Skip to main content

FunTimes Magazine

Honoring the Dead: Reflections on the International Day of Remembrance for the Victims of the Rwanda Genocide

Apr 07, 2024 10:00AM ● By Okechukwu Nzeribe

Rusiga Genocide Memorial Site, where  6,412 bodies of Tutsi victims are buried. Source: GATETE Pacifique CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Between April – July 1994, the world witnessed the gruesome massacre of Tutsi and moderate Hutu ethnic nationalities of Rwanda. According to the UN report of 1994, the estimated death toll ranged from 500,000 to about a million lives lost in the genocide.

This remains one of the dark chapters in human history as for approximately 100 days, Hutu ethnic nationalities went about hunting down scores of men, women, and children who were of Tutsi ethnic nationalities and slaughtered them in their numbers all across the country while the world watched on.

On December 23rd 2003, the United Nations in its resolution of A/RES/58/234 instituted an International Day of Reflection of the Genocide in Rwanda selecting April 7 as the day to commemorate this dark period in human history.

The United Nations went further to encourage "all Member States, organizations of the United Nations system and other relevant international organizations, as well as civil society organizations, to observe the International Day, including special observances and activities in memory of the victims of the genocide in Rwanda."

So every year, the world comes together on April 7 to remember the victims lost in the genocidal attack. This solemn occasion is not only restricted to the day set aside by the United Nations. The nation of Rwanda also sets aside two days as public holidays to mourn the genocide.

April 7 begins with a national mourning day which is referred to as Kwibuka (Remembrance), and then concludes on July 4 which is recognized as Liberation Day.

A father is searching for his missing child using Red Cross assistance during the 1994 Rwandan Genocide. Source: British Red CrossCC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Read also:
Ruanda-Urundi Coat of Arms Image by Dn9ahx via Wikipedia Talk httpsenwikipediaorgwikiFileRuanda-Urundi_ArmsgifmediaFileRuanda-Urundi_Armsgif

Exploring ‘Tutsi’ and ‘Hutu’ Constructs, Tribalism, and Current Realities of Rwanda and Burundi on their Independence Days

Rwanda and Burundi celebrate independence days on July 1st. Today we are exploring the connection between these bordering countries, ‘Tutsi’ and ‘Hutu’ constructs, tribalism, and colonial... Read More » 


Honoring the Victims on International Day of Remembrance

The shocking failure of the United Nations and its member states to respond quickly to the mass atrocities being committed is a stark reminder of our inability to remain our brother's keeper and to confront evil in a timely and efficient manner.

By honoring the victims of the genocide the world is provided with an opportunity to learn from the harrowing stories of survivors thereby reflecting, and learning about the root and remote causes of the event and ensuring no repeat of such atrocities ever again.

As part of efforts to honor the victims, the United Nations Security Council set up an International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) on November 8, 1994, with the sole mandate to "prosecute persons responsible for genocide and other serious violations of international humanitarian law committed in the territory of Rwanda and neighboring States, between 1 January 1994 and 31 December 1994."

Located in Arusha in Tanzania and Kigali in Rwanda, the tribunal brought to justice 93 persons whom it believed had a hand in violating international humanitarian laws in 1994.

At the local level, the Rwandan government in 2005 set up a Justice and Reconciliation system referred to as the Gacaca Courts. 

The Gacaca Courts were a traditional community-based initiative whereby individuals at the community level were allowed to elect Judges to sit on trials of accused persons who participated in the 1994 violence and were still awaiting trials at the national justice system. 

Lower sentences were issued if judges were convinced of genuine repentance from the suspects and efforts to reconcile such persons back into the community were initiated. In some cases, prisoners after confessing were set free depending on the magnitude of crimes or given community service punishment. 

The Gacaca Courts also provided an opportunity for victims to find closure by providing information on the death of their family members or relatives.

It is reported that over 12,000 of these traditional community courts sat and tried over a million cases throughout the country. 

Another way steps are being taken to honor the victims is through the government’s effort to strengthen unity and reconciliation all across the country. Through educational programs such as;

  • Ingando: A peace education program designed to tackle genocide ideologies, educate on the country’s history, and promote unity and patriotism in the country. 

  • Itorero: A program designed to build up a new breed of leaders who are focused on developing their communities and the nation. 

The government is working to reshape the Rwandan identity, targeting programs that deemphasize the ethnic fault lines and promote a more unified identity for all Rwandans.

On this International Day of Remembrance, we must continue to speak against bigotry, intolerance, and discrimination and make an effort to combat every cause of hatred that leads to ethnic violence.

By ensuring that such acts never occur again, we not only honor the victims of the Rwandan genocide but also the many others who have experienced senseless massacres in the past.

Read also:

Rwandas Thriving Wildlife Tourism Industry

Rwanda's Thriving Wildlife Tourism Industry

Within the tourism sector, nature-based tourism, which accounts for 80% of leisure and business visitors in Rwanda, not only helps protect biodiversity and advance Rwanda’s efforts to ada... Read More » 


How Rwandan Small Businesses Embrace E-commerce

How Rwandan Small Businesses Embrace E-commerce

One of the countries that has been at the forefront of the shift towards e-commerce in Africa is Rwanda. Read More » 


Visa-Free Travel for Africans Kenya and Rwanda Lead the Way

Visa-Free Travel for Africans: Kenya and Rwanda Lead the Way

President William Ruto of Kenya recently announced that Kenya’s borders would be open to visitors from the entirety of Africa, with no visas required, by the end of 2023. Read More » 


 Okechukwu Nzeribe works with the Onitsha Chamber of Commerce, in Anambra State, Nigeria, and loves unveiling the richness of African cultures. [email protected]

Read more from Okechukwu Nzeribe:

Healthy Mothers Healthy Children Ensuring Equity in Healthcare for Black Families

Healthy Mothers, Healthy Children: Ensuring Equity in Healthcare for Black Families

While healthcare delivery continues to improve for many developed countries, it is worrisome that several families, especially among the Black communities continue to experience disparity... Read More » 


Unsung Heroines Celebrating the Resilience and Achievements of African Women on International Womens Day

Unsung Heroines: Celebrating the Resilience and Achievements of African Women on International Women's Day

In March as we celebrate International Women’s Day, let us celebrate these heroines who have risked much to make their mark on the global stage. Read More » 


From Shackles To Sovereignty Inspirational African Leaders In The Fight Against Colonialism

From Shackles To Sovereignty: Inspirational African Leaders In The Fight Against Colonialism

Self-determination became a uniting decimal among many inspirational leaders all across Africa. Read More »