KIGALI, RWANDA – Aline Umuhire-Juru, 19, says she was 2 when she lost her father during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. She says that ever since, her mother has struggled to raise her family.
After surviving the genocide, Umuhire-Juru focused on her education. Studying science, she earned many awards reserved for the best female students from the Imbuto Foundation, the first lady’s foundation.
Last year, she was named the best science student in her grade in the country, earning the highest marks on the national examinations. She has received admission to a university in the United States.
Calm and confident, Umuhire-Juru shared her story on Thursday, Genocide Memorial Day, at Amahoro Stadium in Kigali, Rwanda’s capital, as part of the country’s 17 th commemoration of the genocide.
Rwanda’s weeklong commemoration of the genocide continues today. President Paul Kagame commenced the events on Thursday by lighting a “fire of hope ” and stressing to a stadium of Rwandans that the country’s spirit will never be defeated. Later that night, as many as 100 Rwandans had to be evacuated from the stadium because of their reaction to a graphic film that opened old wounds. To continue that healing, Kagame encouraged Rwandans to keep attending events this week and commemorate the genocide every year.
The Rwandan genocide began on April 7, 1994. Rwandans call April “Mata,” which means “milk” in Kinyarwanda, Rwanda’s mother language, as abundant rain this month usually leads to abundant milk by providing green pastures for cows. But in 1994, April became the month of blood as the start of three months of genocide. More than 800,000 Rwandans died, with most from the Tutsi minority group, who died at the hands of the Hutu majority group, according to the African Union.
Rwandans are currently taking part in this year’s weeklong commemoration, from April 7 to April 13, of the 1994 genocide. This year’s theme is “Commemorating the Genocide Against the Tutsi: Upholding the Truth, Preserving our Dignity.”
The week of events began on a rainy morning last Thursday with a gathering of Rwandan high officials at the Gisozi Memorial Center. Kagame lit a fire of hope that will burn for 100 days – the length of the genocide – and put flowers on the graves of about 260,000 victims. He also visited the documentation center, which shows how the genocide was planned and executed and how far Rwandans have come and still need to go to reconcile.
Jean de Dieu Mucyo, executive secretary of the National Commission for the Fight Against Genocide, CNLG, invited the high officials at the memorial center to Amahoro Stadium, where thousands of Rwandans were waiting to hear speeches, songs and testimonies from survivors.
At noon, everyone in the stadium stood to observe a national minute of silence to remember the genocide victims. Umuhire-Juru and Kagame spoke, among others.
Kagame said that the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi was an attack on “Rwanda’s body,” not its spirit.
“The country’s body was tortured and assaulted,” Kagame said. “The body succumbed, but the spirit prevailed. It is that spirit that should