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Memorial Torch Shines Light on Rwanda's Past and Present

  • Gabe Joselow

A traveling memorial torch is making its way across Rwanda on the way to Kigali for commemorations of the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide. The most recent stop was in the town of Ndera east of the capital.

In a simple ceremony, neither solemn nor formal, the flame of remembrance is passed from town to town, giving each region of the country its chance to reflect on how far Rwanda has come since the genocide 20 years ago.

Organizers say the flame represents remembrance, resillience and courage.

Hundreds of people have turned out to observe the ceremony ahead of a national week of mourning that takes place every year.

Phocas Kabayire is among those paying respect.

“The reason why I came here is because of this flame, which shows where we came from and where we are going, and also it makes us stronger to remember what happened in this country," said Kabayire.

A video depicts the horror of the genocide, when ethnic Hutu extremists killed hundreds of thousands of ethnic Tutsis and some moderate Hutus.

Today, ethnicity is rarely mentioned. And attendees here, like Ariette Kancime, say old divides have been mended.

“The reconciliation has been successful. Even though I wasn't here during the genocide, I can see the way people are forgiving each other. Frankly speaking, the survivors have forgiven the killers," said Kancime.

For those who are too young to remember the genocide, the memorial serves as a lesson to avoid a repeat of the past.

Defense Minister James Kabarebe issued a stern warning to those who threaten the government.

“There are some who tried to [take the country backward] and there are those who have this ideology, they are there, but what I know, they will die with that ideology," said Kabarebe.

His message follows the recent assassination of a Rwandan opposition leader in South Africa. The government denies involvement in the killing.

From here the torch will travel to the capital, where the president will on Monday use it to light a national flame of mourning.