Fifteen years on: the past impacts on the future

Fifteen years ago, all signs that all was not okay in this country were glaringly obvious to all. By March, 1994, the peace talks aimed at bringing about a transitional government and ensuring the return of all Bayarwanda refugees had run into a gridlock.

Fifteen years ago, all signs that all was not okay in this country were glaringly obvious to all. By March, 1994, the peace talks aimed at bringing about a transitional government and ensuring the return of all Bayarwanda refugees had run into a gridlock.

This was because the then extremist government could not come to terms with the fact that, they would have to be involved in a power sharing government, which would put Rwanda on the path to democratisation. 

By the time Juvenal Habyarimana met his death, all had been put in place by his cronies to fulfil what they saw as their “historical mission”.

The extermination of the Tutsis was a core reason for the existence of that regime. What happened in the one hundred days beginning in early April 1994 was a genocidal carnage that could hardly be imagined. 

From experience, many never doubted the fact that the regime of the time, given its ideological line would have followed such a path.

For the many Banyarwanda refugees who had lived in refugee settlements for over three decades, the mass killings were not something new as many watchers would have believed.

The circumstances of their existence as refugees had been occasioned by earlier successive genocidal pogroms against Tutsis.

During yesterday’s Umuganda, citizens in different localities spent time discussing how to commemorate the 1994 Genocide against Tutsis, this year.

As many remember their loved ones who died because of the circumstances of their birth, this time also gets others to reflect and imagine what life would have been had there not been genocidal massacres beginning in 1959.

Due to this turbulent history, people took different paths in life that would later define post 1994 Rwanda and the essence of Banyarwanda the world over.

Many who lived outside Rwanda as a result of that turbulent history, experienced different levels of integration in the host communities they lived in. All this depended on the nature of their relations with the societies where they settled.

However, though many got integrated into local communities, the majority remained in refugee settlements. This was especially the case in Uganda, where laws governing refugee issues required all people registered as refugees to live in refugee settlements.

But for all, whether they lived in settlements or were integrated into local communities, this kind of life had far reaching effects on what the future would hold. This was most especially for the descendants of refugees.

Those who left Rwanda as children, some on the backs of their mothers and those born as children of refugee parents would have a distinct outlook to life.

Growing up and going to school, sometimes far from what one called home, it was always inevitable that you would get a clear understanding of who you were and hence your destiny.
Some things would no longer be taken for granted.

Sometimes, people had no qualms singling you out for the single fact that you were who you are. For some, it was a new realisation that one could be a subject of harsh comments simply because of your background.

But as they say; "tough times never last, tough people do."  With the benefit of hindsight, these difficulties in life, in a way were a positive influence on many.

That many Banyarwanda who grew up as refugees or children of refugee parents, would later achieve excellent and good levels of success in different endeavours in life, can be said to have been an outcome of the hard times.

And later on for their children, lessons from those realities would also impact on how they would approach, for example their studies and career choices.

A number of foreigners who have visited Rwanda, after a comparative analysis, have spoken and written about a sense of purpose and dedication in the way young people who went to school in neighbouring countries, are handling challenging tasks in governmental or private sector positions they hold.

All this, I believe has not come about by accident. It is a result of the turbulent life lived both in Rwanda and outside, which evolved into a collective vision to move forward for the better, all enabled by leaders who really care, for they have seen it all and lived it like everybody else.

frank2kagabo@yahoo.com