In primary four, we studied about the family Tree and I didn’t really understand its purpose, really.
Today I realise the lesson was meant to make us understand our various family connections. I recently witnessed a couple during the Civil Marriage being asked to state their family linage back to the fourth generation. Unfortunately, they could not go past naming their grandparents. As they fumbled and looked lost, their parents quickly stepped in and spared them further embarrassment.
The expression on the parents’ faces showed disappointment, and wondered who exactly was to blame for such humiliation.
I believe the court officials’ intentions were not to embarrass this couple but to ensure that they were not party to unknowing committing incest.
The Rwandan Culture does not promote incest and therefore rebukes anyone who relates within the fourth generation of their ancestors. With the country’s history of Genocide and pogroms, several Rwandans were scattered worldwide in exile. Not many were able to keep in contact with their extended families. As a result, their offspring have returned and many are not exactly keen on tracking back family lineages before dating. Those who try, only discover countless cousins and more reason not to ask about lineage.
There was an incident when a Rwandan girl and boy started dating while in England where they had gone pursue an undergraduate degree. They got engaged and thankfully decided to hold the church and customary marriages in Rwanda. When they visited their families, they discovered that they were undoubtedly first cousins–alas, the wedding was cancelled.
In order to prevent children from going through such heartache, parents have to educate and introduce their children to their relatives–back to the fourth generation.
The youth should also take the initiative of getting to know their partners before they get intimately involved. It is culturally healthy to know about family linage not just to avoid dating your cousin, but also to delve into the knowledge of your rich heritage as a munyarwanda.