Samuel Kadungure in KIGALI, Rwanda
PRESIDENT Mnangagwa arrived here yesterday for the 25th Rwanda Liberation Day celebrations slated for today at Amahoro Stadium in Kigali.
The commemorations, which reflect on the overthrow in 1994 of the genocidal regime that massacred at least a million people in about 100 days, will also be attended by President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi (Botswana), President Hage Geingob (Namibia), President Faure Gnassingbe (Togo), Faustin-Archange Touadera (Central Africa Republic (CAR), President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo (Somalia) and President Julius Maada Bio (Sierra Leone).
Rwanda President, Paul Kagame, will officiate at the event.
President Mnangagwa was received at the Kagame International Airport by Rwandan Foreign Affairs Minister, Dr Richard Sezibera and the Zimbabwe embassy staff.
The President was accompanied by Foreign Affairs and International Trade Minister, Dr Sibusiso Moyo and senior Government officials.
The celebrations will be held under the theme: “Together we prosper”.
They will be marked by patriotic and solemn speeches, cultural events, special ceremonies, military parades, concerts and sport matches.
It will be a time of both festivity and sombre reflection on the genocide when Hutus rose up against the Tutsi class and massacred them.
Rwandans mourn the genocide victims for 100 days – starting from April 6 to July 4, the time it took the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) forces to stop the wanton killings in 1994.
On April 6, 1994, a plane carrying then-President Juvenal Habyarimana and his counterpart, Cyprien Ntaryamira of Burundi – both Hutus – was shot down killing all on board.
The Hutu extremists immediately started a well-organised mass killing of Tutsis. The plane was allegedly shot by Hutus to provide an excuse for the genocide.
Most of those who died were minority Tutsis and moderate Hutus, killed by Hutu extremists.
Machetes, clubs, knobkerries, old guns and any blunt weapon, were used.
It was a genocide in which no Tutsi was exempt.
Women were beaten, raped, humiliated, abused and ultimately murdered, often in sight of family members.
Little was done internationally to stop the killings, and though the UN and Belgium had forces in Rwanda, the UN mission never acted until President Paul Kagame led the RPF forces that marched on Kigali to quell the massacres. Rwanda has established more than 200 sites across the country where the genocide victims were interred in mass graves.
At the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre (KGMC), more than 250 000 victims were buried in eight mass graves, which consist of concrete crypts three metres deep each, filled from the floor to ceilings with coffins.
The coffins rarely contain the remains of an individual victim, but are only symbolic of the dignity that the people of Rwanda wish to accord the victims.
Some of their relatives yesterday had an opportunity to lay flowers and offer prayers on the site.
The centres serve as places of dignified remembrance for loved ones lost and a place of reflection and learning for the wider community, both in Rwanda and internationally.
KGMC includes three permanent exhibitions, the largest of which documents the 1994 genocide.
While the genocide had cast a long shadow over Rwanda, the country has recovered economically with President Kagame’s policies encouraging rapid growth and technological advancement.
According to the African Development Bank, Rwanda’s growth was 7,2 percent in 2018.
The country is peaceful after a decade of community-led justice and reconciliation efforts, and free of largely ethnic toxicity which ignited the 1994 genocide.
The country has also made great strides in building infrastructure and stamping out corruption.
With a population of 12,5 million people, Rwanda is regarded as the smartest country in Africa.