Remembering Rwanda 20 Years Later

There are some things in life that no matter how much time passes, they simply cannot be forgotten for the pain is still too much to bear. The 1994 Rwandan Genocide is one of those things.

What began in April 1994, 20 years later still seems inconceivable. More than 800,000 men, women, and children were killed in a period lasting about 100 days. The stories are almost as unbelievable as the numbers. Husbands murdered their wives. Former co-workers attacking each other. Hundreds of people barricaded themselves in a church hoping and praying the militia would not be able to break through. Sadly, they were wrong. People recall entrusting their neighbors to look after their families, only to find out some of the very people they trusted to watch over their loved ones were responsible for their deaths.

Photo: http://voiceseducation.org

The genocide was perpetrated by Hutu extremists. In Rwanda, there were to main groups of people: the Hutus and Tutsis. Though the Tutsis were the minority group making up about 15% of the population, it was they who received the preferential treatment from the Belgians who bestowed upon them favorable status and leadership positions. This is where the resentment began to build. When the bent up frustrations spilled over years later, no one could predict how deadly the results would be.

In midst of the killings however, one story emerged from the rest.

In April of 1994, just as the Rwandan Genocide was about to be underway, Paul Rusesabagina was the manager of the Hotel Des Mille Collines at the time. As the genocide erupted, Rusesabagina would house more than a thousand Tutsis from Hutu militia. 10 years later Rusesabagina’s story would play out on the big screen in the film “Hotel Rwanda,” where Rusesabagina is portrayed by Don Cheadle. It’s an incredibly powerful film and one that makes it hard to watch while maintaining a dry eye.

There aren’t enough apologies the international community can give to the people and victims of the Rwandan Genocide. If there is any solace from this horrific event, it is that today, 20 years later, Rwanda has one of the fastest growing economies in Africa and has more women in it’s government than any other nation in the world. Time may not be able to heal all wounds, but it can teach us some valuable lessons about forgiveness and moving forward.

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