In a nation that came face to face with the worst of humanity, the simple desire to remember has become an act of defiance. Defiance against being described by some as “sh*thole countries”, otherwise known in sugar-coated terms as those places people go to exercise their selfless desire to “spread democracy.” But most of all, defiance against anyone who doubts that we deserve better.
Twenty-four years ago, our humanity was stripped from us in broad daylight, on television screens worldwide. More than a million bodies that were deemed less than human lay in the streets, in churches, floated in lakes and were piled up in pit latrines.
Though stopping the Genocide would have been the moral thing for the international “community” to do, Rwandans have long learned that doing the right thing is not exactly a top priority for some countries.
What remains difficult to understand is the relentlessness with which some in said community continue to pursue the theory that the Genocide against the Tutsi was somehow caused by the victims themselves.
They are helped along by those who have dedicated their lives to putting into practice Steve Biko’s famous quote “the most potent tool of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed”.
Though often disguised as altruism or academic research by Africa experts, what this line of thought ultimately means is this: Genocide is what we deserved.
Violence and poverty is the cycle Rwanda was never expected to break. The ending of this story was not supposed to be one where young men and women, far outnumbered, armed with not much more than worn boots and unwavering determination, put an end to what the world failed to stop (and that some attempted to perpetuate).
We were not supposed to be here to tell the story of surviving against all odds, of rebuilding a nation expected to fail, of victims forgiving their killers and of a generation that today stands up for our dignity, unapologetically.
So no, we do not care who you think shot down the plane nor will we mourn the death of the man who presided over the most divisive and destructive period of our history.
And no, we will not be apologetic about who we are and the leaders we choose. Leaders who, although they had every reason to choose revenge, chose forgiveness. Who when faced with odds that seem insurmountable, refused to consider failure as an option.
We will instead continue to honor the memory of those gone too soon, by speaking truth to denial, freeing our mind of the pervasive belief that there should be a limit to our aspirations, and recognising that no one other than us is responsible for building the future we deserve.
The views expressed in this article are of the author.