The New Times (Kigali)

Rwanda: Top Leadership in Ndi Umunyarwanda Retreat

Cabinet Ministers are spending two days in a retreat to discuss their role in making Rwanda free of divisionism, the kind that led to the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi which left one million people dead and destroyed the country.

From left: Ministers Francois Kanimba (Trade and Industry), James Kabarebe (Defence) Jean Philbert Nsengimana (Youth and ICT), Dr Agnes Binagwaho (Health), Stanislas Kamanzi (Natural Resources) and James Musoni (Local Government) during the retreat. Th

The retreat, which opened in Kimihurura yesterday, is presided over by President Paul Kagame and the First Lady Jeannette Kagame.

Borne out of the YouthConnekt dialogue and launched by young Rwandans, Imbuto Foundation, Art for Peace and the National Unity and Reconciliation Commission, the 'Ndi Umunyarwanda' initiative was by and large aimed at helping Rwandans, especially the youth, openly talk about their history, repent, forgive, and heal.

Held under the theme: "Critically examining our dark history towards shaping a bright future: Leadership responsibility in driving "Ndi Umunyarwanda", the cabinet retreat will identify challenges to nation building before 1994, emerging challenges and opportunities towards achieving Rwandan Spirit and strategic options that require leadership awareness and commitment for Ndi Umunyarwanda to succeed.

"We are who we are as the nation of Rwanda and we can't change anything about that. What we can change are the choices we make in our lives. We have a common responsibility to build Rwanda. Each one of us has a crucial role to play in that journey," Kagame told his Cabinet.

Based on four main pillars; History, Testimonies, Forgiveness and Healing, the open discussions on the country's dark past are a step in the reconciliation journey the country has undertaken for nearly 20 years.

Opening up

The President urged the leaders to openly speak about what happened during and in the build-up to the Genocide as well as deeply reflect on how the events unfolded.

"This is an important phase we have reached. The kind of life we as Rwandans need is one of dignity," Kagame said.

"Every person, every family in this country has a unique story. Every person has information about what happened," the President added.

A few individuals, knowledgeable with what happened in Rwanda, were invited to further enrich the retreat deliberations.

Analyse history

These include former senators Augustine Iyamuremye and Antoine Mugesera, Senator Tito Rutaremara, Bishop (Rtd) John Rucyahana, who is the president of the National Unity and Reconciliation Commission, Paul Rutayisire, an expert in Rwandan history and director of the Centre for Conflict Management at the University of Rwanda and Prof. Anastase Shyaka, CEO Rwanda Governance Board.

The Minister in the President's Office, Venantie Tugireyezu, told reporters that the retreat will help to collectively analyse the Rwandan history and help chart ways of empowering Rwandans to stand up and proudly defend national interests.

On his part, the Prime Minister, Pierre Damien Habumuremyi described the Ndi Umunyarwanda initiative as "a foundation for the country's future" and pledged that the government will ensure that every resolution that will come out of the retreat is implemented.

He urged his fellow members of Cabinet to be frank and share ideas that will help design the next curriculum for teaching reconciliation.

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