University of Rwanda Vice-Chancellor Prof. Alexander Lyambabaje has lashed out at elements that continue to deny or distort facts around the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, which claimed over a million lives.
Prof. Lyambabaje was speaking during a Genocide commemoration event held at UR-CBE campus in Gikondo, Kigali, on Wednesday evening.
He called on the youth to embrace and actively promote national unity, pledging that University of Rwanda will always endeavour to ensure that the truth of what happened 27 years ago is taught to young generations.
The VC criticised intellectuals and academics that sowed the seeds of the Genocide and those who directly participated in subsequent slaughter.
"Back then", he said, "education was used to promote hate but, today, we seek to build unity."
We will continue teach students about the Genocide, he added. "We will keep promoting research about the Genocide and extend the activities of the Faculty of Genocide Studies to a bigger number of people. We should teach young people to love each other and preserve humanity."
The former cabinet minister, the first Rwandan vice-chancellor of University of Rwanda since the merger of previously autonomous public institutions of higher learning in 2013, regretted the fact that some of former UR lecturers like Léon Mugesera participated in the Genocide against the Tutsi.
'Best of human values'
Papias Malimba Musafiri, the Deputy-Vice Chancellor for Strategic Planning and Institutional Advancement, UR, said that Genocide commemoration events reminded the varsity community of the disgrace that some of its former staff brought upon it.
"University of Rwanda should have been the source of conscience and intellect but instead it nurtured and fanned the flames of hate and antipathy," he said at the commemoration.
He added, "We must instil the best of human values in our students."
Musafiri said it was unfortunate that some of the youth, including some 8 per cent of those who were born after the Genocide against the Tutsi, still harbour genocide ideology, and called on UR community to help address the issue.
Faustin Gashayija, a representative of the National Commission for the Fight against Genocide (CNLG), talked about the different ways that deniers use to propagate lies and seek to revise events surrounding the Genocide.
He said one of the avenues most of the Genocide deniers use to mislead the world about the darkest chapter in Rwanda's history is social networking and microblogging sites, urging UR students and staff to use the same platforms to counter the lies and tell the truth.
"We have to write articles and books about the Genocide history to counter those who deny and belittle our history," he said.
He added, "In commemorating the lives lost we are also censoring Genocide deniers. We have to preserve memorial sites as well as protect our unity."
The event served as an occasion to reflect on the history and legacy of the Genocide against the Tutsi and to honour former Mburabuturo University students as well as lecturers and other employees who lost their lives during the Genocide. Mburabuturo was located at the current premises of UR-CBE Gikondo campus, where the commemoration took place.
'Sustain RPA legacy'
Eric Mbonigaba, the coordinator of the national student association of Genocide survivors (AERG) at UR-CBE, urged students to pick a leaf from the Rwanda Patriotic Army (RPA) heroes who stopped the Genocide.
"That should inspire you to stand up to Genocide deniers," he said. "As youth, we have the task to fight against Genocide denial and to draw strength from the legacy of the former RPA youth." RPA, or Rwanda Patriotic Army, was the military wing of the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF).
Rwandan youth should step up to the plate and help consolidate the country's achievements over the years, he said.
Emmanuel Muneza, the AERG national coordinator, said, "Think of what could happen 50 years from now if we didn't denounce Genocide denial and challenge those who perpetuate it."
"We should inherit and sustain the RPA legacy of promoting unity and peaceful coexistence among Rwandans," he added.
Ruth Uwagitare, 21, a member of AERG UR-CBE chapter, said that such commemoration activities were important for young people.
"The youth played a decisive role in stopping the Genocide against the Tutsi and today's youth must play the same kind of role in tackling denial and revisionism," she said.
The event was attended by a small number of student representatives due to Covid-19 safety measures, with many others following on giant screens where the commemoration was relayed live or via YouTube.
Musician Dieudonne Munyanshoza, who was also in attendance, sang two commemoration songs, including Iwacu Heza Ntihakazime and Twarabakundaga, both of which convey messages of remembrance and hope.