On 7 April 2014, the Embassy of the Republic of Rwanda in Japan, in collaboration with UNU held the 20th Commemoration of the Rwanda Genocide at UNU’s Tokyo Headquarters. The event was part of Kwibuka20, a series of 2014 events promoted by the Republic of Rwanda to commemorate the tragedy. Acknowledging this year’s Kwibuka20 theme, “Remember, Unite, Renew”, the public of Japan along with the international community gathered to honour the almost one million lives that were lost between April and July 1994.
The commemoration began with a minute of silence, followed by an opening prayer by Pastor Steven Kaylor, and a short video reflecting on the tragedy and its aftermath. H.E. Dr. Charles Murigande, the Ambassador of the Republic of Rwanda to Japan, gave opening remarks and urged the audience to not only pay tribute to the lives lost, but also to celebrate the remarkable story of resilience of the Rwandan people as they have moved forward to rebuild a peaceful and prosperous nation, one often referred to as one of the “miracles of Africa”.
The event brought together a number of prominent speakers including Hon. Hirotaka Ishihara, Parliamentary Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan; Prof. Govindan Parayil, Vice-Rector of UNU; Madam Sadako Ogata, former UN High Commissioner for Refugees; and Hon. Endo Toshiaki, Chairman of the Japan-Rwanda Parliamentary Friendship League. All speakers applauded Rwanda’s accomplishments in rising from the tragedy and rebuilding itself as one of Africa’s strongest nations socially and economically.
The audience also had the opportunity to hear from Mr. Justine Ndagijimana, a survivor of the genocide who was still eight years old at the time of the tragedy. Mr. Ndagijimana is dedicating his life to genocide survivors in memory of the family members that he lost during the tragedy, and expressed his wish to serve as a role model for future generations.
The event culminated with the lighting of remembrance candles and closing remarks from Ambassador Murigande. The ambassador not only reflected upon the tragedy of the genocide, but also commended the heroism of those who had sacrificed their lives to save others during the genocide. Additionally, Ambassador Murigande looked to Rwanda’s promising future and highlighted areas where the nation has excelled, such as the achievement of rapid economic growth. Furthermore, Rwanda is now one of the largest contributors to UN peacekeeping operations, a commitment rooted in the country’s determination to ensure that societies affected by conflict are not abandoned.
After the event, guests had the opportunity to engage with the speakers and view a commemorative exhibition while sampling Rwandan coffee and tea.