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'It has to serve a purpose': Survivors of Tutsi genocide mark 30th anniversary in downtown Edmonton

A crowd gathered to commemorate the 30-year anniversary of the Tutsi genocide in Rwanda at Sir Winston Churchill Square on April 7, 2024. (Brandon Lynch/CTV News Edmonton) A crowd gathered to commemorate the 30-year anniversary of the Tutsi genocide in Rwanda at Sir Winston Churchill Square on April 7, 2024. (Brandon Lynch/CTV News Edmonton)
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Edmontonians gathered Sunday to mark the 30-year anniversary of the Tutsi genocide in Rwanda.

A rally was held at Sir Winston Churchill Square to commemorate the victims of the genocide and call attention to the lasting impacts their deaths have had on the survivors.

"Most of the people you see here have almost every single family member killed," said Jean Yves Rwibutso, president of the Memory Keepers Association. "So it's quite emotional."

The Memory Keepers Association is an organization made up of survivors of the genocide, many of who were young children when their families were killed.

The genocide was sparked in April 1994, after the Rwandan President Juvénal Habyarimana's plane was shot down on April 6.

Habyarimana was a member of the majority Hutu ethnic group, and his death was blamed on the minority Tutsis.

An estimated 800,000 Tutsi were killed by extremist Hutus over the three months that followed.

The conflict has left lasting marks on the nation, as mass graves continue to be discovered. Rwibutso said the impact of the violence on survivors goes beyond the memories of living through it.

"There are some goals that you had to live a better life that you probably just put on hold because you don't have enough family support," he said.

"Every day there is something that really reminds you that you are somebody who lost people who might be making a very meaningful support in your life if you still had them."

Several commemorative events are planned for the coming weeks, and Rwibutso said everyone is welcome to join.

The anniversary is a time not only to reflect on what happened, he said, but to find a way forward as a larger community.

"I think it has to serve a purpose," he added. "So that they can learn more about what [happened] to us, the challenges that we face on a daily basis, and how they can help or we can work hand-in-hand as a community, as members of the same community … to be able to overcome those."

For more information on upcoming events in commemoration of the 1994 genocide, visit the Memory Keepers Association Facebook page

With files from CTV News Edmonton's Brandon Lynch and the Associated Press' Ignatius Ssuna and Rodney Muhumuza

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