Edmonton to hold commemoration of Rwandan genocide in April

April is a month of remembrance for Rwandese people. In April 1994, up to one million Tutsi, including my parents and other family members, were murdered. I was only three months old when I was spared.

In Edmonton, the Memory Keepers Association (MKA) is preparing for the 25th commemoration of the genocide against the Tutsi of Rwanda. Similar commemorations will be held across Canada in April.

Before I came to Canada in 2013, I wasn’t committed to any commemoration events. Not because I didn’t care, but because I couldn’t acknowledge the value of gathering to remember.

Now that I’m Canadian, I see the importance of history. I’m learning about the history of Indigenous peoples and residential schools in books like Residential Schools, With the Words and Images of Survivors by school survivor Larry Loyie (1933-2016). My roommate, Constance Brissenden, is one of the co-authors.

I learned from Larry’s book that residential schools were a hidden history. Canadians either didn’t know about them or were in denial. I am glad to know more because I have met people who still deny that these schools were a tragic history. The genocide in Rwanda is also sometimes denied.  

Truth and reconciliation efforts are ongoing in Alberta. They remind me of the importance of remembering. The history of my country of birth is also remembered. Last year, I became involved with the MKA, a Rwandese association that organizes and coordinates the annual commemoration of the genocide and that keeps the truth alive.

Many Rwandese people began to arrive in Edmonton in 2002. At the time, they commemorated privately within their families. In 2004, for the 10th commemoration of the genocide, some Rwandese people here prepared events and invited a guest speaker. These efforts grew, and in 2012, all Rwandese survivors in Edmonton decided to form an association to support commemoration events and all other projects regarding survivors.  Memory Keepers Association was legally confirmed to work in Alberta in August 2014.

I decided to attend the commemoration events four years ago. As I heard the testimonies that were given, I began to feel engaged and part of the community. Two years later, I decided to share my testimony as a survivor.

That was my first time speaking about my story in public. It wasn’t easy, but I felt like a heavy load of sorrow was lifted off my back. Sharing my story helped me to reach another level of self-examination. I was able to encourage other youth from my community to tell their stories and strive for a better future.

MKA continues to grow. Last November, I was honoured to be elected treasurer for MKA. I accepted the role without hesitation because I’m committed to help fellow survivors to reach our goals and keep working together.

The association is making a difference in the lives of survivors. Many Rwandese people have lost family members. Being part of MKA is more than being part of an association. To survivors, it’s also like being part of a good family.

An unknown author wrote, “A beautiful soul is not forgotten.” Through MKA, I can remember and commemorate the beautiful souls of my parents and others.

Featured Image: Nadine Uwimana shares her testimony in April 2017 at the Rwandan genocide commemoration ceremony at Edmonton City Hall. | Didart med