High profile speakers at the just concluded UN meeting on post-conflict peace building paid tribute to Rwanda as a country that has managed, within a short period, to put behind its past to embark on a successful development path.
The two-day high-level meeting which brought together Heads of Government, high profile institutional heads and representatives from nations that constitute the UN Peace Building Commission (PBC) and countries emerging from conflict, ended with delegates issuing a communiqué dubbed the “Kigali Outcomes”.
During the closing session, which was attended by President Paul Kagame, the Prime Minister of Côte d’Ivoire, Guillaume Soro and the Deputy Prime Minister of East Timor, José Luís Guterres, participants reflected on the lessons learnt from Rwanda.
In her remarks, Judy Cheng-Hopkins, the UN Assistant Secretary-General for Peace building, said that the meeting lived up to its purpose with many lessons drawn from Rwanda’s experience.
“The lessons we got from Rwanda’s experience would be very difficult to summarise, but there were certain messages that seemed to resonate well with other member states of the PBC,” she said.
“To highlight those that particularly resonated well, President Kagame yesterday talked about leadership. I think there was truly a very impressive definition of leadership as not just leadership from the top, but up and down bureaucracies, up and down institutions.”
She noted that fostering of leadership from the grassroots is what has actually translated into the progress and implementation realised today in Rwanda, similar to what happened in developed countries.
“This concept of leadership crossing across all lines is very important and I really hope people take this message away.
“Another thing that stuck out is the equity in development gains from the grassroots, reaching out to all people, gender, generation and equity in the distribution of services, health, education etc and lastly the women’s role in peace building,” Cheng-Hopkins observed.
She added that women’s role in peace building is not about women rights, but the durability and sustainability of peace, stability and development as women play a key role in this, citing Rwanda and Liberia as countries that have involved women and whose results are tremendous.
Gabriel Negatu, the Director, East African Region, African Development Bank (AfDB), the co-organisers of the conference, said that the continental body was pleased with the outcomes of the two-day meet which raised concerns at right the platform.
“I think this has been a useful exercise and the AfDB is pleased to have associated itself with the government of Rwanda and the UN to host this meeting. For us, we did take a number of key lessons, but collectively, we have shared experiences and drawn lessons,” said Negatu.
He added that the conference in Kigali raised the ‘African voice’, where Africans raised and debated their own issues rather than ‘listening to partners and experts’ as it happens in most conferences.
“This shows the desire for Africans to take up leadership roles and define the global agenda, not just what is happening in Africa,” Negatu said.
Earlier in the meeting, Negatu and the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance, Pitchette Kampeta Sayinzoga, discussed the use and effectiveness of aid in Africa, calling for a mutual understanding between donors and the receiving countries on the terms and use of aid.
While accountability and coordination of aid use were cited as the most important aspects to ensure its effectiveness, it was observed that African countries should be able to set standards to receive and use aid, with the aim of weaning themselves of it.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Louise Mushikiwabo, who was among the main discussants of the final day, highlighted the role of traditional values in post-conflict peace building as well as the role of women.
She noted that Rwanda’s success can partly be attributed to the integration of some of the country’s traditional social justice systems like Gacaca as well as other practices that encourage reconciliation and unity which had tremendously paid off.
Mushikiwabo highlighted that historically, women played a vital role in the Rwandan society, including taking up leadership roles, observing that even in the years of conflict, women bore the brunt of violence, yet in the reconciliation process, women again played a leading role.
The minister also paid tribute to Rwandan men who took the resolve to accord women their place in society, including leadership roles, observing that this has since become part of the Rwandan culture.
At the end of the conference, Ambassador Eugene Richard Gasana, Rwanda’s Representative at the UN and the current chair of the PBC, read out the “Kigali Outcomes” communiqué which will be presented to the UN.
“The outcomes represent lessons learnt from the Rwandan experience in peace building and state building, as well as recommendations made by key stakeholders.
“The key lessons include, inclusive ownership and leadership which are essential in post-conflict peace building as it was demonstrated in Rwanda,” Gasana said.
The two-day high level event was moderated by renowned Sudanese-British BBC news anchor, Zainab Badawi, who herself observed that Rwanda’s progress was breathtaking.