KIGALI - The Executive Secretary of the National Unity and Reconciliation Commission (NURC), Dr. Jean Baptiste Habyarimana, yesterday, said that the UN expert, Gay McDougall, currently in the country to carry out a study on whether Rwandans are living in harmony is engaged in an exercise in futility.
Speaking to The New Times, Habyarimana said that the last 16 years have seen unprecedented efforts to unite the Rwandan people, and that every study that has been carried out to evaluate the success of the unity policy has demonstrated that the Rwandan people are living harmoniously.
“Today, the only studies on unity and reconciliation that we are increasingly hosting, are representatives and officials from post-conflict societies coming to learn from the success of Rwanda with regard to how a society torn apart by Genocide has managed to make every citizen feel that they are genuinely part of the society,” Habyarimana said.
“Indeed, when I met the expert in my office, this week, she had a copy of one of the studies demonstrating how harmonious the Rwanda society is.”
Habyarimana, added that the Commission showed her the reconciliation progress and will also take her around so that she can see how Rwandans are living and working together in harmony.
“We want her to see for herself, examples of associations whose membership include the pardoned genocidaires, genocide survivors and Batwa and are working together in harmony,” Habyarimana said.
According to a statement from the UN office, during her eight-day visit, the expert said she will consult with government officials and various stakeholders on the legislation, policies and practices in place to ensure equality and non-discrimination.
“I am visiting Rwanda to learn about its efforts and initiatives to ensure a future of equality, acceptance, and peaceful co-existence and to offer the assistance of my UN mandate to government as it confronts inevitable challenges,” McDougall is quoted in the statement.
“My visit provides a valuable opportunity to witness those challenges, identify good practices, and for constructive dialogue to help the government prevent problems emerging in the future.”
Speaking to The New Times, the Minister of Local Government, James Musoni, said that anyone doing research about cohesion in Rwanda is free to do so, as long as they do not come into the country with the intention of dividing Rwandans.
“If she has some contribution she wants to give to us, it would be useful to listen to that expert because we don’t hold back helpful advice,” said Musoni.
He, however, was quick to add that the situation in the country as far as social cohesion is concerned, has registered remarkable progress.
“There is a recent survey that was conducted by the National Unity and Reconciliation Commission (NURC) which shows that 80 percent of Rwandans are comfortable living along side one another and look at themselves as Rwandans other than being defined along ethnic lines,” he said.
“We would not keep anybody out of what we are doing and what we have achieved. Everybody is welcome provided they have good intentions.”
According to Nausicaa Habimana Kantengwa, from the UNDP communications department, McDougall is not available to talk to journalists before Monday when she is scheduled to host a news conference.