THE 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi clearly left a mark in the history books. It is was not only the fastest genocide with over a million lives taken in just 100 days but it was also one of the most ‘personal’ in that in most cases the killers knew their victims on a personal level.
The horror of neighbours turning against neighbours, friends against friends and even relatives against relatives using weapons that rarely delivered instant death but left one to die a slow agonising death is the reason why the scars will take ages to really heal.
The causes of the genocide are well known and well documented. The summary of which is hateful identity politics. As East Africans or Africans in general we have our differences. We recognise these differences and continue with our lives until someone steps on the soap box and starts preaching hatred against a section of our people. Right there are the seeds of hatred that can lead to genocide.
The world has vowed that “Never Again” shall genocide be allowed to happen in the world. For this to happen, we need to shun identity politics that primarily aims at creating those us and them situations where one’s only reasoning is hinged on ethnicity and nothing else.
Because what happened in Rwanda was so terrible many a time social commentators will say that ‘we should not have another Rwanda’ whenever there are signs of ethnic tensions elsewhere. We need to learn to look out for the value that a politician possesses beyond just being the most popular member of a given ethnic group.
Kenya and of course Burundi are some of the countries where identity politics needs to be tamed before we find ourselves in regrettable situations. We all need to take the lessons that Rwanda has to offer more seriously and I have always believed that the EAC secretariat should come up with a policy requiring the teaching of Rwandan history in other EAC countries.
What is undeniable though is that 20 years later a new Rwanda emerged and much as we should not allow other countries to go through what Rwanda went through in 1994, we can call on other EAC members to emulate several ‘new’ things about Rwanda.
Today everyone who visits Rwanda will attest to the visible changes that are quick to leave a nice impression in one’s mind. Rwanda is no longer identified by that genocide tag anymore. It has lost of positive and impressive stories to tell. These are the stories that need to be emulated by its neighbours.
When you look keenly at East African you can’t help but marvel at some of the things that Rwanda pulls off where others seem resigned to their situations. For example the seriousness it accords to the tourism industry something that can also be seen from the commitment to build a formidable national airline, Rwandair.
The determination to keep corruption at the very minimal while ensuring that each and everyone is involved in the governance process is something worth mentioning too. Corruption exists in Rwanda but not as much as in other EAC members where its existence can only be described as endemic.
Rwanda’s health insurance system is another major achievement that stands out in the new Rwanda. In the same way, Rwanda has embraced the EAC quite well and has been a pacesetter on several issues where others drag their feet.
When it comes to security many can testify that although your phone can be snatched as you walk late at night in Kigali, there is little doubt about the same happening in Kampala or Nairobi for instance. Security is taken very seriously in Rwanda and even when beaten, you can count on the police and army to follow up any issue to the very end.
My intention is not to list every good thing I know about this country but to present to you a picture of the two sides of Rwanda. The Rwanda of 1994 is one to be avoided at all costs for the sake of humanity while the Rwanda of today has stories that we can listen to and emulate.
It is not fair to just say that this works in Rwanda but cannot work elsewhere when you can actually come here and ask about how Rwanda does it and gradually implementing the same elsewhere. Let us pick the good lessons from each other and ensure we avoid each other’s mistakes.