It’s now 16 years after the 1994 genocide of the Tutsi, and Rwanda has made great strides to enhance unity and reconciliation amongst its people as well as profound developments to enhance and promote the reconstruction process of the nation.
Rwanda has had a troubled past caused by internal division. It all began when the colonial administration divided the society along ethnic lines in order to weaken it and thereby make its dominance possible.
The post-colonial Kayibanda and Habyarimana administrations intensified this policy of divide and rule, devising policies to marginalize and disenfranchise large sections of the community.
After genocide, the government of Rwanda began the challenging task of reversing the effects of decades of division. A national commission charged with the responsibility of educating and mobilizing the population for unity and reconciliation was established in 1998.
Since then the unity and reconciliation commission has conducted seminars, debates and courses across the country aimed at fostering these ideals of reconciliation and re-building confidence and trust within and between communities.
Rwanda has already begun harvesting the dividends of its policy on unity and reconciliation. Across the country, rural and urban communities now live together in greater harmony and with more mutual respect than ever before.
The national electoral commission (NEC) has conducted grassroots elections in which all Rwandans vote for leaders on the basis of merit not ethnicity. This is a sign of success and progress for the unity and reconciliation programme.
Genocide took place as a direct result of a loss of culture and the loss of human values. The government is aiming to rebuild culture and rebuild human values.
Cultural activities such as choral and dance groups aim to portray Rwanda as something other than a country of killers.
The government has taken strategies to fight the genocide ideology from the grass root. The youth is one of major group of people that should own initiatives to overcome genocide ideology.
The government of Rwanda aims to give youth channels through which to combat problems such as poverty and infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS.
A few years ago, the government set up a National Youth Council that helps implement youth programmes including unity and reconciliation. Developmental programmes are encouraged, for example the youth help the old in their communities.
The Ministry of Culture and Sports also works closely with the National Unity and Reconciliation Commission (NURC). In an effort to promote such programmes, the ministry set up solidarity camp programme directed by the NURC with technical support given by the government.
The period from April to July 1994 is regarded as one of the nation’s greatest humanitarian disasters. It is a period that many Rwandans wish they could erase from their memories.
A period where countless victims were brutally murdered by machetes, machine guns, and grenades. It is a time in the history of the world where many look back and fail to explain and account for the gruesome and horrid details.
One of the most significant developments in Rwanda since 1994 has been the ability of the present government to downplay ethnic differences.
The government successfully introduced the traditional Gacaca justice system in order to deal with over a million genocide related cases. Bringing the perpetrators of atrocious crimes to justice has been a step forward in trying to bring about healing in the country.
Furthermore, national discussion about the genocide that is embarked on during the 100 days of commemoration also helps in dealing with the trauma that many still face.
Even though some critics believe that the Rwandan government has embarked on an ambitious national unity programme, one cannot discount that the country has indeed undergone a radical transformation.