BY YANN TEAR
Survivors of one of Africa’s worst atrocities who fled to rebuild their lives in London, attended a formal commemoration service to mark the 25th anniversary of that dark chapter.
The 1994 genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda cost the lives of some 800,000 people in three horrific months – with bodies of the massacred seen floating down rivers all the way to Lake Victoria.
This week’s event at City Hall, hosted by the Mayor of London, was set up by the Ishami Foundation and attended by 25 schools, Rwandans in London who fled the conflict and other Londoners connected to Rwanda.
Students and teachers participating attended a workshop to meet survivors of the 1994 genocide, to reflect on what we can learn from Rwanda in London today. The events were held in London’s Living Room – a beautiful venue on the ninth floor of City Hall with panoramic views of the city. More than 150 people were in attendance, and although there was much warmth and common empathy, there were also sad and thoughtful moments as those present remembered the victims of the genocide, and the way in which the international community failed to intervene. Speakers offered positive reflections about how Rwandans have found a home in London and how Rwandans have rebuilt their country over the past 25 years. Ishami chief executive Eric Murangwa Eugene – who was goalkeeper for Rwanda’s biggest football club Rayon Sports when the massacre began and escaped after being sheltered by team-mates, told the audience that we can all make a difference, while Rwandan High Commissioner Yamina Karitanyi called for recent genocides to be added to the UK’s national curriculum. Jo Ingabire Moys, Ishami’s co-founder, who was just five when she witnessed the killing of her father, brother and two sisters, and survived multiple gunshot wounds, said: “Because London remembers the world will change. “The genocide in Rwanda was one of the most horrific periods in modern history. To prevent a repeat of the genocide it’s vital that the world learns from survivors’ stories and remembers its harrowing legacy.” The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “I’m proud that London was able to give a home to many of the survivors and thank the Ishami Foundation for their great work in sharing their stories.”