RWANDA has offered to champion the struggle to eliminate ethnic-based beliefs in the Great Lakes Region which is a major source of regional conflicts.
This emerged during the opening of a regional conference that is seeking to find answers to the question of ethnic ideology that has haunted the region for many years hampering development.
The conference which opened on Friday, is organized by AMANI Forum, Rwanda Chapter is being attended by AMANI Parliamentary forums from Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Zambia.
It seeks to generate long lasting solutions to the problem of ethnocentrism and its causes in the Great Lakes Region. Speaking to The New Times on the second day of the conference, the Chairperson of AMANI Rwanda Chapter Amb Denis Polisi, said that Rwanda has suffered more from the effects of ethnic based conflict than any other country in the region, therefore should lead the way in condemning ethnic-based ideologies that can lead to conflict.
“Rwanda is the epicentre of ethnocentric ideology, it originated here and the struggle to eliminate it has started here. Rwanda as a country and the Rwandan people are committed to fostering peace in the region.”
Addressing the house on the opening day, Polisi, who also doubles as the Vice President of the Chamber of Deputies, said that the initial 3 countries formerly attached to Belgium, that made up the Great Lakes Region– Rwanda, Burundi and DRC– have all gone through high magnitude conflicts whose root causes are centred on ethnicity, with Rwanda suffering the most in the devastating, 1994 Genocide against Tutsis which claimed the lives of over one million people.
Amb. Polisi said that Rwanda has put in place strict laws which don’t only punish those who participated in the 1994 Genocide, but also those harbouring the ideology
Burundi and DRC are still grappling with perennial ethnic-based conflicts, while Rwanda is also still facing a problem of negative forces habouring the Genocide ideology hiding inside the DRC.
However, since then, the Great Lakes Region has grown to include other countries in the Region including Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, Angola and Sudan after realizing that these countries in one way or another have had their experiences of conflicts resulting from ethnic differences.
Participants in the conference were taken through the history of ethnic divides in Rwanda and Burundi from the time when they were carefully engineered by colonialists up to when they matured into strong hate ideology capable of sparking off Genocide like the one in Rwanda in 1994.
Participants called upon countries in the Great Lakes Region forum to observe peace and security agreements put in place to foster peace in the region such as the AMANI Goma Peace Agreement and the Nairobi Declaration. The conference ends today afternoon.