In 1994, Rwanda experienced a horrific genocide that saw the murder of more than 800 000 people. This will be commemorated at a film screening of A Snake Gives Birth to a Snake at Constitution Hill this month.
In roughly 100 days, 800 000 Rwandans — predominantly Tutsis and some moderate Hutus, lost their lives in a genocide in 1994. Handmade weapons and household tools were used in the mass slaughter of people, many of whom were neighbours to one another. It was done in an attempt to ethnically cleanse the country of Tutsis, based on a supremacist ideology held by Hutu extremists. The genocide was incited through the medium of the radio and local religious leaders leading to indiscriminate killings. The West was heavily criticised for its lack of intervention and delayed response.
Later this month, the South African History Archive (SAHA) will commemorate the genocide as part of its The Battle Against Forgetting series which runs from 9 April – 5 May. The event focuses on human rights and the unfinished business of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and includes exhibitions, screenings, discussions and workshops. One of the featured discussions focuses on the Rwandan genocide.
Since 1994, Rwanda has made strong attempts at rebuilding the country, with a promising outlook on the economy, gender equality and living standards. Rhetoric that creates ethnic divisions has been outlawed and a process called gacaca has taken place, which was similar to South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Committee. The “born free” Rwandans identify themselves nationally, rather than ethnically.
Paul Kagame, the Rwandan president, believes that education and an end to poverty are the necessary solutions to avoiding another violent attack. Unity and reconciliation have transformed the country, but political freedom is yet to be achieved.
Memorial sites and museums acknowledging the genocide can be found throughout Rwanda. The autocratic government’s slogan is “never again genocide”, and they have encouraged the youth to fight ideologies that lead to the genocide on social media.
Join the Johannesburg Holocaust and Genocide Centre and South African History Archive (SAHA) for the screening of the film, A Snake Gives Birth to a Snake at Constitution Hill on 21 April from 17:30 to commemorate 22 years since the genocide.