First Lady recounts Rwanda’s story of resilience

Mrs Jeannette Kagame with other participants in Washington D.C on Monday. Courtesy.

First Lady Jeannette Kagame has said that while Rwanda has faced insurmountable challenges as a result of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, the important decision to ‘stay together’ has made the country surpass these challenges.

The First Lady was on Monday addressing participants in a panel discussion titled: “Reconciliation: Rwandan Sisters”, held on the sidelines of the 67th National Prayer Breakfast.

Hosted by Mrs Grace Nelson, wife to former United States Senator Bill Nelson, the event took place in Washington, D.C., United States.

Mrs Kagame told the participants the history that Rwanda endured, which left the country shattered with victims of mass rapes and HIV infected, widows, orphans, internally displaced refugees, and over a million people massacred.

“In short, a hopeless and helpless state,” she said, recounting the story of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

The First Lady told participants that, inspite of the seemingly insurmountable obstacles, the country made important choices, a major one being ‘staying together’.

“When the leadership, steered us in this direction, it was a tough one to live by, and to be honest it hurt everyone to the core. The leadership knew what it was asking and was fully aware of the magnitude of this sacrifice. Indeed, they knew that our resilience as a people, and our will to live beyond survival would carry us a long way. And still does to this day,” she noted.

Mrs Jeannette Kagame indicated that staying together did not only mean reconciliation but also meant restoring justice.

“Since there was no instruction manual anywhere in the world on how to recover after a genocide, we constructed one as we grew, inspired from our rich culture. This took constant dialogue, which slowly reignited the nation building flame,” she said.

“It is almost 25 years now since the Genocide against the Tutsi, and we are still struggling to not belittle the survivor’s grief but still uphold them to the same standards as any active citizen,” she added.

The First Lady is participating in a number of other side events and is expected to speak at an International Luncheon which will be held on Thursday, 7 February 2019.

On the panel also included other Rwandan women in different leadership positions, discussing topics including Gender Based Violence policy and how it is being implemented in Rwanda, women in leadership and at the forefront of unity and reconciliation, inclusiveness, the role of youth in shaping their own future and Ubunyarwanda - giving back to the country, among others.