Why Africa must think and act big

TWENTY YEARS have passed since the Genocide against the Tutsi and a lot have happened. We have to remember the victims, console the survivals and make a commitment to ‘Never Again’.
Joseph Habineza
Joseph Habineza

TWENTY YEARS have passed since the Genocide against the Tutsi and a lot have happened. We have to remember the victims, console the survivals and make a commitment to ‘Never Again’. That’s why our theme this year is ‘Remember, Unite, Renew’. 20 years ago, up to 1,074, 017 lives were wasted in 100 days,
meaning on average 10,740 people being killed every day, 448 every hour and 7 every minute. A whole country became a killing field where innocent people were being hunted by their neighbours just for the simple fact of being Tutsi, related to them or being against the rulers of genocide ideology.

Until today people are wondering what are the causes of this tragedy!? A genocide never happens spontaneously, it’s planned, prepared, taught and executed.
The ideology takes time to mature, that’s why in the Rwandan case, we have to look at its root causes and the political ones. We can’t ignore or close our eyes on the role played by the Catholic Church missionaries and the colonialists in destroying our traditions and culture!

The divide-and-rule strategy brought by the colonial masters divided the Rwandan society but also the lack of vision, charisma and the selfishness of bad politicians contributed a lot to this tragedy! Poverty and ignorance among the masses made the situation worse.

When the killings started the world turned their back to us, every country focusing on its internal problems, it’s only Nigeria, Czech, New Zealand and Spain among then members of UN Security Council who tried to raise an alarm, warning that a genocide was happening in Rwanda.

The media didn’t report enough on what was happening in Rwanda as they were busy covering other news like the African Cup of Nations finals, the World Cup, the death of Formula One Champion Eryton Senna, etc.

At the end of those 100 days of darkness, Rwanda was completely destroyed without any hope for reconstruction or reconciliation of its citizens. The so-called or self claimed “Africa Specialists” were proposing to split the country into two parts or to put the country under UN protectorate.

It took resilience, ‘never say die’ spirit of Rwandans to build a new Rwanda, one that everybody is today celebrating its achievements in doing business, ICT, health, agriculture, women empowerment , good governance, security, to mention a few.

As my President stated in his speech on April 7, 2014 in Kigali, after the Genocide, we made three choices: Stay United, Being Accountable, and Thinking Big.

Going back to our culture and tradition, we adopted our values to help us overcome challenges we were facing.

Gacaca helped deliver justice with regard to Genocide cases, Umuganda is helping in unity and development, Ubudehe and Girinka helping in poverty alleviation, and many more homegrown solutions helped restore unity among Rwandans. Today, we proudly identify ourselves as “Umunyarwanda” and no longer as Umuhutu, Umututsi or Umutwa.

Accountability to the community you serve is our motto. We are driven by Our Dignity or Agaciro that demands us to deliver and outperform in whatever we do.

I express my gratitude to all our development partners who assisted and continue to support Rwanda in our socio-economic transformation. The lessons that the world should learn from our tragedy are many and I essentially implore my brothers and friends in Nigeria to note that, nobody is born a killer; manipulation, brain washing and bad leadership lead to genocide. I indulge Nigerian politicians to put their country and Nigerians above their own interest.
Those who are backing terrorist groups should think twice because when you start those activities you never know when and how it will end. Why should people die due to their religion? After all, Islam nor Christianity is not a Nigerian invention! Focus on the 90 per cent you have in common than the adopted small
difference you have.

In Rwanda, we say “Akimuhana kaza imvura ihise”, meaning ‘an external help or aid comes after it’s stopped raining’; I think our wise ancestors had foreseen what would happen in 1994! The international community abandoned us during the Genocide only to return when there was peace. There is another saying that
goes, “Usenya urwe umutiza umuhoro”, meaning that ‘when somebody is destroying their shelter you help them with a machete”, so dear brothers and sisters of Nigeria, you should solve your own problems using dialogue and always put the national interest above individuals’.

To my fellow Africans, we have to Think and Act Big; it’s time for Africa to take responsibility of our destiny and not wait for outsiders to come and solve our problems.

The Rwandan experience should teach us to understand the world we live in and know that in politics there is no permanent friendship but permanent interests. We should not be naive! Our natural and human resources should benefit us, and not threaten us. They should not serve as enablers of civil wars, insurgencies and terrorism.

This article was extracted from the remarks by Rwanda’s High Commissioner to Nigeria, Joseph Habineza, during the occasion to mark the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, in Abuja on April 13.



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