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The project of a Garden of the Righteous in Rwanda

an objective of the Yolande Mukagasana Foundation

Yolande Mukagasana

Yolande Mukagasana

Yolande Mukagasana, honoured at the Garden of the Righteous Worldwide in Milan, is a survivor and witness from Rwandan genocide who has dedicated her life to hand down the memory of the genocide, through her word, through her writings, through her charismatic presence. Especially for the younger generations. On the occasion of the Day of the Righteous 2021, she has written a letter to Gariwo to underline the importance of the Righteous message and her great desire to create a Garden of the Righteous in Rwanda.

"For the Yolande Mukagasana Foundation for Genocide Research, bringing the Righteous forward is also a way to fight genocide and its ideology. We are convinced that the education of children from an early age is one of the priority tools. Bringing the Righteous to testify is one way of showing that even in the worst situations, humans always have a choice. In a situation like that of Rwanda in 1994 in which all Hutu had the duty to exterminate the Tutsi, we find Tutsi who made the resistance to save themselves and to save others, the army which was sensible to be the army of the victims, it is this same army which stopped the genocide. This research is probably not easy, but it needs to be done.Among many of the objectives of the Yolande Mukagasana Foundation, the Garden of the Righteous in Rwanda will be among the priorities to teach young people the value of humanity that we all carry within us, solidarity with the victims of injustice and patriotism. The Foundation will organize series of testimonies of the Righteous in schools and conferences in which the Righteous will speak after Covid-19 because gatherings are not yet authorized because of this pandemic.", wrote to us Mukagasana and we share with her this great desire to have a Garden in Rwanda to show that solidarity is always possible. 

Following is a reconstruction of the genocide and who opposed it, made by Yolande Mukagasana:

In 1994, a genocide against the Tutsi took place in Rwanda, this small country in Africa in which all the population spoke the same language. Rwandans had the same beliefs in one God, got married and had children, in short they had everything in common before Western colonization. It all started since they received an ethnic identity card, received by this same colonization in the name of anthropological science in the 1930s. This ethnicity was based on socioeconomic differences that were transformed into ethnicities and transcribed into pieces of identity. The first victim of colonization was Rwandan culture.

The first ethnic massacres took place during colonization since September 1 in 1959. Even during these massacres, some Hutus did not participate, but neither did anyone speak about them. During these massacres, Hutus hid Tutsi. Those Righteous, no one has mentioned them either. From then on, some of the Tutsi started to flee the country, and those who could not have always lived persecuted by the successive powers after colonization until their extermination in 1994. The Tutsi had no rights since 1959. Tutsi children were not entitled to education. No Tutsi had any civil or political rights and their successive massacres had become solutions to all of the country's crises.

The Christmas 1963 massacres and the early days of 1964 were a genocide that was discussed in the offices of the League of Nations but went unreported. A genocide does not fall from the sky, it is indeed planned by a power. During this genocide, my husband survived  at 13 years old thanks to a woman he did not recognize and never met again. Once again the role of Righteous is still behind but not sufficiently recognized and valued.

In 1994, the genocide against the Tutsi claimed more than a million lives, women, men, children, even Tutsi patients on hospital beds provided they were labeled as such. This genocide was recognized by the United Nations. For this genocide against the Tutsi to be possible, there was the mobilization of young Rwandan Hutu and the demonization of political opponents likely to oppose the genocide against the Tutsi. The latter were the first victims of the genocide against the Tutsi. Only the extremist media had the right to publish, the normal media could not publish anything. The genocidal power created a hate radio RTLM and extremist newspapers like Kangura, it also created acolyte parties of genocidal power. He created the mass movement made above all of idle young people in front of the victims and the entire population. It divided the opposition parties and created militias, each party divided into moderate members and the other by Hutu extremists. Militias have been trained militarily and armed. They were paid for training and everyone would go home with a gun and some money. The youth were sensitized to hatred. In the end, these militias have become stronger than some soldiers. Many Hutu had become hateful against the Tutsi without knowing why, following the lie of the power and the falsification of the history of Rwanda by the colonization. Friendships hardly existed between Hutu and Tutsi anymore.
Political opponents who were supposed not to support genocidal ideology were mistreated and were the first to be killed at the start of the genocide. While the Tutsi had long been demonized, political opponents against the genocide ideology have
been during the two years preceding the genocide against the Tutsi. The extremist Hutu parties said that only the Hutus were Rwandans and that the Tutsis were foreigners.

In 1994, when the genocide against the Tutsi began, the first to be massacred were Hutus opposed to genocidal power because the place of the Righteous was really non-existent. The genocide was becoming a patriotic work in which every Rwandan had to invest. The Hutu who refused to kill were automatically a traitor and should be killed. The difference was that the latter was killed alone without the extermination of his whole family, unlike the extermination of Tutsi families. This is the reason why we do not see a group of Hutus jointly opposing the genocide against the Tutsi. Resistance to genocide was a very risky and lonely endeavor. Sometimes a child hid his Tutsi friend, and the parents should not be aware. A man was hiding a victim and his wife was not to know or vice versa. There is also a Hutu who was hiding a Tutsi friend and was going to kill a hundred of them. It is very difficult to do this research work which has yet to be done. Today genocide deniers are as much against the Righteous as against the survivors. What is very serious is that those who started the hatred against the Tutsi are dead today. The deniers and revisionists of this genocide are their children and their grandchildren. Like what a genocide is an imprescriptible crime since its ideology is difficult to eradicate.

26 March 2021

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The Gardens of the Righteous

worldwide

The Gardens of the Righteous are the remembrance places dedicated to those who have opposed human rights violations of recent history, marked by the widespread use of genocidal practises.

After the Garden of the Righteous in Yad Vashem, inside the Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem, more gardens have been created all over the world, like in Yerevan besides the Museum of the Armenian Genocide, in Milan, Sarajevo, in Poland, in the United States.

The trees symbolize life and invite us to defend it against the heralds of death; the example of the Righteous becomes a  warning for our conscience and proves that even under extreme circumstances people can choose not to remain indifferent.

This is why the Gardens of the Righteous are the educational memory of the newer generations, the protagonists of tomorrow's world, to whom they offer not only a warning, but also a workable alternative and a message of hope.

The gardens of the Righteous