Is Reconciliation Working in Rwanda?
By John Oryang
The 1994 genocide in Rwanda claimed nearly 800,000 lives. Now, over 20 years later, the country is still healing. Peace News traveled to Rwanda to hear from the next generation about their views of the country's violent past, and their dreams for Rwanda.
When the Tutsi-led Rwandan Patriotic Front came to power, following the 1994 genocide, thousands of Hutus fled to neighboring countries, fearing retaliation. The government has encouraged them to return, and is promoting a "One Rwanda" policy. Many observers ask: Is it working?
Kigali resident Rose Murungi said she believes there is still a division between ethnic groups in Rwanda, but that it is a small one.
“When I was in school, I used to have people walk up to me and say 'You do not look Rwandese' or 'You look like a certain tribe of the Rwandese',” Ms Murungi said.
“I do not know much about it, so I never paid much attention to it,” she said.
“I think the divide is still there, but to a small extent.”
Benny*, also a resident in the nations’ capital, said Rwanda has made enormous strides towards reconciliation.
“For example, the programs the government itself has initiated, programs like Kwibuka - the month in April where people have to remember the loved ones, when people have to reconcile and forgive each other,” Benny said.
“That was a very big step for this nation, because it brought unity and it really cleaned out the differences of tribal instincts in the people - finding yourself differentiating yourself from the "other" because you are from this tribe and the other tribe,” he said.
“People have really ganged up together, they have really united. The main focus right now is to see a better Rwanda, and to see a Rwanda that no one believed was possible, right now.”
While Rwanda has made significant progress, observers hope for improvements in free speech and democracy, and less of a "top-down" approach to the reconciliation process.
Do Rwandan youth fear further violence?
“I do not think there will be any other genocide in future, it is all in the past, and with this current trend and the world we are living in and headed to, with this generation that is growing, I do not think they grow with such a mentality,” Benny said.
“The generation that is growing in Rwanda is a post-genocide generation, who have grown with education about unity, education about togetherness, education about development, education about seeing each other as one.,” he said.
“I do not see, neither do I even think, there can be any other genocide.”
Benny's* named changed for security reasons