Hard sell…at first
But it was hard to convince government officials to support the idea. Then minister for sports and culture told off Gwamaka: “Who put those crazy ideas in your head?”
I am giving you five years, the minister added, come back when you are 23 then we can talk. Gwamaka was then 18years old.
However, the disappointment did not discourage PLP members and they continued seeking support from elsewhere, including the Commission for the Fight Against Genocide (CNLG), which welcomed the idea but could not offer the much-needed financial support.With no funding from government agencies forthcoming, the group resorted to holding sensitisation drives about the genocide in schools to raise the funds.
This event attracted close 2,000 students from Kigali schools, teachers and some parents. A chance meeting between Gwamaka and President Paul Kagame after the inaugural Walk to Remember turned around it fortunes.
Gwamaka says over Rwf2 million was raised during this fundraising drive. This enabled PLP members to launch the first Walk to Remember.
— Eddie Rwema (@edrwema) April 7, 2018
Becoming a global event against genocide
Gwamakasays thesuccess of the first Walk to Remember event was their turning point as they vowed to strengthen mobilisation and popularise the event among Rwandan youth and the general public.
“Let our unity be a light that will shine for the rest of the world” was the theme for that day. This was prophetic as walk to remember is now part of the genocide memorial week mainstays and has attracted presidents and world leaders, according to Gwamaka.
“The event that started as a small idea has now become a global activity to rally against genocide ideology anywhere in the world,” he says.
After the first event, PLP members were invited to an event by Unity Club, which is chaired by the First Lady, at Urugwiro (president’s office). Gwamaka says he used the opportunity to invite President Kagame for the 2010 Walk to Remember event; and he accepted.
“By honouring our invitation, the president showed his belief in young people and their contribution to national development,” he says.