19 July 2009

Rwanda: Ibuka Honours Genocide Saviours

Kicukiro — Ibuka, an umbrella association for survivors, yesterday awarded certificates of recognition to individuals who saved the Tutsi during the 1994 Genocide.

Nine Rwandans and one Italian Catholic Priest were honoured during an event held at Nyanza Memorial site to mark the end of the 100 days of mourning the victims of the Genocide.

During his remarks, Ibuka president, Theodore Simburudari explained that there is no particular ethnic group of people that can be collectively identified as murderers.

In this regard he noted that it is very significant to award those who showed a spirit of heroism by going against their counterparts, against all odds, to save the Tutsi during this tragic time.

"The circumstances were tough at the time and some of the saviours lost their own loved ones for simply hiding some of the survivors. It is indeed right that we honour them for being exemplary citizens who also stand for unity," Simburudari said.

Catholic Father Mario Falconi, an Italian priest from Muhura Parish in the Eastern province, saved over 3000 Tutsis who desperately sought refuge at the parish at the time.

He selflessly refused to leave the country at the time when other Europeans fled leaving most Tutsis, leaving them at the mercy of the Interahamwe militias.

"You recognise me as a hero today but all I know is that I was simply doing what is expected of any Christian. These people came from various districts of Muhura, Gikomero, Gikoro, Nyagasambu, Murambi and Rutare among others."

"I only protected them from the killers just as Christ protects his church and I am glad that the Rwanda Patriotic Front came to our rescue at the right time because the murderers were much closer," the 65-year old priest narrated.

Aza Mukamusoni who saved six people and Leopold Munyakayanza who led 19 Tutsi to the Democratic Republic of Congo both received their awards posthumously.

Other honoured individuals include, Gaspard Kalisa, Edouard Ntabajyana and Wellars Habanabashaka among others.

Minister of Sports and Culture, Joseph Habineza urged all Rwandans to nurture this spirit of unity.

While citing examples of genociders like Jean Baptiste Gatete, Habineza also added that people like Falconi are more Rwandan than those who deliberately killed innocent fellow citizens.

Gatete, who is now detained at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, has been held responsible for most of the killings that took place in the Eastern Province.

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