President Paul Kagame yesterday said that Rwandans had become a family again, 25 years after more than 800,000 people were slaughtered in a genocide that shocked the world.
Kagame lit a remembrance flame at the Kigali Genocide Memorial, where more than 250,000 victims are believed to be buried, mainly from the minority Tutsi people, as the country began its annual 100 days of mourning that coincide with the length of the slaughter.
They are only some of those killed by the genocidal Hutu forces, members of the old army and militia forces called the "Interahamwe", that began their bloody campaign of death on April 7, 1994, the day after the assassination of President Juvenal Habyarimana, a Hutu.
Some were shot; most were beaten or hacked by machetes.
"In 1994, there was no hope, only darkness. Today, light radiates from this place ... How did it happen? Rwanda became a family once again," Kagame said.
"The arms of our people, intertwined, constitute the pillars of our nation. We hold each other up. Our bodies and minds bear amputations and scars, but none of us is alone. Together, we have woven the tattered threads of our unity into a new tapestry," he said.
The killings lasted until Kagame, then 36, led the mainly Tutsi Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) into Kigali on July 4, ending the slaughter and taking control of the devastated country.
Kagame, now 61 and who has been in power ever since, is leading the memorial to the dead.
In past years, ceremonies have triggered painful flashbacks for some in the audience, with crying, shaking, screaming and fainting amid otherwise quiet vigils.
For many survivors, forgiveness remains difficult when the bodies of their loved ones have not been found and many killers are still free.
A quarter of a century on, the east African nation has recovered economically, but the trauma still casts a dark shadow.