Many of Rwanda’s wounds are still healing, even 14 years after its genocide took place, Rwandan Ambassador James Kimonyo said on Monday, the anniversary of the conflict.
Joined by University President Steven Knapp, Provost John Williams Jr. and a number of other speakers – including survivors of the genocide – Kimonyo told audience members at the Jack Morton Auditorium the gathering was about the future as much as the past.
“This commemoration is not only about reflecting on a tragic past, but about reaffirming that what happened to our country in 1994 shall never happen again,” Kimonyo said. “When a genocide occurs, we all should do whatever it takes to end it.”
The event highlighted the need to close the paths to power for those who would commit genocide, by promoting economic and political development.
“The events of Rwanda are a lesson we must all learn from, so when we say never again, we always mean never again,” Kimonyo said.
Knapp and Williams highlighted the University’s strong relationship with the central African nation. Williams discussed some of the University’s partnerships with Rwanda and the fact that Rwandan President Paul Kagame visited GW in 2006.
“I applaud Rwanda for showing perseverance,” Knapp said. “We’re proud to watch as Rwanda assumes its leadership role.”
Clementine Uwase, a genocide survivor, followed Williams’ and Knapp’s comments with testimony about her experiences. Speaking through an interpreter, Uwase recalled how her father was killed while a neighbor saved her and her siblings.
“Justice will be something that in Rwanda we seek,” she said. “Reconciliation is the ultimate goal.”
The event also featured other speakers including a local student and activists. Event organizers also screened the Rwandan documentary “Back Home Movie.”
Freshman Ben Fitch said he liked the broad representation of ideas included in the ceremony.
“We got different perspectives and different experiences from people who were actually there, going through difficult things,” Fitch said.
He added, “It wasn’t just a commemoration, but a useful presentation of how we can learn from this, and how we can do something about genocide occurring now and in the future.”
Freshman Evy Dwarec said she was disappointed by the event’s low turnout. Only about a dozen students attended.
“I would have expected there to be far more students,” she said. “I was really surprised by how few showed up.”