Ms. Lakin’s testimony was followed by a Minute of Silence to honor the lives of the victims, and a candle lighting ceremony to symbolize hope for the future and the eternal memory of those who passed.
In her keynote address, Ambassador Mathilde Mukantabana, Ambassador of the Republic of Rwanda to the U.S. thanked those who attended for standing with Rwanda on this solemn occasion and stressed the importance of remembrance. “We remember, not to dwell on the past, but to inform the future. By remembering with clear eyed honesty what happened in the lead-up to, and during the genocide, we lay the groundwork for a sustainable recovery. This is the foundational role of memory in our national history,” said Ambassador Mukantabana.
The event was brought to a closing with a sendoff blessing and participants proceeded to a Night Vigil that was organized at the Chancery.