The New Times (Kigali)

13 April 2014

Rwanda: Young African Scholars Opine About Genocide

There is a famous saying that 'creating a fight between the past and present only kills the future.' However, as Rwanda marks twenty years since the 994 Genocide against the Tutsi, the nation is clearly creating harmony between history and the present in order to build a more desirable future for generations to come.

Kenneth Agutamba sought the opinions of young African post-graduate scholars from across the continent currently studying in Beijing, China, on Rwanda's recovery process through unity and reconciliation.

Simon Matingwina, Zimbabwean

The commemoration of the Genocide against the Tutsi two decades later is an opportune moment to reflect on the lessons for Africa and indeed the world in order to effectively respond to conflicts.

A major lesson is a need for collective security to respond to African crises; Africa needs to operationalise the AU standby military force in order to swiftly respond to conflicts. How long shall we stand aside and watch?

Since the genocide in Rwanda there have been several wake-up calls for Africa such as Libya, Mali, and Central Africa Republic among others. These cases have clearly demonstrated that without our own capable continental military force, Africa will remain dependent on external powers who are guided by their interests in making decisions to or not to intervene. France's own position twenty years ago is being a clear example.

As we commemorate and pray for the souls of the people who lost their lives in Rwanda, it is time to overcome our manufactured differences and unite to take our rightful place as the leaders of a future world. Rwanda will always be a source of inspiration to all of us in Africa.

Olawale Hamzat, Nigerian

As a young boy growing up in one of the suburbs of Lagos, Nigeria, news of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi appeared as a fairytale. It couldn't have happened, I thought - the horrendous killings, grief and pains of the survivors were simply inconceivable.

Twenty years on; Rwanda has gradually picked herself up from the ruins; the will to pursue national reconciliation, heal wounds and advance common interest has been on the front burner.

Rwanda has since presented itself as a model for development - a leading light for other African countries and indeed the rest of the world that in-spite of our differences; we can find a common hope and destiny.

It no longer matters who's Tutsi, Hutu or Twa, the resolve of the people to identify as Rwandans has overcome the myopic shade of tribal and ethnic divergence.

As a Nigerian, the staggering ethnic diversity of my country has remained our source of unity and equally that of friction in recent years; but lessons that resonate from Rwanda's experience should inspire mutual tolerance, peace and reconciliations in many warring communities across Africa.

Post-genocide Rwanda has showed us that peace and development is assured, not with the number of troops and peace keepers but through the resolve of the people to genuinely forge a common path.

Jane Mwangi, Kenyan

We stand with our Rwandan brothers and sisters when we say "Tuko Pamoja." The UN and major powers such as France need to get on the right side of history and apologise for their failure to try.

I was nine years-old when the genocide occurred, barely able to make sense of it. It was not until I joined Daystar University, a private Kenyan institution with a sizeable number of Rwandan students that I was able to put a face to the dark episode that our East African neighbours had to live through.

I came to acquire a great admiration for my Rwandan friends; for instead of dwelling on the painful past, they decided to focus their energy on a positive present all the while striving for a more robust future. To me this nation is more than just a symbol of courage, but also a sort of Achilles' heel for the global community.

The Genocide against the Tutsi is a unique case, the most atrocious of the 20th century and as we commemorate its 20th anniversary, this not only gives room for reflections on the past but on a more confident future.

Faridah Namukasa, Ugandan

What is shocking about the Genocide against the Tutsi is that as the situation escalated from worse to worst, with hundreds of thousands of lives being butchered in cold blood; the world scandalously stood by to watch; twenty years on, no amount of explanations can ever vindicate from the guilt of not trying.

We failed to act, regional and international bodies, with the United Nations (UN) at the fore of failure, left Rwandans to face fate. While death is for us all; none of the over a million people who perished in 1994 deserved to die the way they did, at the hands of cruel machete wielding youthful militia high on opium of hatred cultivated in them by leaders; priests and elders, an irony that baffles logic.

Twenty years on, the Genocide against the Tutsi should be a tabernacle for governance lessons for world leaders and particularly African governments, from which to reminisce and formulate policies that promote peace and inclusiveness without falling prey to the divisive policies of former colonial powers.

I congratulate the current government for its overwhelming success in curtailing all possible tendencies and actions that are aimed at causing neo-racial divisions and conflicts and greatly encourage all African leaders to take Rwanda's impressive rebirth as a model.

Tanyala Constance Mwilima, Namibian

Africa's modern day conflicts are manifestations of the remnants of selfish policies by former colonial powers that bred ethnic divisions and tribal conflicts on the continent.

Like many other countries on the motherland, Rwanda and Burundi bear testimony to the devastations of war but worst still, bear the greatest impact of ethnic divisions that led to ethnic cleansings of minority tribes.

The Genocide against the Tutsi and the Herero Genocide in my country, Namibia, should serve as a reminder to Africa and the world that the sacrifices of our African brothers and sisters who have perished should not be in vain but serve as a reminder for a past that should never be repeated.

To the people of Rwanda and the Rwandan Government, today we commemorate not only the past but also celebrate the present achievements of national reconciliation and hope for a bright future of more progress, peace and stability. Viva Rwanda, Viva Africa.

Jibril Abdul Wahab, Ghanaian

Exactly five years after the discovery of the Nazi death camps, the world witnessed the Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda - a systemic and ruthless attempt at the eradication of an ethnic group. The extermination of the Tutsi almost succeeded, thanks largely to the world's failure to respond and today, we remember with guilt, the demise of a million innocent lives that we would otherwise have saved.

While we can dish out blame in dozens; the best tribute we can pay to the cherished lives that were lost to the indescribable brutality of the genocide is to address what I prefer to theorise as 'the triad of negligence and mal-governance'-elements that plagued the then government.

From the altar of communication perspective where I stand, I will argue that the media did not only fail to exercise its social responsibility mantra at the peak of the crisis but also scandalously fuelled the outrage. The voice of a responsible media stripped from the 'Gutter Press' will be a best tribute the media can pay to the dear lives we lost to the genocide.

To the United Nations (UN), the 'world watchers', little I will say except to orient readers about the famous statement by the former UN Secretary-General, Boutros Boutros-Ghali that, "Frontline"; "The failure of Rwanda is 10 times greater than the failure of Yugoslavia. Because in Yugoslavia the international community was interested, it got involved. In Rwanda nobody was interested."

So what are we memorialising? The loss of lives, many will say, to which I surely concur but I will not also hesitate to dedicate another reason; a call to duty especially to the multitude of actors whose negligence may plunge another society into such a human massacre. God forbid though!!!

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