Rwanda through the lens of youth born after Genocide

Weya Viatora, an artiste and student at Kepler, a university programme in Kigali that partners with Southern New Hampshire University, USA, was born two years after the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

Though she never witnessed the evil events that transpired, the 22-year-old observed the aftermath, and has joined the country’s restoration drive. 

Together with three young men, she composed the song called Icumu n’Ingabo — a tribute to the victims of the Genocide.

Viatora explains that the idea to compose a song sprung from thinking about their role as the post-Genocide generation, which she says is to protect the country and develop it.

“We are the strength of the country, we ought to show that we are here to develop and protect our country,” she says.

Looking back, Viatora tries to understand how the brutal events of 1994 happened and why, and all she can fathom is a lack of humanity.

“It is truly hard for me to understand how one can kill their own family and neighbours just because they are ‘different’. I think humanity at the time was lost, thus, it wasn’t in their nature to see reason or have empathy,” she says.

She, however, applauds the brave individuals who set their own safety aside and stood up for the right thing.

“I know that many of them were heroes and that they saved people and, unfortunately, some were killed in the process. I think we have a lot to learn from what sparked the Genocide, and this way, we can prevent it from happening again,” she notes.

Viatora says she is proud of Rwanda’s healing journey and believes more is yet to be attained.

“I am really proud of where we are now, we still have some work but I am really impressed by the unity of Rwandans and most of all, how people chose to forgive. This is what has helped build unity and love among us. In 24 years, Rwanda has built itself again mainly because of our great government, and also because we as a people continue to contribute to the country’s prosperity.”

The 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi was a very dark period in Rwanda, characterised by bloodshed and hatred. Women lost their husbands, men lost their wives, children were left orphaned, parents lost their children, and, entire families were completely wiped out!

Eric Nsabimana, AS Kigali’s midfielder, still struggles with the loss of his father — a father he sadly never got the chance to meet. His father and brother were killed a few months before he was born.

The 24-year-old believes that the youth should understand that they have a role to play in the restoration process.

“The youth were part of what happened in the Genocide. This was wrong and so we need to do the right thing now; we need to focus on fighting genocide ideology and also strive to rebuild our country,” he says.

24 years down the road to restoration, Nsabimana hopes that the best is yet to come, applauding the progress achieved so far. 

Love should lead the way

In his poem, The Lost Treasure, 24-year-old Sam Asiimwe Ruhindi’s heart bleeds for those who never got the chance to live; the voices of little ones screaming for help cloud his head. 

Ruhindi wonders how those in authority ignored what was happening and turned a deaf ear to the cries of the innocent.

Today, our hearts are filled with grief. We remember you, not to revenge but to learn and save our future. We light candles as a sign of the peace we want to pass to future generations, his poem states.

He urges the youth to take the lead to see to it that the country is rebuilt to its best.

“The youth should always get involved in government programmes like communal work which promote unity, and should do away with any acts that may encourage ethnic bias. Since the government calls the youth ‘pillars of the nation’, they should use that to think about what can be done to create the Rwanda they dream about,” Ruhindi says.

18-year-old Anna Murekatete, a high school student, believes that even though many of the youth today were not there when it all happened, the ripples of the aftermath affect everyone.

“I think we need to take it upon us to see that what happened in 1994 never happens again. Let’s build ourselves and have humanity and love of our country,” she says.

23-year-old Prime Mazimpaka, a young musician and one of the voices behind Icumu n’Ingabo, says the song was an approach from a side of those who were born after the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

“Asking ourselves, what if we were there? That is how I approached it personally,” he says.

He explains that Icumu (spear) stands for the force of the youth which was encouraged and used to do the killings in 1994, and now they are the new spear and the force that is building and creating a better country.

“The shield (ingabo) stands for our history; the dark history plus the good one which we won’t forget or ignore because it makes us who we are and it is our identity, therefore, we have to preserve and protect it just like a shield does, it protects,” Mazimpaka explains.

Fighting Genocide ideology

Jean Marie Vianney Niyitegeka, the acting director of Youth Social and Ethics Empowerment at the Ministry of Youth, explains that the Ministry has a programme in charge of youth, social and ethics empowerment with programmes related to nurturing values and civic engagement.

It is through such programmes, for example, civic engagement, that issues like fostering a positive attitude and patriotism are developed.

“We deal with patriotism, good citizenship, mindset change and positive attitude. We ensure that the youth are (civically) enlightened to avoid genocide ideology. We have the Ndi umunyarwanda programme and itorero urunana rw’urungano where we teach the youth — survivors and youth whose parents participated in the genocide — about the history of the country, the root of genocide against the Tutsi, and what has been done to recover from the consequences of the Genocide,” he says.

Niyitegeka also points out that there will be a special programme to commemorate the youth killed in the Genocide. It will take place on the May 11, 2018.  All youth organisations and role models will be involved.

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