The Friends of Rwanda Association (FORA) commemorated the Genocide Against the Tutsi in Rwanda on June 4th at Consumnes River College (CRC) in Elk Grove, California. This 22nd commemoration focused on fighting genocide ideology, to ensure Never Again becomes reality.
Ndahiro Bazimya, the Master of Ceremony, started the event by welcoming all the distinguished guests and thanking CRC and all present for consistently supporting this community by promising to fight Genocide Ideology and deniers. Dr. Edward Bush, the President of CRC, welcomed home, H.E. Ambassador Mathilde Mukantabana, a former CRC professor. Dr. Bush thanked H.E. for their 22-year partnership and for her work in establishing FORA. He spoke about how CRC nurtures young minds, supporting its diverse student body. Jon Fish, the President of the Interfaith Council of Greater Sacramento, reminded everyone that while it is important not to forget the genocide, we should find solace that all who perished during the genocide are in good hands.
Simon Mudahogora, a genocide survivor and longtime member of FORA, shared his testimony. He spoke about the impact escaping the genocide with his two sisters had on him as a 10-year-old. In a powerful act of remembrance, he recalled the dark days of the genocide. “I lost my family. I lost my childhood,” said Simon.
Dr. Barbara Lesch McCaffry, the Board President for the Alliance for the Study of Holocaust and Genocide at Sonoma State University, spoke about the significance of remembering the genocide against the Tutsi. The only English speaking reporter in Rwanda during the genocide remarked, “to deny genocide is to surely deny your own humanity. Genocide denial is the last phase of genocide.” Dr. McCaffry concluded by talking about the importance of education, as a means to avoid future genocides, and to combat genocide denial: “the cost of genocide denial is too high. For the dead and the living, we must bear witness.”
Dr. Ernest Uwazie, the Director of the Center for African Peace and Conflict Resolution at CSU Sacramento, asserted that we all must remain vigilant and that “instead of agonizing, we should organize.” Dr. Uwazie reminded those present of their duty to ensure genocide never happens again.
Victoria Trabosh, the President and Co-founder of the Itafari Foundation, hailed the work the Rwandan leadership has done in order to ensure a safe and bright future for the country. Trabosh called on us all to make never again a reality, not only for Rwanda but also for the rest of the world.
Reverend Kristin Stoneking, the Executive Director for the Fellowship of Reconciliation, reminded that the 1994 Genocide Against the Tutsi was not the first act of violence against the Tutsi. She spoke about the violence perpetrated by colonization. She reiterated the importance of stopping the cycle of violence by interrupting it and disrupting any unjust situations and structures.
Christyne Davidian, Past Board President for the Alliance for the Study of Holocaust and Genocide at Sonoma State University and Founder of Armenians of the North Bay, spoke about her experience as a third generation Armenian Genocide survivor. She called on all survivors and those affected to tell their children about their experiences during or with the genocide to ensure genocide denial cannot continue to occur.
H.E. Ambassador Mathilde Mukantabana, thanked the community for all their continued support. She spoke about the loss of trust post-genocide, in a nation that was dead. H.E. Ambassador Mukantabana proceeded to talking about the choices that the leadership of Rwanda has had to make in order to ensure a safe, peaceful, and prosperous Rwanda. H.E. Ambassador Mukantabana highlighted the commitment of Rwanda to maintaining the protection of civilians all over the world by contributing troops to peacekeeping missions and calling the world to become signatories of the Kigali Principles. “We are doing our part in waging peace. We have made a commitment that our men and women in uniform will support international and regional peacekeeping and peace-building efforts,” said H.E. Ambassador Mukantabana
Chiaya Rawlins, a longtime FORA member and organizer of all the genocide commemorations stood in solidarity with all those affected by genocide stating: “I was with you before the genocide. I was with you during the genocide. I was with you after the genocide and I am still with you. When you need me, I’m right here.”
Vianney Mugabo concluded the program by thanking everyone for attending the 22nd commemoration, and reminding those present that the genocide was meticulously planned. The genocide was not accidental. He called on all those who deny the genocide to visit the memorial sites, mainly churches, where so many of the over one million lives were lost, to see these places just as they were left