ON MAY 31, 2013, I joined my Rotarian colleagues in a walk to remember the victims of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. We walked from the Kigali public library (Rwanda Library Services) site to the Kigali Memorial Centre. It was very insightful, especially the good work being done by the officials at the National Commission for the Fight against Genocide (CNLG).
You have to give it to the guys at CNLG. They are doing a very good job. They have kept the respect for the dignity of the victims of the Genocide against the Tutsi in the minds of Rwandans and friends of Rwanda. They have also kept it in the minds of the genocidaires and Genocide deniers whose revisionist agenda aimed at rewriting history to revise the truth (basically replace the truth with a lie) to make it more palatable to them.
This is important because it not only ensures that the human dignity that the Genocide victims were denied by its planners and executors is restored, but also because this is what humanism should be about, it is what differentiates us from animals. It also keeps us from repeating old mistakes that led this catastrophe.
They are succeeding too. The recent public uproar at a supposedly ‘sagely’ advice by a leader from a neighboring country that Rwanda engages in ‘talks’ with the genocidal group FDLR is a testimony of how successful they have raised public awareness on the atrocities associated with genocide within and outside Rwanda.
Genocide (the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group) is never spontaneous. In Rwanda, the Genocide against the Tutsi was a planned and systematic attempt at exterminating the Tutsi. The leader only needs to visit memorial centres like Kigali Genocide Memorial, Murambi Memorial Centre, Nyamata Memorial Site, Ntarama Memorial Site, Bisesero Memorial Site, Nyanza Memorial Site, Nyarubuye Memorial Site, and he would talk very differently.
Every year there is a commemoration theme. Last year, it was about working towards a bright future. This year CNLG went one up with ‘striving towards self reliance’ (Duharanire Kwigira). Year after year they capture the mood of the nation. Key point is that Rwanda does not see itself as a victim but seeks to determine its future as a country and that of its people.
So, how do we strive to be self-reliant? This is a question that should preoccupy the mind of every Rwandan and indeed that of every African.
As Ralph Waldo Emerson would put it, the mind is initially subject to an unhappy conformism. We are not too eager mentally to play along. This is based on his argument that we each of us have a self-contained genius, which faces the disapproval of the world, and can only be rescued by the value of self-worth.
Emerson urges us to believe our own thought, to believe that, “what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men, — that is genius.”
Clearly we live in a world where we are not encouraged, especially as Africans, to think for ourselves. As Emerson would put it “we are timid and apologetic…no longer upright; none of us dares to say, ‘I think, I am,” he exhorts, “trust thyself”.
Such thought must be followed by determined and concerted action. Trust is the ultimate faith. The faith must be followed by validating action, otherwise it would be a mere illusion.
Properly defined, self reliance is reliance on one’s own capabilities, judgment, or resources; independence. When we are striving towards this state, we need to define who we are. Simple? Maybe not. In defining the ‘we’ interdependence comes into play. It is not enough that we are singularly independent politically, economically or otherwise (which is impractical). It means more interdependence characterised by mutual reciprocity and fairness as opposed to the imbalanced and one sided that bedevil us currently.
Self reliance does not imply isolationism. It is engaging more in a give-and-take manner. It is taking our rightful place at the table. It is every citizen, small or great being focused and productive be they great or small. It is the country trading with her neighbours and engaging with them otherwise to ensure prosperity and peace.
This is hard work and calls for determination, creativity and involvement. We must up our game. Here we have to work smart and hard.