Rwanda’s reconciliation story is a sensitive topic easily misunderstood by the so-called western experts on Africa.
Since the vast majority of western experts such as Susan Thomson deliberately choose to look at Africa’s justice system from their own point of view, naturally, there is bound to be a serious difference of opinion regarding discussions based on such issues.
The countries in the Great Lakes region including Rwanda have borne the brunt of prolonged violence for decades.
Such acts of violence can be said to be mainly fuelled by colonial and neo-colonial influences. One such influence is the aftermath of the end of cold war that played out in the mid 1990s.
After the Cold War, the very western powers that served to diligently prop up dictators within the region, decided that it needed change that was long overdue. Since part of the stifling western influences in the region included a deliberate attempt to prevent such states from adopting acceptable political transition mechanisms, violence served as the only possible alternative to effect change that this region badly needed.
And so the dictators such as Idi Amin Dada, Milton Obote, Juvenile Habyarimana and Mobutu Seseko started falling like a pack of cards. Fast forward to the year 2011.
It is noteworthy to say that different states within the region that were afflicted by post cold war era violent change of guard, have managed to restructure their justice systems at varying levels.
Notable among such states is Rwanda’s unique story on rebuilding a sound justice system given its similarly unique circumstances. Confronting the horrors of the genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda, that was carried out in just 100 days in 1994, serves as the cornerstone of Rwanda’s new justice system. It is an equally sensitive topic.
However, Rwandans unlike many states in the Great Lakes region must be applauded for crafting mostly home grown solutions to problems emanating from the need for change, much to the surprise and bewilderment of many observers such as the so-called western experts on Africa.
One of the key elements of Rwanda’s reconstruction agenda that seeks to chart a completely new path for its people, whose social fabric was torn by the ravages of 1994 genocide against the Tutsi, is reconciliation.
Reweaving the social fabric in Rwanda through reconciliation, as it can happen anywhere, is a very delicate affair that is not easily understood by the so called western experts on Africa, such as Susan Thomson.
For instance, it is pure fallacy to state that Rwandans avoid reconciliation since it is well understood that impunity in the new dispensation, must be fought at all costs and that the best way forward is to mostly account and may be forgive in certain instances, but not forgetting what happened in the past. In this new journey, it is false to state that Rwandans are known to avoid such a vital exercise by staying on the sidelines.
Another issue has to do with numerous programs related to the national drive for unity. It is also wrong to state that such programs have served to prevent Rwandans from tending their fields and/or serving to stop Rwandans from engaging in other life-sustaining activities.
Actually, the exact opposite has been happening. It is worth noting that such programs have been rolled out, side by side with the economic transformation agenda.
Rwanda is awash with stories of peasants appreciating the evident change in their livelihoods while all these unity and reconciliation programs have been undertaken without any interruption in their quest for economic empowerment.
This means that such programs are not likely to be called off anytime soon.
The fact that Rwandans are doing it using what they think is best for them rather than what is imposed on them, naturally, means that many others deliberately choose to ignore the good things that come out of such initiatives.
If it boils down to such a situation, is it incorrect to say that such a story is a perfect case of sour grapes among western experts of Africa whose advice is often heard but not necessarily adopted?
The author is an editor with The New Times