Kigali, 17 December 2007 (FH) - Fourteen gallant Rwandans have been honoured for saving lives of innocent people during the 1994 genocide.

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According to the United Nations estimates, about 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed in the April-July 1994 mass killings following the downing of the plane carrying the then Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana near the capital, Kigali by unknown assailants. Habyarimana was returning from a regional peace meeting in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

Three Rwandan organizations -- Association of Survivors (IBUKA), Association of Genocide Widows (AVEGA) and Memos Learning from History (an association of young Rwandan intellectuals) honoured the brave people in a colourful but solemn ceremony last week. The occasion was organized with the financial and technical support from the Hamburg Institute for Social Research.

"They were not extraordinary people.They were people without power, they did what those who had power did not want to do", explained to the Hirondelle Agency, Joséphine Murebwayir of AVEGA.

"It is a very important gesture which can be useful in the education of the youth. That their heroism serves as an example to the young people of Rwanda and the whole world ", added, Faustin Murangwa, Executive Secretary of Memos.

The Executive Secretary of IBUKA, Benoit Kaboyi, "one cannot find a reward for the just people; their actions do not have a price".

Kaboyi explained why these good people were considered in 1994 "traitors" within their community.

Three of these brave people, including Gratien Mitsindo, Pastor of the Pentecost Church in Bicumbi (eastern Rwanda), testified of their experiences.

In a very moving account, the clergyman told of his confrontation in April 1994 with a hundred killers who had come to the attack his church where more than 300 people had found refuge. "You are searching for people to kill then start with me", he told tem.

On several occasions, confirmed a survivor present in the room, the Hutu pastor opposed the attack of his church. But seeing that the attackers were not disarming, he made the refugees leave the church to resettle them in houses around the religious building.

"Thanks to the contributions in food on behalf of the faithful, I could bring them something to eat", told Mitsindo. "Those who did not do anything while they could have should repent. I had neither force nor arms. It is God who was at my side. My reward is in Heaven ", added the Pastor.

Joséphine Dusabimana, a woman from Kibuye, saved several people, helping them to reach Idjwi Island, in Lake Kivu, sometimes against the will of her husband.

And Silas Ntamfurigirishyari, a corporal in the former Rwandan army, who, without the knowledge of his command, helped several Tutsis from the area of Bugesera (eastern Rwanda) to take refuge in nearby Burundi.

At the end of the ceremony, the participants recommended to the Rwandan government to continue to identify and recognize gallant Rwandans who stood against the genocide and go down in history as brave citizens.

© Hirondelle News Agency