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Has President Mandela inspired Rwanda’s reconciliation process?

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JUST as South Africa was celebrating the end of apartheid era, Rwanda was going through a terrible civil war that culminated to the 1994 genocide against Tusti. The year 1994 meant happiness and victory for most people in the rain bow nation; but in Rwanda it was a year of human hunt and bloodshed whereby more than one million people lost their lives in less than three months. Twenty years later president Mandela is no longer but his legacy is celebrated all over the world up to the land of thousands hills: Rwanda.

As Mandela was swearing to become the first democratically elected black president to lead the republic of South Africa, Rwanda was going through the worst genocide in 20th century. From April to July 1994, Tutsi were being hunted all over Rwanda’s beautiful hills by the Interahamwe militias that were supported by the former government. On the other hand Rwanda Patriotic Front RPF rebels were making progress on the battlefield by liberating the country and its people that were left helpless even by the UN peacekeepers.

The pain that people in Rwanda went through can almost be compared to the one black and colored people in South Africa went through for almost 400 years of apartheid. Mandela who fought the system and was jailed for 27 years must have shown the good way to reconciliation to RPF leadership that took over Rwanda after the genocide. Instead of resolving to vengeance ANC in South Africa and RPF in Rwanda respectively under Mandela’s and Kagame’s leadership decided to resolve to a peaceful transition and reconciliation.

I guess Rwanda Patriotic Front RPF that was led by the then Major General Paul Kagame must have learnt a great lesson on the part of Nelson Mandela. RPF decision to unity and reconciliation was a painful one for those who were led by the spirit of vengeance. But it turned out to have been a wise decision that has defined what Rwanda as a nation has achieved 20 years after the genocide. Had they resolved to vengeance South Africa and Rwanda could not have been the success stories the world have witnessed over the last two decades.

The spirit of forgiveness and reconciliation has shaped the destiny of the two countries in unprecedented way. South Africa has become an inspiration worldwide and was chosen to stage world class events such as the 2010 FIFA World Cup. For a country to be given an opportunity to host such an event means a lot because many renowned countries are competing for that chance. The latter brought in millions of curious visitors who wanted to find out the post apartheid era.

South Africa may have successively defeated the racial and historical legacy of the apartheid system but a lot still need to be done to solve many problems of inequality among its citizens. Security is a serious concern amongst many challenges the country needs to address as its cities are plagued by crimes.

The Rainbow Nation has a very high rate of murders, assaults, rapes and other crimes compared to other countries. A 1998-2000 survey by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime ranked South Africa second for assault and murder per capita and first for rape per capita in a data set of 60 countries.

Though Rwanda has made remarkable progress over the last two decades, lots of challenges still need to be addressed to heal its wounds. The country lost one million of her people (15% of the population) and hundreds of thousands became orphans, widows, widowers, disabled, etc. All socioeconomic infrastructures were destroyed and all state institutions collapsed in the aftermath of the 1994 genocide. It is understandable that the country has a lot to do to get back on the right track.

Rwanda had been registering impressive achievements over the last 20 years. This time the story that is coming out of Rwanda is not that of war and genocide but of peace, reconciliation and development. The spirit of forgiveness made it possible to lay a foundation upon which the economic and social fabric of the country was built in the aftermath of the genocide. Rwanda is now one of the fastest economies in Africa having registered an eight per cent economic growth since 2006.

The wounds caused by the 1994 genocide in Rwanda and apartheid in South Africa had been healing over the last 20 years but there is still a long way to go. President Nelson Mandela who just passed away in December 2013 left a legacy upon which the new South Africa leadership can build the nation into a one of successful democracies in the world.

For Rwanda that implemented the same policy of unity and reconciliation as South Africa 20 years now, the country needs to keep on tackling its challenges as it had been doing without ignoring its fragility caused by decades of policy of divide and rule. The country’s institution that have been helping the country to rebuild itself are still young and authorities have to tirelessly work hard to strengthen them to their maturity.

ENDS.

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