Deliberate efforts to have good governance in Rwanda have helped the country swiftly recover from the aftermath of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, participants at the Global Conference on Genocide in Kigali heard yesterday.
The three-day conference that opened on Friday at Parliament Building is taking place ahead of the 20th commemoration of the Genocide, which will take place tomorrow.
More than 200 delegates gathered here yesterday—among them parliamentarians, policymakers, scholars and media personalities—were treated with a discussion about how the current Rwandan leadership went about governing a country that was devastated by the Genocide.
With “How do you lead after genocide?” as the main question, lead discussants recalled how challenging it was to lead post-genocide Rwanda and how the current leadership has succeeded in turning the country around.
Main discussants included Senator Tito Rutaremara, a long serving commissioner in the ruling Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) party that stopped the genocide, Hon. Abdul Karim Harelimana, former Minister of Home Affairs now a member of the East African Legislative Assembly.
On the panel was also Mukesh Kapila, a professor of Global Health and Humanitarian Affairs at the UK-based University of Manchester, a Special Representative of atrocities preventing charity Aegis Trust, and a veteran of international humanitarian works.
In a nutshell, Rutaremara and Harelimana told the participants that the RPF didn’t have any other choice but to adopt a deliberate policy of promoting consensus among Rwandans while addressing post-genocide challenges.
The party invited other political organisations in the country to work with it in the post-genocide government, except those that had participated in the genocide.
Since the end of the slaughter, Rwanda’s political leaders have continued to work in a consensus and have discouraged adversarial approach to governance, the officials said.
At one point, Rutaremara told participants that it is not accurate to say that there is any single political party in power in Rwanda.
“Rwanda has a system of power sharing. We are always trying to have national dialogues so that we can have a consensus,” he said.
In allusion to the country’s forum of political parties, he said that it was there to create “a platform for people to talk”.
“We are giving them space to discuss issues affecting their country,” he said.
He reminded participants that Rwanda’s liberation was not yet over given the continued efforts at uniting Rwandans.
Through programs like “Ndi Umunyarwanda”, a campaign that allows all citizens to regain their common identity through openly talking about what happened along their history, unity is being cemented.
Aristarique Ngoga, a genocide survivor and leader of an association of former students who survived the genocide (GAERG), said only good governance of the country had restored hope for survivors.
“The best action taken was having good governance. It was the only thing that gave us hope as genocide survivors,” he said.
He described the post-genocide political system as having dispensed critical social welfare for Rwandans.
“We didn’t have hope of life after the Genocide. We wouldn’t be alive today if we hadn’t had good governance in the last twenty years,” he said.
Prof. Kapila said that the RPF found its own way of governance that was essential and pro-people which helped to restore confidence in government.
He noted that the international community had to learn from the RPF how to lead Rwanda after it had failed to help.
“Post-genocide societies are very special,” he said.
The scholar and humanitarian highlighted that it was impossible to give Rwanda governance prescriptions from anywhere else after the Genocide because Rwanda was and remains “a very special society”.
Kapila said that the country’s future lays in the hands of its youth because the latter are always willing to have a chance at leading and what they decide to do shapes the country’s future.
“Let’s the youth figure out what the future is. I see a lot of optimism,” he said.
The conversation was moderated by Ugandan journalist and media manager Andrew Mwenda who in the end concluded that Rwandans have great potential to continue shaping governance of their country.
That is because the experience Rwandans got from stopping the Genocide and liberating themselves when the rest of the world had run away is empowering.
“It’s only Rwandans who know what’s good for them; nobody else can tell Rwandans what to do,” Mwenda told the participants at the end of the discussion. The Kigali International Forum on Genocide will conclude its works today, with discussions focusing on how the current international management of humanitarian crises is influenced by the international community’s failure to protect civilians in Rwanda.