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Rwanda's Youth Looks Forward 20 Years After Genocide

  • Gabe Joselow

Nearly a generation has passed since more than 800,000 people were killed in the Rwandan genocide. Now, after years of healing, young Rwandan remember the past but also hope for a better future.

Members of a student genocide survivors group walk together to memorialize those who were killed 20 years ago.

Still in high school, most here are too young to remember the fighting, though their lives were forever changed. Many lost family members, including their parents.

They come to the Nyanza memorial site to grieve together and to offer support to each other. It's a kind of community service, born out of the tragedy of the past.

“It is important to come because it is the best way to honor the bodies of our parents, our friends who are buried in these graves," says Fabien Akalikumutima, 20, who leads education programs for the group.

The site memorializes some 2,000 people who were killed in April 1994, while taking shelter at a nearby school.

Students say education is key to preventing a repeat of the past.

“Through telling the truth of what I know and through helping the young children who are growing up, I have to explain to them clearly what happened because there are some people who can explain to them in the wrong way,” said Akalikumutima.

Hope for the future

The country still bears the scars of the genocide. But development is all around - and opportunity beckons a younger generation keen to rebuild the country.

Christian Kwisinga and Marie Josée Uwayezu this year were accepted to Dartmouth College in the United States, after studying with the Bridge2Rwanda program in Kigali.

Both are looking forward to a better future for their country.

“When you are getting an opportunity you think that you have to also give an opportunity to someone else, because you know we are just being one nation, that's the thing,” said Uwayezu.

“You can find that [after] what has been harmed by the genocide, now we are in a time of reconciliation and peace and I believe that is not something that should affect anyone's thinking about what he wants to do in the future,” said Kwisinga.

Through memorial and public service, Rwanda's younger generation keeps one eye on the past and another on the future.