It is now 16 years since the gruesome 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. It may appear a long time ago to some but the memories are still very fresh of how evil descended on a AND country and left it without a trace of innocence in just 100 days.
Many times when we think about the genocide, we tend to ask ourselves how it happened, why we let it happen and questions of that nature.
Although the answers to the above are numerous, the consensus is that it should never happen again in Rwanda or anywhere else in the world.
The genocide is not a scar for Rwandans alone but one for mankind as a whole. It is therefore encouraging to see that Rwanda has managed to rise from the valley of death and embarked on a process of rebuilding a new nation based on new but worthwhile goals.
The process of reconciliation has been and remains a key component of Rwanda’s efforts to let go of the evil past and embrace a promising future for the benefit of all Rwandans. Every now and then, Rwanda receives accolades as a country and sometimes they are given to its leader for the commendable job of rebuilding the country.
Rwanda’s success story cannot be detached from its reconciliation programme. This ought to be the same logic elsewhere.
It is a big joke for a country to embark on development projects while at the same time contentious social relations are not being addressed. Such development is akin to the proverbial house built on a foundation of sand and can therefore be washed away anytime.
The genocide happened largely because colonialists had created a distorted relationship among the people of Rwanda and this distorted relationship was later to be exploited by short sighted and evil politicians drawing the country into a bloodbath.
A keen observer can easily tell that most of civil strife in Africa is related to two aspects. One is the struggle by certain groups to control the limited resources.
The other reason which to me is more outstanding is to do with how different communities relate with each other within a country.
The colonialists often applied divide and rule methods whose effects have continued to this day. Just like in Rwanda, the colonialists often preferred a relationship with one (willing group) and used it to spread control to the other communities.
When African elites sought independence it did not really occur to them that they would be inheriting a quagmire that could blow up anytime.
Several African countries consider themselves developed by simply looking at statistics data such as GDP, GNP and the like. But the fragility of their societies threatens this development to the core.
This is because the underlying tensions are ignored by the political class which is often more concerned with hanging onto power.
The examples to prove this are so many. South Africa is seen as the richest nation on the continent but we all know that social relations between the whites and the blacks were never really addressed.
This serves to explain the country’s high violent crime rates and xenophobia.
In East Africa, Kenya which was long considered a beacon of hope in the region erupted into violence in the same design like what happened here in 1994.
Kalenjins turned their warrior skills on their Kikuyu neighbours in the Rift valley area. Two years later, the same politicians are still talking about tribal issues without reconciliation.
Up in Nigeria, the violence between the Christians and the Muslims is almost becoming an annual event. The politicians throw a blind eye and concentrate on holding onto power (even when their health fails them like the current president). The oil revenues are the big deal, the poverty in the delta region is not their concern.
Mainland Tanzania has continued to sweep things under the carpet as far as its relationship with Zanzibar is concerned. A Ugandan, can be excused for thinking that Karamoja region is not a part of the country.
When a war destroyed Northern Uganda for more than 20 years, life in central and southern Ugandan went on without a problem.
The politicians from central and Southern Ugandan never stopped talking about how ‘the country’ was developing at a high rate. How cynical!
The situation in Sudan is now common knowledge. The volatile Darfur region is now even more popular than Khartoum the capital, but for wrong reasons.
In the final analysis, many African nations have failed to correct the social divides that colonialism bequeathed unto them.
Rwanda has done a good job of reconciliation and others should try the same. We should not wait for what happened in Rwanda to happen elsewhere before embarking on reconciliation.
Only reconciliation can safeguard development and engender the Never Again principle.