As the nation marks the 20th anniversary of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, Rwandans concur that every citizen has learnt a lesson, and resolved that genocide should never happen again.
They believe that prosperity, unity and reconciliation are a result of concerted effort from each and every Rwandan, and appreciate the inclusiveness demonstrated by the political leadership, which they believe has done much to undo harm caused by previous regimes. The New Times’ Jean de la Croix Tabaro and Jean d’Amour Mbonyinshuti spoke to a cross-section of Rwandans on where they see the country is headed.
Saidi Bigirimana. Taxi-moto operator. ‘I am impressed by the infrastructure in the country. Roads, electricity and mainly the buildings are changing the country for the better, especially in our towns. With the security the country boasts of, Rwanda will only continue to develop and with development, no one can start dreaming of things like ethnicity and other forms of divisionism.’
Josephine Mukamusoni, 54. survivor. ‘The life of Genocide survivors has improved over the years, we are grateful that the government was near us for the past 20 years. I survived with little children but now some are in university while others are soon completing high school. Regarding reconciliation, we have taken the lead to forgive those who killed our relatives and sometimes we approach them to talk about the issue, our families are visiting each other and we work for a common goal.’
Justine Tuzasangamariya. ‘The 20th commemoration seems different from others; Rwandans are prepared enough because of lessons learnt through Ndi Umunyarwanda programme and the Flame of hope. We now understand the significance of commemorating. For those who were young during the Genocide, this is the time to get to know what befell our country so that, in unison, we say ‘Never Again.’
Omar Nsengiyumva, 40, trader and Muslim leader. ‘I repatriated from DR Congo in 2000 and I never expected the country to be as good as it is today. Having lost all family belongings, I thought I would die a pauper but through the Girinka programme I have my life back. People are striving for development and they do not have time to waste dwelling on ethnic divisions. I am positive no one can destroy what we have built because every Rwandan has learnt a lesson.’
Rachel Mukamugisha, 23. A mother and Genocide survivor. ‘When I was young, after the Genocide, my parents told me I should not play with my neighbours and I did not know why. Later on, I learnt that neighbours hated us because they thought we accused them of committing the Genocide. I overcame this, and, in 2010, I married a Hutu husband who has family members who perpetrated the Genocide. We love each other and God has blessed us with two children.’
Alexandre Habyarimana, 32. farmer. ‘For me, the 20th commemoration activities started early; we have over the past few months been actively involved with Ndi Umunyarwanda programme and we received the Kwibuka Flame. We know our country went through a lot 20 years ago but are on course towards rebuilding our country. Much has been achieved, people are living peacefully than ever before. Survivors who at some point thought they would never even fathom using the same path as the perpetrators are praying with them in church and the future looks brighter.’
Theophile Mpakanyamabi, 26. ‘Rwanda was cursed and then blessed; cursed because we had discrimination sowed by the bad governments that led to 1994 Genocide, and blessed because we have a good government that stopped the Genocide and promoted unity and reconciliation. For the past 20 years I have seen social economic transformation for survivors and other Rwandans. There has been social programmes supporting Genocide survivors through schools and hospitals, among others, which is commendable.’
Speciose Uwimana, 29. tailor. ‘We work very hard because Rwandans want to defy the odds to develop our nation. Personally, I went through many hardships to the point that I could not even think of a time where I would ever own a cloth. But now here I am; I can make up to Rwf200,000 a month. The development and reconciliation go hand in hand; we meet in neighborhoods and discuss issues that impede our progress and then find a solution together.’
Thacien Nsengayire, 34, school director. ‘The country is developing tremendously. We have many schools and access is for all. The mindset also has changed. People support one another; marriages take place without people having to go through background checks, this country is destined for good things.’
Pascal Hategekimana, 29, street vendor. ‘We have no more issues of ethnicity which fuelled the Genocide in 1994. I’m glad the leaders have reshaped the mindset of the people to think as one with a common cause. We rest assured that today, anyone who tries to promote genocide ideology is arrested and punished according to the law; our focus is prosperity.’
Samuel Rukebesha, 58, tax collector. ‘Development is definitely visible to everyone. In my time, we used to study under trees, but now our children have classrooms with all the amenities and this is a good step, not to mention the other social goods that have come our way like hospitals and electricity. The different forms of injustice that we suffered under the past regimes are also no more. Every Rwandan has access to all services without any form of discrimination.’
Jean-Pierre Rucikibungo, 30, a porter. ‘With what befell our country during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, no one would expect the community to come together like we are at the moment. Unity and reconciliation, personally I think, was made possible by the good leadership we have. I think we are headed in the right direction and the future is good.’
Mediatrice Uwingabire, 25, vendor. ‘The Genocide affected the whole community regardless of the economic status or age. We have learnt a big lesson and none would say that they have interest in returning to those days. Anyone trying to fuel genocide ideology can never succeed because Rwandans know how far they have come.’