Nyamagabe District has a history, a very bad one that seems to haunt it every step. It began its journey to notoriety in 1959 when it became the launching pad of the first Genocide against the Tutsi.
It became the bastion to Hutu extremism. Killers went on the rampage, killing, burning, looting and eating cattle with impunity. That year, the demons were unleashed in Bufundu and Nyaruguru – that later became Gikongoro – before spreading to other parts of the country.
As if expecting to become the poster-boy of the successive governments, it instead became a pariah during the Habyarimana regime and experienced neglect, and wort of all, famine. It became the most backward region of the country and many of its educated sons and daughters were reluctant to be associated with it.
When the Genocide broke out in 1994, Gikongoro again outdid itself in brutality. Even though its population had little to thank the government for, and therefore had a reason not to join the killing bandwagon, they instead participated in the killings with glee.
Today, the bad omens continue to hover over the region. Nyamagabe District is today one of the worst performing in the country and its main town nothing to write home about.
When the President visited the district this week, he could not fail to mention the fact. Its residents cannot break from the debilitating past of moving around with a begging bowl. But this is not the era of famines and no one will come to their aid. The solution needs to come from within.
That is the whole essence of decentralisation; the government equips every district with equitable resources, the rest is up to the people and their leaders. They should not let this rare opportunity of being treated fairly and equally slip by. This is the time to break away from the past.