What reference will future generations have for ‘94 Genocide?

There is a common saying that “in African when an old person dies the whole library is burnt down or you may as well say the whole library is buried”.
 Stephen Mugisha
Stephen Mugisha

There is a common saying that “in African when an old person dies the whole library is burnt down or you may as well say the whole library is buried”.

This old saying is in reference with the fact that due to oral nature for most African societies, we continue losing a lot of information every time an old person dies. This phrase has been in existence for generations and it continues to be a bitter pill of reality for most African societies even in the twenty first century.

I was caught off guard recently when I had to answer many questions from my five year son.

He had keenly followed TV talk shows during the just-concluded Genocide commemoration week and after a short spell of internal soul searching, he realised he had many questions for which he had no answers and the next person to consult was dad and rightly so.

Some of his questions included; who are Hutus and who are the Tutsis in Rwanda? Why did the Hutu kill the Tutsi? What had the latter done to be killed? I tried to give answers to his questions in the best way that I could and we ended our talk on a positive note because he told me that we are all God’s people and He equally loves us so we should live in peace with each other.

He also informed me that his Sunday school teachers always tell them that we should love each other and ask for forgiveness where we wrong our friends.

However, the net effect of the Genocide against the Ttutsi and its implications by extension, go beyond this small encounter with my son as narrated above. The Genocide is an absurd part of our history and it will always be referenced as such.

The current generation has been intertwined in disastrous effects of this dark history of humanity through first hand encounters with the victims and survivors of the 1994 horrors.

The point of concern should be the upcoming generations. What reference sources will the future generations have for this inhuman and horrific act? 

If this part of history is to remain relevant and appear vivid to the future generations it must be written by the very people who witnessed it, first, the victims, survivors and, where possible, the perpetrators.

One of the best ways of preserving this history for the posterity is through writing books. One of the advantages of books over other forms is easy accessibility and convenience, especially in our context where other forms, especially electronic ones, might be expensive and hardly accessible.

Beyond writing books on Genocide, there is need to integrate genocide lessons throughout our education curricula on a scale bigger than it is today. 

As raised in one of my write-ups in this paper “one of the major mistakes we make as Africans is not writing our own history and it ends up being written by a group of self-styled experts and specialists from the western world who often write it badly”! Jean Hatzfeld’s book, Machete season says it all: “The truth is not believable to someone who has not lived it in his muscles.”  Let the whole world say no and never again to genocide.

The writer is an educationist, author and publisher.

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