This year, for the first time, I spent the entire first day of Kwibuka in my village. It was a moving way to begin the 21st commemoration of the Genocide against the Tutsi. As I spent the day alongside my neighbours, many of whom suffered so much from the Genocide, I found myself moved by the courage of the great people of Rwanda.
For the survivors who chose to seek reconciliation as opposed to revenge, you have allowed this country to move forward to where it is today. I am deeply humbled by your courage to forgive.
By doing so, you have offered your hand to lift Rwanda from the ashes it once was.
Today, we are a peaceful and strong country. We are proud of what we have become. As His Excellency President Paul Kagame has said, “this country has changed for the better and for forever”. I am thankful for this transformative leadership that has guided and inspired us all along this difficult but meaningful journey.
Immediately after the Genocide against the Tutsi, 21 years ago, much of the world viewed Rwanda as a lost cause. They expected us to fail if we were left to our own devices. They believed, as usual, that it was a place that required a hero from the outside. But they were mistaken. Our heroes are you the survivors and you our great President, Paul Kagame, who led us to our journey of recovery.
Mister President you are a true hero for leading those who ended the 1994 Genocide. You are a hero for continuing to lead us in our quest for stability, peace, development and prosperity.
My other heroes are those survivors who have faced unimaginable suffering, trauma and pain and yet are striving daily for a better future for all Rwandans - for both survivors and perpetuators and the generations to come. I salute the values that have guided you, including the spirit of self-determination and ownership. Agaciro.
Because of you, Rwanda has shown that poverty, savagery, revenge and terror are not acceptable destinies.
Our story since 1994 has also helped to show how misguided and harmful opinions can be when it comes to false global solutions to assist nations that are trying to overcome great obstacles.
For instance, some justified withholding life-saving health interventions from Rwanda’s children because it will add “man-years of human misery”, (The Lancet)[i]. There are some in this world that promote such failures to humanity.
I could provide many other examples of international organisations that essentially did the same in so many areas.
The world failed to imagine that Rwanda could be where it is today. We have thus proven these dangerous skeptics wrong. We have shown that we can break dangerous cycles of despair through forgiveness, reconciliation, and standing united for a brighter future.
Many describe Rwanda’s transformation over the past two decades as nothing short of a miracle. And yet this discredits the intentional and participatory processes that we have developed as a country to overcome these formidable obstacles.
Under the guidance of our President, a leader who knew that a brighter future would only be possible if Rwandans internalised and worked towards this vision collectively. We trusted him and he leads this movement to be innovative in our collective thinking. We have refused to leave the most vulnerable behind and held strong to our commitment to equity.
We have created policies that are relevant and responsive to the community at the grassroots level. We have sought out partners who share in our Vision 2020 and beyond. And so much more. Such innovations have translated into consistent economic growth and unprecedented health improvements, among others. Thank you Mister President.
While we have come so far, we all know that we have a long way to go under your guidance. Our journey has only begun. But this promising future for our beautiful land of a thousand hills would not be possible without the critical, challenging first steps that our beloved survivors took to pursue real and lasting reconciliation.
To each of you, I hope you know how deeply I admire your courage and thank you for the opportunity to learn from you and be with you in this journey towards a brighter future for all Rwandans.
The writer is the Minister for Health.