While April is a celebration of spring in many parts of the world – or, here in Boston, at least of the hope that winter is finally over – the 7th of this month marks the beginning of Rwanda’s period of mourning, in commemoration of the 1994 genocide. On this day each year, Rwandans begin an official week-long period of mourning, in the form of ceremonies, speeches, films, marches, prayers, and shows of solidarity that take place in schools, churches, stadiums, fields, and streets across the country.
Scholars, activists, journalists, and other observers watch from abroad, recognizing the lives that were lost in 1994, measuring the progress that has been made since then, and examining the extent to which justice has been served. I, like my fellow Peace Corps Volunteers who served in Rwanda, also look back on the Aprils we spent there. I find myself holding my breath, hoping this year doesn’t see the mass violence of the Aprils I remember, and that my friends in Rwanda are safe and able to commemorate their own losses and experiences in peace.
In recognition of Genocide Memorial Day, I’d like to offer a round-up of the myriad articles about Rwanda that have come out in the past few days, in preparation for the 20th commemoration.
- The Guardian posted an overview of Rwanda’s improvement on development indicators over the past twenty years.
- This article from The Atlantic and this one was the Montreal Gazette focus on the dire state of mental health in the country and the dearth of psychosocial support.
- A Rwandan lawyer and genocide survivor now working as a professor in the U.S. published a compelling New York Times op-ed in which he examines how the country’s culture of unquestioning obedience contributed to the genocide and how it is affects reconciliation efforts today.
- Over at Slate, this piece questions the extent to which Rwandans have truly reconciled and expresses concern about the methods the government has used to promote reconciliation.
- In comparing the two dominant narratives of Rwanda today (a development miracle versus an oppressive dictatorship), Rachel Strohm asks, “What’s the right analogy for Rwanda?”
- Just yesterday, France announced it would be pulling out of genocide commemorations, in response to President Kagame’s discussion of the country’s role in the genocide.
- Finally, the newest episode of the Humanosphere podcast features an interview with Paul Rusesabagina, the hotel manager portrayed in the film Hotel Rwanda and, if you haven’t read it yet, this incredible BBC piece on one of the UN peacekeepers who helped protect hundreds of people inside Rusesabagina’s hotel.