Rwanda and the task awaiting the millennials

According to The Pew Research Center, anyone born between 1981 and 1996 (ages 24- 39) is considered a millennial, and anyone born from 1997 onward is part of a new generation. Some may add the people born in 1980 among millenials. I was born in 1984, and this is my call to my fellow millennials.

Even though we were very young and some not yet born when the 1994 when the Genocide against the Tutsi happened, we are indebted with the legacy to pass on to the next generation the lessons we have learned from RPF Inkotanyi. 

 

The RPF Inkotanyi dreamed of a unified and prosperous country, and to achieve their goal, some of them had to make the ultimate sacrifice. 

 

The word Inkotanyi means invincible or those who conduct hard actions together for a supreme cause. The term mostly refers to those who were on the frontline during the liberation battle in Rwanda. 

 

However, the spirit of Inkotanyi has continued beyond that. Coupled with "Umuryango," which means family in a broad sense, it is what rebuilt our nation. If we adhere to the values and ethics of Inkotanyi as defined above, we can consider ourselves are Inkotanyi.

The word Inkotanyi reminds me of the unknown fighters of the liberation struggle who never returned home, such as my uncle Bosco. He was a successful sculptor, an up-and-coming artist and black-belt karateka, full of life, with many projects. He had a room fully packed with his artwork at his sister's house.

At the time, I was about eight years old, and I used to go to that room and eat the salty clay from his arts. Today when I think about it, with a small naughty smile on my face, I am ashamed of how damaging that was to his sculptures.

This young artist left the people he loved most, and his talent, successes, fame, and projects, to go into the Inkotanyi army to fight for you and me. 

The word Inkotanyi reminds me how many of our exiled parents decided to leave their high-profile careers to rebuild their own country using their needed competencies and expertise right after the Genocide against the Tutsi when Rwanda needed them the most.

It reminds me of the selfless civil services they had to render beyond their jobs.

The word Inkotanyi also reminds me of one of my role models, the late Honorable Inyumba Aloysia, who, in 2008, attended the first Celebrating Young Rwandan Women Achievers’ Awards conference (CYRWA) with many young ladies and me.

She humbly asked if it would be a good idea to take a small break from her job and go back to school and refresh her education to be a better leader. The panelist's answer to her question stayed with me ever since. She said, "in life, there has to be a generation of people who ought to sacrifice their dreams for the greater good of all."

As millennials, it is our duty to fervently safeguard and build on the remarkable gains of our elder's legacy.  

We are the generation called to be excellent in all our ways. This, because of the contrast of horror and courage we witnessed.

Brave young people sacrificed their dreams and lives for a common and extraordinary cause. Our parents and elder siblings selflessly and inclusively worked sleepless nights to rebuild this country we all call home.  As a result, Rwandans now live peacefully and can freely thrive in all aspects within their own country and abroad.

Thanks to our country's leadership that has given us access to education and has encouraged us to pursue further studies, the millennials also have made a small contributions so far. However, we still have much more to give back through innovation and creativity.

Moreover, we must be excellent in all we do because the legacy our generation has been entrusted with, we must ensure that no other generation will ever destroy again.

We often have been told that "The first phase of the liberation struggle was to remove the bad leadership that led to suffering and the genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda. The next phase that we undertook is to engage in activities geared towards liberating Rwanda from another evil, poverty, and social distress."

Now that we know why we are indebted and understand what is at stake, we have to figure out how best we can honor the legacy of the gallant men and women of the RPF Inkotanyi.  

A friend of mine says: "Inkotanyi ni Ubuzima," which means "Inkotanyi is a lifestyle." Let us start with ourselves and our lifestyles. Some define millennials as the "Me, Me, Me Generation." Let us challenge the status quo by re-defining ourselves to the "For the good of all" generation. Whether we like it or not, millennials are the current leaders of future generations. 

"The success of your successor measures your leadership success," - says leadership guru, late Myles Munroe. In the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, author Stephen Covey urges us to "begin with the end in mind."

We, therefore, ought to hold ourselves accountable to the end goal; we must start by exploring our own realities by looking at where we are now, with whom we share our lives, and the choices we make every day.

We should answer the following questions and then create an action plan based on the gaps that we discover: Whom am I impacting/mentoring that is born in the next generation apart from my kids and direct relatives? Who are the people encouraging me to be a better person?

How selfless have I been so far? Is there more I can do in my community? In my professional sector? For people in Ubudehe categories 1 and 2, who are less fortunate than I am?

I firmly believe that supporting a great cause that we cherish as human beings impact the well-being of people and can contribute to the increase the human development index of a nation.

From my life experience, at the age of 36, I am proud to see millennials like me who tirelessly work to create and support local social-impact initiatives that positively impact the lives of the people they serve.

Their motivation is not money or fame, but it is their humanity, and their belief in human development and social impact. 

To honor our elders' legacy, we must walk the Inkotanyi's talk by living a hardworking and selfless life and leave our footprint for the next generation to follow. They are watching us, just as we watched generations before us modeling the identity and character of Inkotanyi.

The writer is a Business Development Consultant, and a social entrepreneur who sits on the Board of Directors of various local grassroots Social Impact Organizations. She can be reached by email at nicole@ywel.org.

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