Rwanda yesterday joined the rest of the world to celebrate the International Day of Peace, with a call for concerted efforts to rally youth behind peace building processes.
The Peace Day event in the country was marked by Youth Parliamentary Exchange on peace-building at Parliament Building in Kigali, a session that brought together youth representatives from all districts of the country.
Speaker Donatile Mukabalisa, who was the chief guest, stressed the need for peace in the country’s development and challenged the youth to play their part to consolidate it.
“Rwanda’s unique testimony about the absence of peace in the country for a long time gave us an experience and always makes us think each day that there’s a lot we can do to make our people better. Where there’s good governance, we can sustainably ensure that there’s peace and development,” she said.
“It is through the youth that we can achieve all this given that they make the majority of our population. We undoubtedly believe in them and their efforts to build a better future for our country.”
Mukabalisa shared Rwanda’s experience in overcoming a tragic past, particularly the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, and the lessons learnt during the peace-building process.
At the beginning of the youth exchange, leaders and other participants watered a ‘peace tree’ planted at Parliament Building in 2014 when Rwanda first marked Peace Day.
At the session were Ministers for Education, Culture and Sports, and President’s office, One-UN representative, MPs, officials from National Unity and Reconciliation Commission (NURC), and other peace actors.
Venantia Tugireyezu, the minister in the Office of the President, explained that the value of peace in Rwanda can only be meaningful if youth actively take part.
“We cannot replace peace with anything. We tasted a situation where there was no peace, and we know what it feels like. We also tasted the situation where there’s peace, and we are feeling it,” she said.
“We valued and still value the youth as a driving force toward achieving this. We know they are the ones who interrupted peace and at the same time they took part in bringing it back.”
Fidele Ndayisaba, the executive secretary of NURC, said lack of unity and reconciliation is an automated absence of peace and called for collective participation of the youth in building resilient communities.
Like the global community, Rwanda marked the day under the theme, “Building the Blocks of Peace: The role of Youth in Sustainable Peace and Development,” with a focus onf the recently adopted Sustainable Development Goals.
“Some countries cannot celebrate peace today because it’s absent in their communities. The absence of peace impedes restoration of hope. Rwanda invested heavily in justice, reconciliation and peace, it is evident that without peace, there is no development,” said Stephen Rodriques, the One-UN representative.
He said this year’s theme is in line with the global community’s vision to achieve the ambitious Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.
The Global Goals highlight the reason for sustaining peace, particularly SDG16 that provides a good entry point for peace consolidation, according to Rodriques.
Unemployment, extremism, drug abuse, and human trafficking, among others, were some of the problems cited that the youth face today. Government leaders, peace actors committed to overcome them and ensure the youth participate wholly in peace-building processes.
“As one of the peace actors, we define youth as an important part of the population in understanding the peace-building process. There are still challenges like violent extremism that we are committing to deal with,” said Eric Mahoro, director of programmes at Never Again Rwanda.