19 November 2012

Rwanda: Unity - the Clock Can Not Be Turned Back


"Due to our history, unity is what re-dignifies us and therefore helps us to gather all the strength we need towards achieving our common goal: sustainable development." Thus President Kagame on Friday during a meeting of the Unity Club at the occasion of the conclusion of the Unity and Reconciliation Week.

Kagame's words are a succinct summary of the importance of unity in Rwandan society. What our country has managed to do in the 18 years since the Genocide against the Tutsis is impossible to overestimate. Before 1990, Rwandan society was deeply fractured. While this was a legacy of colonial times, post-independence regimes did their utmost to widen the rift, through pogroms against and regular massacres of Tutsis, and the subsequent refusal to let refugees return to their homeland.

While it would have been easy, after the Genocide, to continue the divisive policies, the RPF chose the more difficult path of promoting unity and reconciliation. It has certainly not been easy, and it would be foolish to be blind to the fact that certain citizens still oppose the reality of a single, undivided Rwandan society - after all, the spirit of divisionism has had decades to find root in people's minds.

Nevertheless, nearly 20 years after the horrific culmination of those sectarian policies, the achievements of the unity and reconciliation approach are tremendous. No longer is it necessary to belong to a specific group to get easy access to education and employment - today, only merit is what counts.

That said, it would certainly be unwise to lower our guard.

"Our vision for Rwanda's future is shared through our unity," Kagame also said. "We may differ in many things but we are all working towards reaching a same vision. We all want to be healthy, feel secured, and live in a sustainably developed country. Our individual interests should not interfere."

Unfortunately, not everybody shares that enlightened vision. There are still people like Victoire Ingabire, like the ragtag FDLR, who have difficulty to come to terms with the new Rwanda, where everyone is citizen on an equal footing. And so they continue to hammer on the old divisions, and try to turn back the clock.

Their mission will end in failure - in fact, they have already failed, but are too full of themselves to realize it. They just need to look at Inyenyeli Cooperative, which won this year's Unity Award, and in which Genocide survivors and perpetrators work hand in hand with a clear goal: improving their own lives, and by extension Rwandan society.

"We are glad to have Rwandans with such mindsets. This is a good example of what we can achieve united," Kagame lauded the cooperative. It is a sentiment that each true citizen of the new Rwanda can agree with. And it is the only way forward for Rwanda.

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