Umwiherero has come and gone. But this one shouldn’t be confused with its previous versions. I wasn’t there. But you don’t need to have been there to know that this one was unlike any other. It couldn’t have been. It is the times in which we live that tells me that this time round the stakes were higher than we are used to. We are a country in transition, a people trying to think our way out of this transition. And, hence, why we find ourselves in interesting times.
Everyone who went to Gabiro, the retreat site, should know this. Anyone who doesn’t know ought to know because each one of them is in a position to know. What I am sure of is that the top leadership of this country recognises as much. And so, it should have taken no one by surprise that, unlike the previous occasions where the retreat would last only a couple of days, this time round it took a whole five calendar days – almost a week.
This change alone allowed for the interpretation that it was not business as usual in Gabiro. It implied a loaded agenda that, coupled with information in the public domain, signalled to the rest of us what we have been observing about our society: indeed, we live in interesting times.
Vision 2020 is coming to an end. Now is the time to reflect around a new vision that will guide us over the next 30 years into 2050. But there is something fundamentally different between vision 2020 and vision 2050.
There’s one obvious difference. The challenges our society faced in 2000 – a country out of war and genocide and war again – are fundamentally different than those that it will face over the next thirty years.
There is a not so obvious difference. The generation that thought and implemented Vision 2020 was planning for itself: how they wanted to live their lives. This time round they are doing something else: they are thinking on behalf of a generation that will have to do its own implementation.
There’s another crucial point. In planning for the future generation, generation 2020 is doing something that the generation it preceded never did for it. On the contrary, their predecessors, the generation prior theirs, planned against them.
Generation 2020, if truth be told, was dealt a nasty hand. Right from their mothers’ wombs they found that the deck was stacked against them. As a result, it has had to face the kind of sacrifices that perhaps no other generation will ever have to do for its society.
A generation birthed in refugee camps. A generation called upon to give the ultimate sacrifice. A generation that had to work without getting salaries. A generation that worked tirelessly without ever thinking of rest because such was the call of duty.
I can state, therefore, without fear of contradiction that no other generation of Rwandans will ever have to sacrifice to the extent of generation 2020. Yes, our society will continue to make sacrifices in order to revive itself. But none of these sacrifices will ever be to the extent mentioned above.
They were a sabotaged generation. That is because those who came before them did everything possible to leave behind a broken society. Consequently, generation 2020 has had to deal with a plethora of challenges that – again I speak categorically – no future generation will ever come close to facing.
By golly they almost exorcized the monster that almost swallowed us whole: tribalism. It’s not buried; it might not even be dead, either. But at least they gave us the antidote against it.
You don’t get to kill and bury your monster
Most importantly, generation 2020 has come to the realisation that it doesn’t have to kill and burry the monster. It now recognises that by killing the monster it has done its part; it understands that it won’t be attending the burial which it must now leave to generation 2050.
This is as clear as day and night. Consequently, the most pressing concern on the minds of generation 2020 is this: sustainability (how to do what those who preceded them failed to do).
No transition is easy. It is like a loving parent who must find the courage within to let go of a son or daughter who has come of age and must craft a life of their own knowing full well that they will make mistakes along the way.
Generation 2020 finds itself in a paradox. It has provided the blueprint, the reference, to guide future generations. However, it still has unfinished business. And so, it at once recognises that it is neither the past nor the future.
It occupies a space – psychological and otherwise – that preoccupies it with leaving unlocked areas with great potential for socioeconomic transformation such as education, agriculture, energy, and ICT, for instance.
It is a generation that is heavily invested in the direction the country takes. And rightly so. The unusual sacrifice they’ve had to make means they can’t afford to build castles on sand. It is a preoccupation that gives rise to a relentlessness, or a sense of urgency, that seeks to respond to the question of sustainability – a concern that no other generation prior has had to deal with.
Umwiherero serves to revive this urgency. However, as generation 2020 goes about this it must come to terms with one reality: the generation that kills the monster will not be the one to bury it and that any shortcomings – and they will be there – will not be a result of dereliction.
We salute you, sons and daughters of the soil. Yours was a life worth living.