This was only a re-enactment, but one that horrificly resembled reality from 20 years back. Rwanda yesterday commemorated those who perished in the 1994 genocide.
Three months ago the flame of remembrance began its travel across Rwanda. It returned to the capital Kigali last week ahead of yesterday's ceremonies. From early morning banks and public institutions were closed, while the country's largest metropolis was preparing.
The closer to Stade Amahoro in eastern Kigali, the thicker the crowd. Even with stands packed beyond capacity, people were still trying to get in right before the 3-hour long commemorations began.
Despite the crowd, Amahoro (or “peace”) was silent. The crowd sat through speeches by dignitaries, including UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon, who openly apoligised for his organisation abandoning the Rwandan people when it was most needed. The silence was randomly disrupted by applause, more oftenly by wails and spasms of people leaving or being carried out of the stadium.
Some of the people most emotionally reacting to the ceremony were survivors or mourners of what happened in 1994. Their memories of those horrifying days were strongest during another survivor's testimony and the re-enactment that saw hundreds of performers lie limply on the playing field.
Though only symbolic, this scene was a very vivid reminder of how Rwandan roads and fields looked during the havoc.
That very stadium, which hosted some of world's most prominent leaders yesterday, was a completely different sight in the spring of 1994. Back then up to 12,000 people sought shelter here, protected by a handfull of UN soldiers from etchnic cleansing.
On April 6, 1994 the president of Rwanda was assassined. The day after mass slaughtering of Tutsi and moderate Hutu began by Hutu extremists across the small country. Within just 100 days an estimated number of 1,000,050 people perished, very often murdered while seeking refuge. The terrifying genocide saw revenge killings as well and the exact number of victims is still unclear.