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Twenty years down the road

IT is unimaginable how time passes so quickly. For many who are familiar with Rwanda’s contemporary history, 1994 is synonymous with the tragic genocide against Tutsi that claimed more than one million lives in three months. Can you believe that by April next year we will be commemorating 20 years remembering our loved one day by day? The truth is even though they are gone; they are still alive in our memories. We have been committing ourselves every year to never forget those we lost in unfortunate and unjust way as the whole world was watching unable or unwilling to come to their rescue.

I was a teenager at that time and could not grasp what exactly was happening in our mother land as I was born and still living in exile. The amount of worries that I was reading in my mother’s face was the only thing that could tell me that something really wrong was happening. My big brother, cousins and friends in our community had suddenly disappeared and people were saying that they went to fight in Rwanda.

It is only when I persistently asked my mother that she told me that they are fine and went to liberate our country from enemies.

Enemies? I asked myself. I could not comprehend what kind of enemies she was talking about.

But in truth people were being slaughtered like sheep just across the border. Young children like me were being hunted alongside their parents in harsh and rainy season of April throughout July. For Those children who were fortunate to escape the horrible and inhumane genocide in modern history are by now reaching their twenties.

It is only when I came back to Rwanda alongside my family back in August 1994 that I began to understand the atrocities that took place in my total ignorance. On our way back home in company of our grandmother, aunts and other family members I could see signs of bullets in many houses along the road.

Almost everything was a mess compared to positive development children growing up in Rwanda are actually witnessing. But what really happened between then and now?

As Rwanda prepares to commemorate twenty years since the genocide, one is tempted to look backwards to analyze how far we have come. The Rwandan society has really been tempted beyond measure thanks to the exceptional leadership that has saved the country to descend deeply into hell.

It is unimaginable for an outsider how victims and perpetrators of the genocide are now living together in communities around the land of thousands hills. It was only through traditional means such as Gacaca courts that were able to bring Rwandans face to face to talk what they did and forgive each other.

The kind of development we have seen over almost the last 20 years could not be possible without justice and forgiveness. This move has proved to the whole world that the Rwandan society is still a reality it has always been.

The huge work to collect the remains of the genocide scattered throughout the country was one of the tasks that the government had to undertake. This was one of the ways to honor the victims and bury them in a respectable way.

Information collected through Gacaca courts played a key role to identify where the remains of the victims were located. The latter were buried in genocide memorial around the country and one of those memorials is Kigali genocide memorial that is home to more than 250000 genocide victims.

The aftermaths of the genocide were numerous in such a way that choices had to be made to deal with them because there were not enough resources.

Ten of thousands of orphans that needed care was one of them. The Rwandan society is to be commended alongside the government and civil society’s organizations for a job well done to up bring orphans to responsible adulthood.

The 19th year’s genocide commemoration was “Let us commemorate the genocide against Tusti as we strive for self-reliance”. Rwanda has no choice to this but to keep devising solutions for self-reliance to its problems because it was proved during the genocide that the international community most Africans countries rely to for their development did little or almost nothing to stop it.

As the country has embarked to implement the second phase of Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy dubbed EDPRS, it is hoped that more and more Rwandans will be lifted out of poverty. Experts in democratic development such as Professor Larry Diamond from Stanford University believe that democracy cannot thrive in a society that is characterized by poverty.

If more than one million Rwandan citizens are lifted out of poverty in the second phase of EDPRS as it was in the first phase, this will be a right step towards overcoming our past tragic history. It will also be the right step to strengthen peace and democracy in our beloved Rwanda. Bob Marley sang in his lyrics- “Them Belly Full (But We Hungry)”, a hungry mob is an angry mob.

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