MOST OF the young people of today did not witness the evil that befell Rwanda 26 years ago; however, they have been affected by its dire consequences in one way or another.
With the 26th commemoration of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi upon us, it is important to acknowledge the role of the youth in ensuring that it never happens again.
Aline Sanny Ntaganira, a 25-year-old communication enthusiast, is of the view that when young people are exposed to discrimination, they become vulnerable to the worst ideologies, especially if those ideologies promise them some change.
This, she believes, is what led the youth to actively engage in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
Today, she says young people in Rwanda are so lucky to witness good leadership.
“We have rights to education without discrimination, access to information, platforms that help us meet and discuss with our leaders, technology, and many other benefits. Rwanda is raising critical thinkers,” she says.
Erick Mucyo, a 22-year-old university student, says young people have an active role to play in terminating Genocide ideology.
He says they are at the frontline of actively promoting the same values that have enabled the country to bounce back from its dark past.
“We are in a position to learn and understand things much faster compared to other groups of people, therefore, using this opportunity to make a positive change is important,” he says.
Mucyo says this means when the young generation helps in the fight, Genocide ideology can be eradicated and not sustained.
The essence of knowledge
Prof Vincent Sezibera, the chairperson of Rwanda Psychological Society, working at the University of Rwanda’s Centre for Mental Health College of Medicine and Health Science, says to fight ideology, it’s important for everyone to keep talking about the Genocide, the different ways of implementation, and most importantly, to not be ignorant about the sad reality.
When you go through the collected works, he says there are a number of documentaries, articles, and books that focus on trauma, genocide ideology, and resilience.
Olivier Mazimpaka, former GAERG (Groupe des Anciens Etudiants et Elèves Rescapés du Genocide) president, and leadership and sustainability lecturer at University of Rwanda, says there is need for everyone to be Genocide literate.
He says we all need to understand the history of the country, and how the Genocide was organised and came to happen.
Mazimpaka says some young people know the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi as ‘something that happened in April 1994’.
This, he says, is not how it’s supposed to be, and it’s important to know everything about the Genocide — how it happened, those accountable and its catastrophic impact.
“Young people need to be knowledgeable in genocide studies, to know exactly what happened in order to have the will to fight the ideology,” he says.
Another key point, he says, is to write what they know already, even the younger generation. The younger generation has to learn from those who were there before (survivors who witnessed everything).
“What we need is to have more digital content because we are losing several people who were mature during the Genocide. If they are dying without leaving their stories behind, then the next generation will have no material or documentation; therefore, there is need to build a strong record,” he says.
Like Mazimpaka, Etienne Kalisa, the executive secretary of AVEGA (Association of Genocide widows Agahozo), says the first step is to understand Rwanda’s history and why the Genocide against the Tutsi in 1994 happened.
He says the post-genocide generation should understand the impact and recognise that there were great sacrifices made.
He empasises that generations to come should fight Genocide ideology and denial, fight ethnic segregation, refrain from divisionism; and most importantly, continue to be involved in the activities that promote peace, unity, and reconciliation.
Sezibera says, “There are many role models who in their capacity, saved lives, and contributed to the rebirth of this country,” he says.
For young people to do good in the future, he says, they should learn from inspiring leaders and all those committed to building the country.
Sezibera says there is no doubt that there are challenges as far as fighting Genocide ideology is concerned.
He points out that waves of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi affected many; for example, survivors, especially those whose families were completely wiped out, or, those whose parents were involved, in one way or another, in the slaughter of over a million innocent people.
He says the latter group is likely to face shame, even though they were not a part of it.
Gatari says youngsters should endeavour to participate in public discussions, and challenge themselves and others on the truth about the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi.
With good education, Gatari believes that young people will have a strong culture of documenting the Genocide and its devastating effects.
Ntaganira advises her peers to stand up for their rights, put the country’s needs ahead, and make sure they look out for their neighbours. “Be grateful for all the sacrifices our leaders made to ensure we have such a peaceful country.
“With this, we will never tolerate anything related to the Genocide and ensure that Rwanda will never again experience such an atrocity,” she adds.
Measures in place
Last year, GAERG came up with an approach, the Genocide Essay and Presentation Challenge, aimed at giving space to young people/student to exercise their understanding of the Genocide from its roots.
Through the approach, young people are meant to understand the causes of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, steps that led the country to that disaster, the way it was executed in different parts of the country, as well as how it was stopped, and Rwanda’s resilience in the aftermath.
The students are inspired by selected topics that are academically, socially and politically analysed by the National Commission for the Fight against Genocide (CNLG) for competition/challenge.
Through this, GAERG believes that students will develop a thirst to search, read books, talk to their elders, read newspapers, visit memorials and museums, use the internet, to develop extensive knowledge on the matter.
“This will enhance their understanding of genocide and equip them with capabilities to fight against its ideology, and any kind of discrimination,” adds Gatari.
The competition happens on a yearly basis; this year, it started in March and is expected to end in June.
Gatari says they have so far dispatched topics to students, debated and competitions are expected to take place after the lockdown period.
Another approach, GAERG organises training for their members on how they can use social media effectively and efficiently to fight Genocide ideology.
Egide Gatari, the president of GAERG, says when the youth are involved, they are able to fight ethnic division among Rwandans, and actively participate in the building a brighter future for the country.
He says young people are good with social media, and should use it to fight Genocide ideology.Follow Lydia_AtienoM