When the Rwandan Patriotic Front launched its liberation war on October 1, 1990, it brought out the worst in the Juvenal Habyarimana government.
Within a few days, tens of thousands of Tutsi and Hutu deemed to be leaning towards the opposition were rounded up, hurdled into stadiums before being distributed in the country’s jails where they remained for the next six months.
But as the government fortunes on the battlefront began to wane, it changed tactics and started whipping up anti-Tutsi hatred. The wheels of the Genocide began to turn and schools and the thousands of idle and uneducated youth were the ideal recruitment targets.
Even with the defeat of the genocidal government, the ugly seeds of ethnic division became even more entrenched for one major reason; the sounding defeat was equated with the defeat of the Hutu hegemony by the Tutsi; revenge was the driving force.
The government quickly realised that the older generation was a lost cause, the Genocide ideology was deeply entrenched, and the only salvation was saving the youth before they become contaminated beyond rescue.
One school that was timely but difficultly saved from the brink was Lycée Catholique Saint Alain Mataba better known as ACEDI- Mataba. It was located in Gakenke, the centre of the insurgency in the northern part of the country.
The school had been turned into a breeding ground for and had become a den of ethnic division. Special measures were needed to nip it in the bud. The journey was long but persistence paid off in the long run.
Today the school is the poster boy of unity and reconciliation because everyone pulled in the same direction with determination to make a difference, and it did and still does. That is the power of unity.