Former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo was among world leaders, former and present who laid wreaths on Sunday morning at Kigali Genocide Memorial, as the Rwanda government began the commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the 1994 Rwandan genocide.
The laying of wreaths was the curtain raiser for the three-month remembrance. It will be followed by a commemoration ceremony in Kigali Convention Center.
The genocide claimed the lives of over 1 million people, mainly ethnic Tutsis. The annual commemoration, named Kwibuka,(to remember) is held every year from April 7 to July 4 in line with the period of the genocide.
Kigali Genocide Memorial was the final resting place for more than 250,000 victims of the genocide,
President Paul Kagame, first lady Jeannette Kagame, African Union Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat, and President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker jointly lit the flame of remembrance after laying wreaths together with other heads of state and government at the memorial.
Former Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa and other visiting guests also laid wreaths at the memorial earlier Sunday morning.
Commemoration banners festooned streets in Kigali.
Rwandan embassies overseas have also started commemoration activities. The United Nations General Assembly in January 2018 adopted a resolution that changes the designation of April 7 to “the International Day of Reflection on the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda” from the name of “the International Day of Reflection on the Genocide in Rwanda” as was used in a December 2003 resolution.
President Kagame said at the Convention: “In 1994, there was no hope, only darkness. Today, light radiates from this place. How did it happen? Rwanda became a family, once again. The arms of our people, intertwined, constitute the pillars of our nation. We hold each other up.
“Our bodies and minds bear amputations and scars, but none of us is alone. Together, we have woven the tattered threads of our unity into a new tapestry.Sisters became mothers. Neighbours became uncles. Strangers became friends.
“Our culture naturally creates new bonds of solidarity, which both console and renew. Rwanda is a family. That is why we still exist, despite all we have gone through”.