Having selfless leaders willing to put the country’s interest ahead of their own is critical in maintaining peace.
This was the message delivered yesterday to delegates including religious and youth leaders and delegates from Central African Republic and South Sudan, who are meeting at a peace conference in Kigali.
The two-day conference, organised by Faith-based organisations, Rwanda Youth Action Network, Rwanda Civil Society Platform and Aegis Trust, brings together religious leaders from CAR and youth leaders from South Sudan, as well as their Rwandan counterparts.
The delegation from CAR comprises both Christian and Muslim leaders, a welcome gesture considering that the conflict that has devastated the country mainly pits Christian against Muslim militias.
Notable among the CAR delegation include Archbishop Dieudonne Nzapalainga, the leader of the Catholic Church in the capital Bangui; Rev. Nicolas Guerekoyame Gbangou, the leader of the Evangelical Alliance; and Imam Omar Kobin Layama, the leader of the Islamic community.
Speaking at the opening of the conference, Local Government minister Francis Kaboneka said Rwanda was proof that good leadership can bring lasting peace.
“Going by our experience, we can confirm that leadership can destroy or develop any country. The role of leadership is paramount in setting, guiding and promoting the shared vision, ethics and national values among the people,” Kabokeka said.
“Whether religious, military, civil society, you need to have leadership values, you need to lead people with dignity and passion; you must be ready to inspire people before you inspire yourself.”
Kaboneka asked the delegates to take lessons from the various Genocide memorials in the country they visited to see the magnitude and impacts of a genocide ideology.
He also called on the youth in the two countries to be active peace ambassadors and refuse to be influenced by the older generation who may want to mislead them to engage in committing atrocities, saying they had a big opportunity to restore stability.
He said Rwanda would stand in solidarity with the two countries in their efforts to achieve lasting peace.
Identifying the reasons for most African conflicts, Monsignor Smaragde Mbonyintege, the bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Kabgayi and spokersperson of the Catholic Church in Rwanda, said most times the causes of atrocities narrowed down to foreign actors with vested interests, selfish ambitions of warlords, and ignorance of citizens making them easy to manipulate.
“If we want to live in peace and ensure stability, we are supposed to find solutions to the root causes of conflict,” the bishop said.
The Mufti of Rwanda, Sheikh Ibrahim Kayitare, who is the coordinator of the initiative, said part of the reasons Rwanda was involved in the intervention in the ongoing conflicts is because of the strong belief of the role of the international community in ending atrocities.
“It doesn’t mean that these two countries have to wait for foreigners to bring peace to them. Like in the case of Rwanda, it is possible to achieve peace and reconcile and integrate their communities,” he said.
Dr Diogene Bideri, a senior research consultant at the National Commission for the Fight against Genocide, said lasting stability can be achieved by ensuring security and equal resource distribution.
Tinna Aring, a youth representative from South Sudan, said the conference had provided a chance for her and other participants to see the end-term impacts of full-blown atrocities.
“The youth and religious leaders have the biggest opportunities to see an end to the atrocities,” Aring said.
Under the supervision of regional bloc, Igad peace talks between South Sudan’s government and rebels resumed in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, earlier this week with August 10 as the deadline to agree on a transitional government.