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Returning to Rwanda

April 2009

Returning to Rwanda

The moving ceremony at Nyanza

Returning to Rwanda

The candlelit Amahoro Peace Stadium

Returning to Rwanda

Contributors to the Kigali widows co-operative

Remembering those who died and trying to help those left behind

Cherie made a point of returning to Rwanda in April following her visit to Kenya, and was honoured to be able to participate in the 15th anniversary commemorations of the mass genocide of 1994. The official memorial ceremony, part of a week of mourning, took place on Tuesday 7th April and was held in Nyanza, a hill in the capital of Kigali, where thousands of people were slaughtered during the height of the massacre. The site was featured in the 2005 film 'Shooting Dogs"

His Excellency Paul Kagame, the president of Rwanda and his wife Jeanette, led the tributes which began with the singing of the national anthem.

The ceremony also involved the reburial of some of the remains of those massacred in Nyanza, making the hill a symbolic location for remembering those who lost their lives.

Other ceremonies were held across the country, including a candle lit vigil that evening in the capital Kigali, were throusands of candles spelt out representations of "hope" in the Amahoro Peace Stadium. Cherie joined the lnternational dignitaries and local community members queuing up to light the candles, while local musicians of all ages made their own moving contributions and testimonies were heard from young survivors of the atrocities. Several people were so overcome by the distressing memories of the tragedy that they had to be carried out.

In a statement of support from the people of the United States President Obama said it must be remembered that every one of those people who died "had their own story, their own family, and their own dreams."

While in Kigali for this very moving occassion Cherie was also able to meet the Minister for Justice and visit a project which is a collaboration between the Lady Mayor of Kigali - Dr. Aisa Kirabo Kacyira, Oxfam and the Loomba Trust, to help widows of the genocide develop their own small business projects.
The need is greater in Rwanda than in almost any other Country because of its tragic recent history which left half of all married women without husbands as a result of the conflict, this was further compounded by the mass rapes which left many innocent victims with HIV/AIDS
Cherie was very impressed by the thriving co-operative where local widows are able to sell their crafts or grow and trade produce such as mushrooms, to help support themselves and their families. She hopes this collaboration between the various agencies in which she is involved will result in further opportunites for the tragic widows of Rwanda to find some hope for the future.