Generation X, generation Y, the young generation, the new generation, for generations to come and many such phrases often spring up as we go along with our lives. The word generation is one we come across many a time and this leaves us wondering how long a generation really is.
The answers to this vary but there seems to be a level of consensus that it the time between one’s birth to the time they are ready to be a parent giving it an average of 25 years although some will go with 20 or 30 years.
It is now 25 years since Rwanda plunged into a moment of sheer horror with neighbours descending on neighbours with the crudest of weapons and most evil of intentions.
The plan was not to revenge, not to kill but to exterminate, to wipe out, to destroy completely and leave no trace. And yes it was a plan not a spontaneous reaction to anything. This is why it is referred to as the Genocide against the Tutsi.
The babies that were around 25 years are now probably having their own babies or planning to. A lot of the things we are now accustomed to and can hardly live without today were not in existence then.
Just think about the prevalence of social media, mobile phones, and the internet in general. The world was not as interconnected as it is right now and those two guys, Larry Page and Sergey Brin had not yet organised the world’s information when they launched Google later in 1998.
In 1994 it was not so hard to keep the rest of the world in the dark because the communication systems were not as widespread as the internet has made them today. Even then, the word did go out about what was happening in Rwanda and many largely looked on as the 100 days of evil went by.
The ones with the means only bothered to evacuate their own and left the targeted at the mercy of the killing squads that roamed the country with weapons dripping with blood.
The information gap then led to some to try and twist the story of what really happened. Some claimed there was no genocide at all. Others said there was a double genocide; others simply downplayed the magnitude of the horror.
But some truths are impossible to hide. There were bodies everywhere. Even those that were dumped into the rivers ended up at the shores elsewhere. The truth refused to be buried. Some victims fought back, some good people hid others and they lived to tell the story.
More importantly, the Rwanda Patriotic Army led by President Paul Kagame gave the killers a bloody nose and stopped the killings. They went ahead to rebuild the country from scratch to what it is today.
When many hear this, their minds go to the infrastructure, the clean and orderly streets but a crucial part of the rebuilding process has been and remains, the restoration of dignity among the Rwandan people.
Dignity cannot exist in an environment where the truth is distorted or denied. We cannot prevent what happened from happening again if we are not ready to look this evil in the eye and acknowledge it happened and should never have and then make it our duty to ensure it never happens again.
There is no doubt that the idea of genocide was a seed planted on grounds of poor leadership. The grounds are now different and people have seen that things can and should indeed be different.
There is a whole generation of Rwandans that have grown up under a leadership that puts Rwanda and Rwandans first regardless of gender or ethnicity. They have grown up knowing Rwanda as a home to all and a place that works and works for them.
The period dedicated to the remembering of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi is a period of remembering and reflecting on the Rwanda and the world we want.
Sometimes when I read the xenophobia stories in South Africa, a country that was overcoming apartheid at the time Rwanda was going through its worst moment, I wonder whether others outside Rwanda learnt anything from Rwanda’s story.
It is good that Rwanda emerged from its dark hole to become a beacon of hope and a place many can learn a lot from. Denying history is not a good starting point for anyone wishing to learn from it. You can’t build a firm foundation on denial.
The views expressed in this article are of the author.