According to the National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda’s Integrated Household Living Conditions Survey (EICV4) published this year, youth make up 39% of Rwanda’s total population. It therefore goes without saying that the youth have a big say in the future of this country. Aged between 14 and 35 years old, this dynamic group of people has the potential to significantly contribute to sustainable peace and development in Rwanda today and in the future.
Talking about their role and potential in ensuring peace and sustainable development in Rwanda sans their role in fighting genocide ideology offers an incomplete discussion; especially at this time when all Rwandans and friends of Rwanda continue to commemorate the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi. Genocide ideology is a great impediment to peace and development in any nation in the world. This 100 day commemoration period gives us the opportunity to mull over all the consequences of genocide ideology and reinforce our commitment to fight against it.
Genocide ideology must not go unchecked in our society and every effort should be made to eliminate it. Although an uphill task mainly because it is as a result of decades of toxic ideas systematically passed on from one generation to another which culminated in the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi, it is possible to overcome it. The youth, I believe is a driving force for the change that we would all like to see in this country. As the future leaders, it is important to empower them to reject ideas along tribal divisions and embrace the spirit of unity that will see all Rwandans working hand in hand for peace and reconciliation.
During the 1994 genocide perpetrated against the Tutsi, many youth who were intoxicated with the genocide ideology took part in the killings. These youth did not know any better under a leadership that emphasized division and hatred. They acted on messages and information fraught with genocidal overtones that they were constantly bombarded with in schools, churches and public gatherings. Today the youth can be taught about the genocide ideology – causes and effects of it, how the genocide was planned and executed, and be transformed into active crusaders against genocide ideology in our society.
The largest group within the youth bracket is aged between 14 and 19 years and comprises of 13.2% of the total population of Rwanda. This part of the youth were born after the genocide and did not experience first-hand the resulting consequences of genocide ideology promoted by the previous government. Moreover the information that they have concerning the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi is not based on their own accounts of experiences they lived through but on what they have been told or gathered from various sources.
In this technologically advanced age, the historical facts of the genocide must be taught to the youth in a way that empowers them to differentiate between true and false accounts of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi. Negationists and revisionists are busy working and not relenting. The internet and social media has proved an effective platform for them to spread their skewed accounts of the genocide and even spread the genocide ideology. We need to not only respond to them but ensure that when the youth encounter their literature, they are in a position to reject them and speak the truth boldly from an informed point of view.
The youth need to be actively engaged in commemoration activities and attend public gatherings where they can listen to first-hand accounts of the genocide from survivors and learn the truth. They should also visit genocide memorial sites across the country to increase their knowledge and awareness on genocide ideology in order to fight against it effectively. Once empowered with the truth, the youth can challenge their parents, relatives and friends who still habour the genocide ideology.
It is upon the youth to step up, work hard, and take up their responsibilities as active citizens of the society. They need to change their mindset on Rwandaness and set themselves on the path of peace and sustainable development as envisioned by the current leadership. In doing so they can ensure that there is no room for tribal division or hatred in our society and act as agents of change.