One of Nigeria’s foremost dramatists,
University of Ibadan’s Emeritus Professor
of Drama, Femi Osofisan, was recently
honoured by the Rwandan government for
his 1994 play, Reel, Rwanda, which spotlighted the
genocide visited on the country in the ‘90s.
Tagged Kwibuka20, the event was designed to
commemorate the 20th anniversary of the genocide
Kwibuka is the Kinyarwanda word for “remember”.
The theme of the commemoration is: Remember,
Unite, Renew. More than one million victims of the
genocide against the Tutsis and moderate Hutus were
recorded in 1994.
At the “Café Littéraire – Thinking and writing our
history: the pan-African memory of the Genocide
against the Tutsi in Rwanda” on April 6, Osofisan
was one of ten writers who has written about the
genocide, and who was invited to Kwibuka20. Other
writers include the Cote d’Ivorean Veronique Tadjo
who wrote L’ombre d’Imana, and Monique Ilboudo
The purpose of the Literature Café was to reflect on
the important role that arts play in ensuring that the
world knows about what happened in Rwanda, and
to make sure that genocide never happens again – in
Rwanda or elsewhere.
Over the past twenty years, various artistic – individual
and collective – initiatives have taken place.
Among these are the “Rwanda écrire par devoir de
mémoire” and Fest’Africa literature festival, which
were held in 2000.
Several individual Rwandan artists have produced
important works, mainly testimonies, and have
received prestigious prizes and international recognition
for their genocide-centred creations. Comic
books about Rwanda have also played a central role,
reaching out to audiences that would not naturally
be interested in the history of genocide in Rwanda.
To date, more than ten books have been authored,
several theatre productions have been staged and numerous
university research studies and translations
have been made.
Excerpts from Osofisan’s Reel, Rwanda were performed,
along with other dramatizations and poetry
performances. The writers also talked with students
from the University of Rwanda in Butare. The Rwandan
president then gave a two-hour audience to the writers,
discussing the experience of the genocide, the
liberation war, and the development process afterwards.
According to Osofisan, “the horrors of the genocide
are simply unimaginable. But the reconciliation and
reconstruction efforts, together with the tremendous
economic achievements, since then are a marvel.
Kagame has a lot to teach our other Presidents.” The
writers also visited to Musambi, where the slaughter
was particularly gruesome.
The Kwibuka20 commemoration involved vast
choreography and performance at the Kigali, with
over 2,000 actors, singers and dancers enacting the
horrors of the genocide.
Nigeria was also one of the four countries praised
for its positive roles during the 1994 genocide by
the Rwandan president, Paul Kagame. The Nigerian
ambassador and president of the UN Security Council
during the crisis, Professor Ibrahim Agboola Gambari
was especially mentioned by Kagame for his contributions.
Professor Gambari was also honoured with the
Rwandan national award.