Candle lighting, a minute of silence, the laying of wreaths and other memorial ceremonies will be held this week when Rwanda recalls the genocide in 1994 that took 800,000 lives.
It is also a time for diplomats and local leaders to talk with communities about the atrocities of genocide and the importance of working towards a peaceful way of life. Student conferences, exhibitions and other commemorative activities are also held.
The activities officially last a week, but the commemoration continues up to July 4, marking 100 days of genocide.
This year, a cadre of hundreds of social workers trained to help trauma victims are expected to be available to help survivors still struggling with memories from that time.
Jean Pierre Dusingizemungu, president of Ibuka, a survivors organization, said the social workers will be spread out around the country to help anyone in need.
Research in Rwanda has highlighted the magnitude of mental health problems. Almost a third of the general Rwandan population is said to have post-traumatic stress disorders.
According to the World Health Organization, a population that is distressed by tragic events and, consequently, suffers high levels of mental distress is less effective and efficient at carrying out the work required to meet development targets.
The Ibuka group has a particular interest in addressing justice for survivors and coordinating joint survivors’ projects on a national level. A direct translation of Ibuka is “remember,” which is the objective of the umbrella association.
Government officials announced last month that during this commemoration period, Rwandans abroad would be taking part in the fight against genocide ideology and revisionism.
Meanwhile, in Uganda, the Rwandan community has kicked off a fundraising effort to construct a genocide museum in Mpigi, Uganda. It would be the third memorial site in that country—others are in Kasensero in Rakai District and Lambu in Masaka District.
All three sites contain the remains of some 10,935 victims who during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi were thrown into Akagera and Nyabarongo rivers, both tributaries of Lake Victoria, and ended up in Uganda and beyond.
Elsewhere on the continent, concerns are growing among aid workers and officials that in South Sudan, the number of lives lost in the ongoing civil war could have reached 300,000.
The UN has stuck to a guesstimate of 10,000 dead since the early months of the war, even as the killing escalated and spread across the country. A UN survey also found that 41 percent in the northeastern town of Malakal showed signs of post-traumatic stress disorder.
The rates, according to a UN survey, are comparable to those found in post-genocide Rwanda.