Ndi Umunyarwanda: Beyond unity and reconciliation

Ndi Umunyarwanda, one of the home grown solutions, is no doubt a great model that has greatly contributed towards unity and reconciliation of the Rwandan people.

It is a concept that has laid a rock-solid foundation for future accomplishments of the Rwandan people as it solidifies the development journey of our country, as the already yielded results attest.

But, seemingly, little do people know about it or, I rather say, few people extensively comprehend what other aspects of the concept remain to be exhaustively exploited, beyond unity and reconciliation that it is known for by many.

It has been almost a decade since the introduction of Ndi Umunyarwanda and to some Rwandans; the concept instantaneously evokes a feeling of national pride in a common identity and a sense of patriotism.

Few others just fail to grasp the concept while others consciously misinterpret it for political expedience.

One cannot so easily understand the concept if s/he doesn’t take time to look at our history as a nation. 

From that endeavor, one will easily establish that Rwanda was once a united nation, strongly attached to its culture, norms and values.

However, widespread divisive politics that started towards the middle of the 20th century, mainly instigated by colonial masters, saw a section of the population vilified and eventually killed, other were left homeless after their homes were burnt while many more fled the country, mainly to neighbouring countries.

The culmination of this was one of the worst humanitarian catastrophes – probably the worst of the 20th century – the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi that left the country in a state of hopelessness.

The post-Genocide government led by RPF-Inkotanyi had its work clearly cut out; a divided society, a devastated and hopeless people with an extremely poor national government.

Government, therefore, had an obligation of returning the nation to normalcy and embarking on the reconstruction journey.

Of course none of the above problems would have been addressed without unity and reconciliation, which would ensure everybody look towards the same direction.

The equation was not going to be easy to solve for the new leadership. For many people, it seemed strictly impossible as the situation was just hopeless.

Imagine the scenario. Over a million of people killed, hundreds of thousands of orphans and widows, casualties within the armed forces that had just liberated the country, not to mention that thousands of the fighters had lost their loved ones in the Genocide.

The other uphill task was to repatriate and reintegrate the hundreds of thousands of Rwandans who had for decades lived in exile as well as bringing back a similar number who had fled in 1994 –most of them kept hostage by the militias in refugee camps.

With challenges not limited to those listed above, the only weapon the post-Genocide leadership had was the hope for a better future and the determination to do everything it takes to achieve that.

One thing was clear to the leaders of the day; any hope to turn around the country had to be pegged to the long-held values that characterized Rwandans in the pre-colonial era.

These values are enshrined in what time immemorial has been known as Ubunyarwanda; which epitomize patriotism, hard work, dignity, sacrifice to the nation, among others.

The starting point therefore was to re-unite the Rwandan people, rebuild trust among them and bring back a sense of hope and commitment to a better, shared future.

To get here, several home grown initiatives were initiated, again through drawing back on the pre-colonial Rwanda and I will not delve much into gains by initiatives like Gacaca as achievements stand out world over.

On the economic front, initiatives like Ubudehe were introduced and have so far lifted millions out of poverty.

Fast forward, Ndi Umunyarwanda is with no doubt one great tool that has helped a lot in bringing back the sense of a common identity and the values it promotes to Rwandans.

It has helped in the reconciliation process through forgiveness which has contributed tremendously to the curing of wounds of the Genocide and built a strong foundation for the togetherness of the Rwandan people, rallying that towards a common purpose, which is development.

However, in as much as we celebrate the unparalleled gains registered by Ndi Umunyarwanda especially on the unity and reconciliation front, there are many of its other modules that we are yet to opmitise and entrench in the people.

Today, take any random poll on youths within the 20-year range and ask what Ndi Umunyarwanda aims at achieving and I would not be surprised when majority say that the ultimate goal is achieving forgiveness or simply unity and reconciliation.

This is not entirely wrong but it is only half truth, there is a lot more that Ndi Umunyarwanda stands for and aims to achieve.

It has been my observation that most young people are not familiar with this beautiful concept, and thought it was time to tap into current opportunities when the concept is still famous to move to its other prescriptions that build on the unity and reconciliation achievements it has so far recorded.

It is the time for our youth be taught about Ndi Umunyarwanda and its values of patriotism, hard work, honesty, sacrifice to the nation, innovation and other values that can help improve their mindset and see them effectively contributing to our national development.

It is time Ndi Umunyarwanda get popularised to that end so we can tackle the various issues of attitude that affect the youngsters and bring them to the needed consciousness and sense of responsibility of the country’s business that awaits for them now more than ever before.

The achievements registered are promising, we have got a number of platforms in almost every sector, ICT, civic education (Itorero), youth associations, Indangamirwa etc….that can be tapped into to sensitise our youth on Ndi Umunyarwanda and its broader values as enshrined in Ubunyarwanda.

The views expressed in this article are of the author.