20 Years Later, Rwanda Hopes To Be A 'Light For The World'

Rwandan President Paul Kagame is working to transform the legacy of hatred, 20 years after the genocide. The new generation is being taught to find a common purpose in reconstructing Rwanda.

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

This is WEEKEND EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin. Rwanda marks a grim milestone tomorrow. It's been 20 years since a brutal civil war in that country devolved into a genocide that left nearly a million people dead. Now, two decades later, Rwandans are resolute about looking forward, at the same time acknowledging this brutal chapter of their history. NPR's Gregory Warner was in Kigali for a National Remembrance Ceremony, and he brings us this report.

(SOUNDBITE OF REMEMBRANCE CEREMONY)

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: This is the light, the light of remembrance, the light of life.

(CHILDREN SINGING)

GREGORY WARNER, BYLINE: The Flame of Remembrance came home to Kigali, the last stop on its countrywide tour of Rwanda. Tomorrow begins three months of genocide remembrance in this country. But though remembrance sounds like something sad, the audience here is upbeat. Cecil Mukabuziga (ph) rode here on a public bus with her four children and six neighbors.

CECIL MUKABUZIGA: (Foreign language spoken).

WARNER: This flame, she says, makes all Rwandans happy. It shows that Rwanda will be a light to the world.

WARNER: So you're putting the thumbs up?

MUKABUZIGA: Yeah.

(SOUNDBITE OF REMEMBRANCE CEREMONY VIDEO)

WARNER: Renewal is the theme this year. A video projected for the crowd spends three minutes talking about the horrors of genocide; how a political ideology of ethnic hatred inspired neighbors to kill neighbors, husbands to kill wives.

(SOUNDBITE OF REMEMBRANCE CEREMONY VIDEO)

WARNER: The rest of the video is on brand Rwanda - now the cleanest and least corrupt country in Africa; in the running to become a Silicon Valley for the continent, and where a government initiative toward women empowerment has given women real power.

ADELITE MUKAMANA: (Foreign language spoken).

WARNER: Adelite Mukamana,from the genocide survivors association IBUKA, says so many men were killed or imprisoned in the genocide, Rwandan women had to do everything for themselves. And so far, they haven't stopped. Gregory Warner, NPR News, Kigali.

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