ON SUNDAY afternoon, over thirty-five members of the Rwandan youth Diaspora from London, United Kingdom, met at Rwanda House to watch ‘Ghost of Rwanda’, a Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) documentary about the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
The overall objective of the initiative was to raise awareness among young Rwandans living abroad of the importance of taking part in the ongoing worldwide initiative of Kwibuka20 by focusing mainly on this year’s commemoration theme; Remember, Unite, Inspire.
As illustrated by PBS, ‘Ghost of Rwanda’ examines the social, political, and diplomatic failures that converged to facilitate the Genocide that would claim over a million Rwandans.
More importantly, however, the documentary explains how the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi was indeed a state-sponsored massacre in which at least one million Rwandans were systematically murdered while the rest of the world stood back, played bad politics, and refused to intervene.
After watching the documentary, it was evident that everyone including the youth and three Genocide survivors – who had courageously volunteered to interact with the rest of the group – were all taken aback by the gruesome two-hour documentary.
Courageously, however, one of the survivors, Eugene Eric Murangwa, a former Rayon Sports and Amavubi Stars goalkeeper, explained that somehow, watching the documentary in a room full of fellow Rwandans was in itself a healing process given the fact that his then seven year old sibling was a victim of the Genocide.
Firstly, it is important that today’s youth value the importance of remembrance. When we remember the victims and survivors of the Genocide, we honour the memory of those who perished and also offer comfort to those who survived the atrocities.
A period like this represents a moment of deep mourning where survivors inescapably have to relive the horrific experiences of the Genocide. It is therefore important that today’s youth take time out to listen, support and understand the trauma that many survivors still suffer.
We cannot afford to let survivors feel abandoned and less understood by future generations who may not relate to their history.
Secondly, the youth gathering in London offered an opportunity to share stories of the resilience of ordinary Rwandans who have opted to concentrate on what unites us as Rwandans rather than what divides us.
It is this mentality that has allowed Rwandans to forge a way forward based on unity, trust, equal opportunities, open dialogue, and forgiveness.
Equally important, it is the same mentality that has facilitated us to gradually encourage our society to participate in meaningful dialogues that highlight truth telling, accountability, constructive criticism, and more importantly, home-grown solutions such as Gacaca courts, Umuganda initiatives, and Imihigo framework.
For this reason, the Rwandan youth have a responsibility to ensure that this journey of unity stays firmly on course and that the efforts of those who sacrificed so much to make it a possible process are not wasted.
Thirdly, the event provided a platform for the youth to learn more about the direction that Rwanda has taken in terms of preparing for the next twenty or so years. Notably, Rwanda Vision 2020 was cited as the cornerstone to which today’s youth should look to participate in fully.
Having had a glimpse of the bad politics that led Rwanda to descend into one of modern day atrocities, the youth left the movie project with a sense of understanding that to guarantee the never-again genocide declaration, it was paramount to sideline politics that is based on ethnicity, regions, classes, gender, and personal egos, and instead concentrate on policies that put an ordinary citizen’s rights first.
In addition, the youth left with a sense of inspiration and drive to work hard and to contribute to the brighter future that we as Rwandans deserve.
As has been noted, Kwibuka20 presents us, young and old, with an opportunity to remember the lives that were lost and, equally important, with a chance to show solidarity with those who survived the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
Today’s young generation must not disconnect from the historical events that darkened our country, and must instead learn from them to make certain that lessons learned are used as foundation pillars for a united, resilient, and prosperous nation.
The writer is a UK Parliamentary Intern and holds a Master of Science in Public Service Policy