AftEr the defeat of the genocidal regime in 1994, many Rwandans cried rather than cheered. The idea that all Rwandans could be re-united in their motherland after a generation was not something many expected. The odds were always against a united and prosperous Rwanda. The remarkable thing is not only that it has succeeded against the odds; rather, the country has actually become one of the most successful nations in recent African history.
The question lingering in most experts’ minds is: how did Rwanda manage this remarkable turn-around. While there has been a plethora of narratives explaining Rwanda’s success, what many people don’t know is that, after the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, Rwandan nationalism and the evolution of a unique Rwandan identity premised on mutual respect, hard work and tolerance took centre stage. Throughout history, these two have been the nation’s greatest assets.
This sense of nationalism inculcates in its citizens a sense of national identity and serves as a source of strength in times of uncertainty and change. In short, Rwanda’s heritage provides a platform where she draws inspiration in times of greater need and less in text books or lectures from experts. More precisely, Rwanda’s heritage defines its identity and inspires its future.
In many ways, our heritage bears testimony to the collective meaning of Rwandan values and informs the evolution of our culture, work ethic and lifestyle. It is thus unique and could provide a recipe for socio-economic transformation to many African countries. However, in the age of rapid globalisation, there is a rising threat of losing unique identities and diluting traditional cultures. This ever increasing trend is something that needs to be combated fiercely.
There is no doubt that, amid the dynamic changes arising from Rwanda’s rapid transformation and global trends, heritage and culture serve as a keel connecting all Rwandans with their hearts and souls.
The rising affluence and mobility of Rwandans have also fostered greater interest and recognition of the importance and need for heritage and culture in our lives. There is a palpable urgency for the rejuvenation of the past as a relevant source for celebrating and empowering the present and the future.
Interest and desire to preserve heritage and pass it on to the future generations needs to be carefully balanced with increasing economic affluence, socio-political maturity and a population that is more educated than at any other time in Rwanda’s history. A critical element in defining Rwanda’s cultural brand must be content that is true to the identity of its constituent communities.
Therefore, Rwanda’s unique culture should be presented in innovative ways that are world-class, educational and rooted in scholarship, yet fun, entertaining and accessible to the man and woman in the street. The development of distinctive and unique content, presented in a contemporary manner, is therefore a key strategy for Rwanda’s success. There is no doubt that heritage and culture resonate with a nation’s heart and soul.
In a nutshell, Rwanda’s success story is now well known.