Rhetoric about Rwanda’s history especially the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi has been replayed in everyone’s minds both locally and internationally. For most countrymen, Rwanda’s unique history provides an opportunity for development by uniting as one people, even though for others it is not necessarily true.
For this reason reconciliation has been tasked as a channel towards development in order to bring about unity especially among the youth who are the majority population in today’s Rwanda.
After the 1994 Genocide, a mass of widows and orphans were left behind and today, the latter comprise of 60 percent of Rwanda’s population of 10 million that occupies a land area of 26,340 square kilometres.
Predominantly referred to as ‘Tomorrow’s Leaders,’ the youth are the most affected by the consequences of the genocide.
This has led to a worldwide reconciliation drive by both Rwandans and friends of Rwanda who are giving their all to help unite a healing nation that is quickly getting back onto its feat.
Last week, a South Korean delegation belonging to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Korea (TRCK), visited the country for a week.
South Korea four decades ago, suffered political violence between the Leftists who were persecuted by the ruling Right Wing regime.
This left thousands dead and no one was accountable. Over the years people were silent about the whole matter and reconciliation was never achieved not until 2005 when the TRCK was established.
The South Korean delegation visited Gisozi memorial site, at a time when their country is immersed into investigations of the mass murders that had occurred.
They only wanted to see in person the reason why Rwanda was fast tracking in reconciliation only 15 years after a grim genocide.
According to the TRCK president Dr. Ahn, Byung-Ook, Rwanda is so much ahead of South Korea as far as the reconciliation process is concerned.
“The efforts by the Rwandan government to reconcile its citizens after the 1994 Genocide is commendable,” Byung-Ook said.
While this consultation process was happening between Rwanda and South Korea, another team of 16 youth from Arizona State in the USA visited the country.
Young and energetic, these volunteers under Young Life international, wanted to see for themselves how Rwanda was progressing towards healing, reconciliation and forgiveness.
However, rather than being spectators and telling people what to do and how to do it, the group believes in getting things done- practically, as a way of bringing about change.
Established in more than 50 countries worldwide, they are a small part of thousands of Young Life volunteers who are determined to offer hope with spiritual values to nearly a million teenagers each year, regardless of ability, race, religious tradition or culture.
Over the past week they moved around the city where they got into contact with other young people.
One of the first places they went to was Lycee De Kigali Secondary School, a school with a population of 1,428 students.
They participated in various activities like painting the schools building blocks and playing soccer with the students and teachers.
According to Rick Prigge, the Arizona Young Life Missions leader, “relationships through friendship, building communities while pushing towards Godly living are the essence of their mission.”
While at the school, the first hints of community building were shown when they voluntarily took up painting brushes, climbed ladders, scrapped off old paint and together with other painters, made the school look brand new.
During the student’s break time, the smartly dressed Lycee De Kigali students, clad in white shirts and khaki skirts and trousers socialized with the team as they connected the two different worlds of Kigali and Arizona State.
“Including all people in whatever you do is what matters because even Jesus, was not stationed at one place, he got involved with people, worked with them, did community service and this speaks volumes,” Prigge said.
Martin Masabo, who has been the Headmaster of the school for 10 years, further acknowledged the importance of having small group clubs in school.
He said that these help students to network and link together in order to solidify as one as they develop their various talents and build leadership skills.
“Having unity in schools is important because it helps students to; study well, enhance discipline, cohesiveness and to think in a homogeneous way while not forgetting their diversity and uniqueness,” Masabo said.
He said that unity is important among the youth because it teaches them to think in terms of the country’s development while eliminating the ideas of individuality and self centeredness to promote the ‘otherness’ concept.
Through extracurricular activities, Masabo said that, “Students do not only come to school for intellectual purposes but also to equip themselves in life skills that will help them in the future and also remain physically fit through sports.”
“School is a place where young people reach their expectations, those who come here should be able to find excellence in what they do.
Young Life is emulating this through fun activities while at the same time becoming productive,” said the Headmaster.
Paul Gato, is a senior six student who strongly believes in the importance of having unity in his school.
“If everyone was united with no discrimination among us, we would work together and our education would excel and even if we finish our high school here, we can build our country and have a better future,” Gato said.
For the Young Life crew, this is exactly what they mean when they talk about sharing the message of hope.
Sue Micetic, a committee member of Young Life International said that since its inception 1941, the Mission has been making a difference in the lives of teenagers around the world.
“We train local staff leaders in practical methods that will equip them to deal with the situations and circumstances they face within their local and cultural communities,” she said.
It is a common belief that most organizations in Rwanda only come to hand out money in order to alleviate people’s needs, but Micetic said they are contrary to this belief.
“We do not believe that handing someone money necessarily makes their lives better, it might make the moment better but not their life,” she assured.
However she said that, “we help people find jobs, build their skills and capacity and provide them with what they need to get their jobs done.
If a person does not understand how others value them they will not value their lives too.”
The essence of Young Life is that, it is through investing time by training young Rwandan volunteer leaders, who will in turn impact their communities, that change will be brought about especially in the areas of unity and reconciliation.
Currently, Rwanda at the national level, through the National Unity and Reconciliation Commission (NURC), has embarked on achieving reconciliation and unity without which rebuilding and reconstruction cannot happen.
According, to Adeline Muhoza, the Public Relations Officer of NURC, talking about reconciliation means that there is a problem that needs to be dealt with.
“We have noticed as Rwandan’s that we cannot progress unless we solve our problems,” said Muhozam, “…and it is not easy talking about reconciliation because the consequences of genocide are still existent today.”
Despite the fact that there are numerous talk shows and conferences that have been put in place to facilitate the reconciliation process, Muhoza said that many people still do not want to talk about it.
“This is a challenge,” she said “…that still remains because some people do not want to talk about the country as one.
They insist instead, to cling onto the genocide ideology especially for the perpetrators who have never seen justice.”
Besides this challenge, Muhoza said that it is difficult to repay others like the widows and orphans who lost entire families.
Also, among other challenges faced by NURC, she said, “…is to encourage Rwandans in the Diaspora to come back home since it is now safe. We also need steady support in terms of finances to ensure that the reconciliation and unity programmes are effective.”
Despite the above challenges, it is not a far-fetched goal for Rwandans to come to terms with the diversity and uniqueness they possess as they drive towards development and prosperity as one.
With this realization, rebuilding Rwanda as a nation in all aspects will be the result of reconciliation and unity among the people.