Am finding it difficult to believe that any sane person, who has read or followed the history of this nation, can dare say that Rwandans have not moved a single inch in the process of reconciliation.
That in Rwanda, the peasantry is defying reconciliation, as one Susan Thompson wants the world to believe is to me, a falsehood that puts shame not on Rwanda but to the very authors of such shallow work.
Nonetheless, it only serves to prove the cynicism and personal vendetta that some individuals hold for this government.
Ms. Thompson’s lens towards Rwanda has never been objective, at least going by her writings. However, as an academic her hatred for this government should not blind her intellectual conscience and ability to make proper judgment.
To say that from the rural Rwandan poor, reconciliation is considered as a program that is unjust and illegitimate as it works against their interests as peasants, is simply telling a lie or throwing mud where it’s undue.
I have read volumes of testimonies on the success stories of healing in this country. I have seen dozens of documentaries on this topic on powerful media outlets like BBC, CNN, ABC etc I have personally witnessed remarkable stories of where survivors are living side by side with perpetrators and sharing household items, like basic food items with the very people that killed their kith and kin.
I have seen forgiving hearts characterized by smiles and open hugs between killers and survivors.
And yet, despite these gigantic strides, the majority of us still know that the process is endless.
But again, maybe the quick pace at which we have attained these reconciliatory achievements is what baffles the likes of Suzan Thompson who are still trapped in the Western stereotype that nothing good comes from this part of the world.
Like the 2009 UN declaration on reconciliation says, the concept of reconciliation is extremely complex and encapsulates a multitude of principles, variables, dimensions and meaning.
This healing process is not an overnight dream. It is a gradual process that is measured or assessed using rigorous and systematic methods and not in isolation of the other key policies and programs that are aimed at the well-being of the ordinary citizens.
It must be examined in connection with policies and such programs on education, agriculture, health infrastructure and not in isolation.
For one to derive meaningful understanding on the healing process, one must take into account the kind of confidence and trust citizens have in the area of public delivery and functioning of state institutions like parliament, Justice, army etc.
Going by the 2010 Gallup poll, which stated that 95 percent of Rwandan have confidence in their government should be a good indicator of how programs and policies are working well for the ordinary Rwandan. This does not exclude unity and reconciliation.
The Gallup poll showed that 86 percent of Rwandan stated that their electoral process is fair and honest; 98 percent have confidence in their military; 84 percent in their judiciary’s independence; 77 percent were satisfied with their freedom of expression, belief, association, and personal autonomy.
The focus on confidence that citizens have in institutions is important simply because for reconciliation to be meaningful it has to hinge on strong and effective institutions.
Therefore, any research on this discourse has to be broader and not based on a simple question that dictates a yes and no answer. The process of reconciliation is an amalgamation of so many factors including those directly linked to programs of reconciliation and the larger geopolitical environment.
From Thompson article, one simply concludes that she jumped into a village with a pre-mediated mindset and narrowed her conclusion on two individuals.
She described Umuganda and Gacaca as mandatory activities that have been a waste of time for Rwandans, who should instead be tending to their fields. Surely, can any sane person contest the contribution of umuganda to this country? Or is it simply trying to undermine any good thing, since nothing ‘sensible’ comes out of Africa.
Mind you, Gacaca and Umuganda are not a creation of yesterday. They are values rooted in the culture of the Rwandan people for centuries.
To criticize is one’s democratic right. But to simply criticize without giving an alternative solution is simply adding no value to any discussion.
On twitter @aasiimwe