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Kwibuku 20: Rwanda’s 20th Genocide Commemoration

The nation of Rwanda burst into the mainstream consciousness during the infamous mass murders of Rwandan Tutsi.  From early April through mid-July in 1994, approximately 500,000 to 1 million individuals were murdered.  As we approach the 20-year anniversary of the genocide, we should take some moments to not only reflect on the tragedies and lessons learned, but also examine the progress exhibited by Rwanda’s people.

In annual remembrance of the genocide, the nation of Rwanda will launch Kwibuka 20.  The word Kwibuka means ‘remember’ in Rwanda’s national language, Kinyarwanda.  Kwibuku 20, the twentieth commemoration of the genocide, is being used to promote solidarity between families that lost relatives and other survivors while working to ensure that history does not repeat itself.

The three-pronged approach Rwanda is taking against genocide is to remember, to unite and to renew.

A Flame of Remembrance, similar to that of the running of the Olympic torch, will travel through Rwanda’s 30 districts until it reaches Kigali on April 7, 2014, which begins the start of the national mourning period.  The torch will be used to light memorial lamps within communities throughout Rwanda while acting as the source of fire for the candlelit vigil at Amahoro Stadium on April 7.

Events are being held in countries throughout the world as a symbol of solidarity.  From Nigeria and Sudan, to Sweden and the United States, Rwandan embassies are engaging their local communities in discussions on causes and consequences while promoting genocide prevention principles.

The events will also shine light on the tremendous resilience and progress of the once-embattled nation.  In the last five years, 1 million Rwandans have been lifted out of poverty.  Life expectancy rose from a low of 28 years in 1994 to 56 years in 2011.  Infant mortality has dropped from 61,000 in 2000 to 23,000 in 2011.   To add to these amazing accomplishments, 81% of the Rwandan population now has health insurance.

Rwanda also boasts the highest percentage of women in parliament in the world at 64%.  The nation set a goal of universal access to primary education by 2015 and its on pace to meet that goal.  Today, the primary level net enrollment rate is nearly 97%, however secondary level net enrollment is only 28%.

The progress made in honor of those that were lost is commendable and other nations would be well served to learn from Rwanda’s successes.  To get involved with, host an event, or simply learn about Kwibuku 20, visit the website at Kwibuku20.

– Sunny Bhatt

Sources: Kwibuku20, UNICEF, UN
Photo: IGIHE Pictures