New book documents Rwanda’s homegrown solutions

Prof Tharsisse Gatwa (L) and Prof Deogratius Mbonyinkebe during the official launch of the book in Kigali on Friday. / Sam Ngendahimana

Rwanda’s homegrown solutions which resulted into social programs that are the backbone of the country’s social and economic transformation can be a learning experience for Africa as it tries to pave its way to development – reckons a new book by Rwandan academicians.

The homegrown solutions are Rwanda’s locally tailored initiatives in response to problems that the society faced, especially in the aftermath of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

Titled ‘Homegrown solutions: A Legacy to Generations in Africa,’ the book is a collection of essays describing and analyzing the nature and depth of the “home grown solutions” as presented in post-genocide Rwanda.

Copies of the book. / Sam Ngendahimana

Written by 23 contributors from a variety of professional disciplines, the over 400 page book analytically looks at homegrown solutions like community work (Umuganda), Gacaca courts, community mediators (Abunzi), solidarity work (Ubudehe) among others; commending African values as a possible driving force for the continent’s development.

The book presents Rwanda’s path as a way in which people find solutions to their problems without necessarily relying on external tools, as the authors sensitise the new African generations to their responsibility towards a development of the continent, where people enjoy peace and prosperity.

“Clearly, Pan-Africanism and African cultural and ethical values will be the bedrock but at the same time the driving force for Africa’s development. It is precisely this message that authors from diverse horizons are trying to convey to future generations in this volume,” writes one of the contributors, Elisée Musemakweli, the Vice Chancellor, Protestant Institute of Arts and Social Sciences.

According to him, for Africa’s development to happen, “different generations must keep in high esteem the role of ethical and cultural values” in the struggle to liberate the continent from wars, violence, corruption, bad governance, poverty and other forms of evil.

At the helm of the authorship of the book is Professor Tharcisse Gatwa - a journalist and theologian, and Deogratias Mbonyinkebe – an anthropologist from University of Rwanda who together coordinated a team of lawyers, theologians, professors, and anthropologists among other disciplines to contribute to the book.

In an interview with Sunday Times, Gatwa said that the book looked at homegrown solutions from a historical perspective, examining the mechanisms, ancient Rwandan society employed to deal with problems.

Giving the example of Gacaca courts, Gatwa said that if Africans can choose the right traditional mechanisms and bring them back, these could possibly act as a cure for some social problems,

“Using the Roman legal system, the International Criminal Tribunal of Rwanda in Arusha spent billions of dollars but only managed to deal with less than a hundred cases of Genocide. But the Gacaca which is our traditional way of resolving conflict, in more or less ten years resolved about two million cases,” he said.

He however argued that efforts have to be made to improve these mechanisms where need be.

Professor Mbonyinkebe echoed similar sentiments.

“When we talk about using our homegrown initiatives, we don’t mean using them without some adjustments. We have to reread the tradition so that we see the good and take it up, and leave out the bad,” he said.

The experts also argued that religion does not mean completely demolishing culture.

Professor Gatwa argued that good traditional values fit into Biblical teachings of love. He gave the example of Ubudehe which he said “fits into the Bible teachings of taking care of the vulnerable.”

editor@newtimesrwanda.com

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