Youth as active agents of change in the Rwandan society

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.


Fight against Genocide ideology and forget not our past

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April is a particularly sad month for all Rwandans everywhere and friends of Rwanda. We remember our loved ones, friends, colleagues, neighbors and other dear ones who lost their lives during the 1994 Genocide perpetrated against the Tutsis.

Every year, April 7th marks the first day of 100 days of commemoration of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsis which is always guided by a national theme. This year’s theme is “Let’s remember the Genocide against the Tutsis by fighting against Genocide ideology”.  As we commemorate the Genocide to honor the memories of the victims, Rwandans are herewith called upon to play an active role in fighting Genocide ideology.

Ethnicity and Genocide ideology

Genocide ideology can be simply defined as a collection of ideas promoting ethnic hatred and ethnic cleansing – elimination of a specific tribe or ethnic group from any given society. Thanks to the great scramble for Africa, almost every Sub Saharan Africa state consists of more than 5 tribes or ethnic groups. Sub-Saharan Africa states therefore have the unique challenge of making people of different   tribes, ethnic or social backgrounds live together in peace and harmony. But for the Rwandan case I can not call them tribes or ethnic because all Rwandans have the same language, the same culture and they have lived side by side for centuries.

The problem however is not that these states consist of different  tribes , ethnic or social groups but that we ourselves have acted as our own worst enemies by accentuating ethnic differences, leading to hatred. Instead of harnessing the differences to create a rich diverse society, we fight each other and deny ourselves the great benefits that would be achieved if we worked together for common good. Our differences make us unique, meaning that each   group offers something that another group can benefit from. We may be different according to our   backgrounds but before we belong to any , we are first of all human beings with intrinsic needs and desires that transcend tribes, social groups and ethnicity. To live in a peaceful state with adequate resources, for instance, is every human being’s desire regardless of any background.

Rwanda has experienced first- hand through the loss of more than one million lives, the ultimate cost of genocide ideology and has vowed never again to walk down that path. Commemoration is a time to remind ourselves of the cost of genocide ideology and to recommit ourselves to the fight against it. As we honor the loved ones we lost through commemoration, let us also honor them by fighting against the very ideas that led to the genocide that cost their lives.

There is no denying that we are different and that we will always be different – even decades and centuries from today. Having said this, it is in everyone’s best interest that we break down every wall and barrier that exists between different ethnic groups and instead build up walls of trust and partnership between different  them. This is because we stand to gain more by working together than fighting against each other.

As we commemorate the 1994 Genocide perpetrated against the Tutsis this year, I urge my fellow Rwandans to take time to ponder about some of the things in our society that can be done to actually eliminate ideas fostering hatred and actively take part in them.

Looking to the future

Genocide ideology stands in the way of a bright and promising future for Rwanda and fighting against it ought to be in the interest of every Rwandan everywhere.  We need to understand how genocide ideology starts. It first starts with an individual, later   he or she spreads it to the peers, parents to their children and teachers   preach it to pupils or students. Finally politicians incite masses. It is   therefore our responsibility as Rwandans is to reflect on how we can break this cycle that would transmit the genocide ideology.

The future belongs to us all – no matter the background – and each one of us has the unique opportunity to secure it and to play a role in building it.  Commemoration many times looks like a narrow focus on the past. In this case a past that is so dark and grim we wish to escape it. However, commemoration actually gives us an opportunity to revisit lessons learnt in ensuring that Rwanda never again experiences loss of lives resulting from hatred within our societies. By revisiting the past we are better able to create a vision of a country we aspire for. We are inspired to unite our country for the sake of the future generations.

The past we cannot alter; but the future, we have the freedom to craft and design as we see fit with inspiration from the past. We dare not forget the past, for if we do how then shall we know the distance we have traveled, the lessons we have learnt and the distance yet to be covered?