When the Rwanda Patriotic Army (RPA) ended the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi twenty-one years ago this month, a huge battle had been won but the victory also marked the beginning of a new war, that against genocide ideology.
This new war is more complicated to fight because the enemy is intangible and it’s hard to be sure even when you win.
It’s why I took it with a pinch of salt early this week when Théogène Twagiramungu, head teacher of ACEDI-Mataba in Gakenke District told me that they have uprooted genocide ideology from the school.
ACEDI-Mataba is a rather special case after an extraordinary parliamentary probe committee set up a few years ago to investigate genocide ideology in schools found that it was the worst infested by the vice in the entire country.
At this school, parents who had a hand in the killings would arm their kids with poisonous ideas at home with instructions to wreck havoc on survivors; derogatory names would be hurled about and scary handwritten notes and other acts of brutality were not uncommon.
But the head teacher insisted that anti-genocide ideology clubs have seen out the problem and that all 625 students in the school were clear headed.
How do you know that society is finally free from genocide ideology? What would the signs be? What would it take to heal someone of such ideas?
In the period leading up to the events of April 1994, the genocide ideology had parents; it had a father, a mother, siblings, relatives and friends.
Although the ouster of the genocide parent regime technically left the genocide ideology orphaned, its siblings, relatives and friends remained at large having fled into exile where they continue to champion extremist ideals.
So as along as these siblings, relatives and friends remain active, there will always be a chance that their ideas will sneak through to young Rwandan kids with absorbent heads, this, through sympathetic agents in the media and governments around the world.
In Rwanda, the new administration under the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) has introduced new ideals, ideals of freedoms and equal opportunities for all Rwandans to co-exist in harmony and work towards social economic transformation.
The war against genocide ideology is one about changing mindsets and helping the young generation of Rwandans set developmental priorities in life, there must be alternatives at their disposal, we should create these alternatives.
It’s a choice between peace or war, love or hatred, development or destruction, economic transformation or poverty, unity or divisive politics and Rwandans have chosen the better alternative in all cases.
Once someone tastes the fruits of peace, unity, freedom and economic transformation, it’s hard for them to continue harboring evil ideals such as the genocide ideology.
That’s why although we have a strong anti-genocide ideology law; I believe its RPF’s new ideals that must be continuously emphasized as an alternative for those that still breed genocidal ideas.
However thin the hope of a country could be at some point, a hero always emerges to lead the people through recovery, and in the last twenty one years, Rwandans have tasted what was almost impossible to imagine two decades ago.
The people have managed to rise above their differences to build a country called Rwanda with people known as Rwandans and leadership that has inspired pride so strong that any attempts to return to the past would be resisted.
“Rwanda has changed and it has changed forever,” a quote by President Paul Kagame that has trended throughout this week.
Where bad politics failed Rwanda and led it into abyss, good leadership has managed to put the country back on track with developmental ideals on the table to counter genocidal ones and the benefits have been experienced by everyone.
Actually, the ongoing campaign aimed at convincing President Kagame to stay on after 2017 is a result of a strong desire to continue drawing dividends of his visionary leadership.
But even if the president was to resist these pleas by the people to have him around some more, there’s a consolation to that, a foundation to take Rwanda forward has been firmly established in the last 21 years.
Everyone who owns a house knows that it’s the foundation that matters most; it’s also always the hardest to build especially on a hilly rugged terrain like Rwanda’s.