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?