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.
I can’t believe that day by day 20 years have gone since we lost our loved one. 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 exactly what 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.
It is only when I persistently asked my mother that she told me that a tragedy was happening in Rwanda and that she feared for her family members.
In truth people were being slaughtered like sheep just across in a country where “God always sleep”. 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 happened, one is tempted to look backward to analyze how far we have come from. The Rwandan society has really been tempted beyond its abilities thanks to the exceptional leadership that has saved the country to descend deeply into hell.
This country was destined to become a failed state like Somalia or Afghanistan given the loss it had encountered. One million people dead, almost 3 millions had fled the country to former Zaire and were hostage of the government that had planned the genocide. It was a total chaos and one could be mistaken as a dreamer to predict that Rwanda could stand on its feet again.
It is unthinkable for an outsider to witness how victims and perpetrators of the genocide are now living together in communities around this country. 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 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 20th genocide commemoration theme “remember-unite-renew” reflect the fact that we can’t forget our history even though we are committed to move forward as one people. 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 did little or almost nothing to prevent or stop it.
As the country has embarked to implement the second phase of Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy dubbed EDPRS II, 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 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. It is now time for Rwanda to write a new chapter of freedom and prosperity for all its citizens without discrimination.