Genocide survivor organizations AERG (the association of student-survivors of the genocide) and GAERG (the association of former student-survivors of the genocide) have organized a month of activities across Rwanda in the lead up to Kwibuka21, the 21st commemoration of the Genocide against the Tutsis. The launch of the campaign takes place in Rukumbeli Sector, Ngoma.

“Through our associations, AERG and GAERG, we have organized activities to support vulnerable genocide survivors, especially those wounded, and honor the liberation fighters of the Rwandan Patriotic Army who stopped the genocide,” said GAERG president Charles Habonimana.

The main activity is supporting survivors handicapped during the genocide, as well as liberation war casualties. In doing so, the survivor organizations wish to recognize their bravery and heroism.

Other activities include cleaning and maintaining genocide memorials and recording the names of families that perished entirely. Association members will also visit the former houses of genocide victims and survivors, which were destroyed in 1994 in an attempt to remove any trace of their existence. Members will plant trees at these sites to preserve their history and the memory of victims.

“This campaign will show how grateful we are to those who rescued Tutsi during the genocide,” remarked the coordinator of AERG, Jean Bosco Milindi. “We want to bring genocide survivors together, share the history of the genocide and teach young Rwandans about the genocide, how to build themselves and the country, as well as about genocide prevention.”

After the massacres of Tutsis in 1959-1963 in Gikongoro, the survivors were forcibly moved to Rukumbeli. The first killings in Rukumbeli took place during Christmas of 1963. Many Tutsi attempted to resist the killings but were unable to do so.

When the 1994 genocide started, many Tutsis were living in the region. Militias were mobilized from neighboring communes to kill those living there, some of whom had been able to resist previous attacks. Backed by government soldiers, militia killed the Tutssi who had taken refuge in Rukumbeli.

Because of the geographical location of Rukumbeli (surrounded by militia and two lakes), there was little chance of survival. Of the approximately 35,000 Tutsis in Rukumbeli at the time, only 720 survived. They were rescued by the Rwanda Patriotic Army which arrived in the region on May 5, 1994.

In Ngoma District, mass killings also took place in Zaza parish in Birenga and Bare parish in Kigarama. The region has seven memorials where today around 60,000 victims are buried.
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