Uganda's Rwandan community has marked the 25th anniversary of the Rwandan Genocide, which saw over hundreds of thousands of people killed over a 100 days of ethnic majority Hutus targeting minority Tutsis. Many Tutsis fled to neighboring countries like Uganda.
The Rwandan Students Association at Uganda’s Makerere University re-enacted the bloody events that began in April 1994 by performing a play.
They sang songs to remember the dead and to keep their memory alive.
Rwanda’s ethnic majority Hutus’ genocidal campaign against minority Tutsis left over 800,000 people dead in just over three months.
Ten of those killed were Jackline Uwamwiza’s relatives, who dismissed her pleas that they join her in fleeing Rwanda.
“And I was calling them, asking them, please, please go away, go to Burundi, people are waiting for you at the borders of Burundi, please go, please go. But they were not believing that this will happen. And one day I called again, as I was doing it every day, and the phone was not responding,” Uwamwiza recalled.
Uganda has been a haven to fleeing Tutsis since the 1959 Rwandan Revolution, which changed Rwanda from a Belgian colony with a Tutsi monarchy to a free, Hutu-ruled republic.
It was from Uganda where now President Paul Kagame’s Rwandan Patriotic Front launched attacks against Hutu forces, fueling civil war but also ending the genocide.
On Sunday, Ugandans and Rwandans honored those killed in the genocide. They lit candles and vowed such bloodshed would never happen again.
But Rwanda’s ambassador to Uganda, Frank Mugambagye, also stressed that – a quarter century later - some wanted culprits are still free.
“The arrest warrants have been issued but, indeed, in some cases, quite many cases, they have not been pursued. Efforts must therefore be made to expose the suspects so that justice and fighting impunity is realized,” Mugambagye said.
Rwandan elders in Uganda worry that without this annual tribute, Rwandan youth, who have no memory of the genocide, may one day forget.
George Bazatoha, a student at Makerere University born in Uganda after his family fled the Rwandan Revolution, said the memorial was vital for his generation.
“It gives me a spirit of loving my country and loving my fellow munywarwanda, my tribemate, without considering whether he’s Hutu, or Tutsi or Twa,” Bazatoha said.
For Rwandans in Uganda, the ethnic and power conflicts that drove them out of their country, and led to the 1994 genocide, are tragedies they hope never to see repeated.