Rwanda: Residents of Border Districts Urged to Maintain Rwandan Culture

17 January 2019

Rwandans living along the borders have been urged to maintain their cultural identity instead of being influenced by their neighbours.

The call was made by Dr James Vuningoma, Executive Secretary of Rwanda Academy of Languages and Culture (RALC), during General Assembly of the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF-Inkotanyi) in Eastern Province.

Many Rwandans lived in exile for decades and assimilated cultures of the host nations and when they repatriated back to Rwanda they failed to shed them off.

Vuningoma said that from 1959 to date Rwanda has seen a lot of cultural borrowings, due to both the country's history and development. It affected Rwandan identity: "Including clothing, speaking and traditional wedding rituals".

He said that nowadays many people conduct traditional wedding ceremonies with neighbouring countries' influence.

He said RALC has completed a book describing Rwandan wedding rituals.

"We find the same problem on all Rwandan borders, when you go to Gisenyi (Rubavu District), you find a lot from DR Congo dominating, when you come to Nyagatare, you find Ugandan culture dominating, and when you go to Kirehe, you find the same from the other side (Tanzania)," he pointed out.

"Look at what belongs to Rwandans, its originality, that is exactly where the Rwandan identity is based," he emphasised.

"The heritage our ancestors left to us that we remember and still have today is our language Kinyarwanda. That is what all of us have today," he said, adding "Although we have enjoyed learning other languages, we do not fully value any of the languages, because we mix them, and when you mix languages in your speech, you are undervaluing each of them," he said.

He called on citizens to take seriously teaching their young ones to honour and stick to their culture, because, after all, "culture is not born with but it's taught," he stated.

Stephen Rwamurinzi, a resident of Nyagatare District, said that wedding as family institution has seen foreign cultural influences that changed it.

"In weddings, in Rwandan culture, people used to speak the truth about the future of their children, but nowadays, traditional introduction rituals (Gusaba) discussions have become like comedy," he claimed.

Rwamurinzi admitted that the majority of Nyagatare residents' lifestyles imitate foreign traditions, especially people older than 30.

"Elders of my age are still influenced by cultures from neighbouring countries, as a consequence, they will not be able to bequeath appropriate Rwandan identity to their offspring," he stated.

"What we are doing today is to convince families to love their country's culture. When they have wedding ceremonies, we urge them to put on Rwandan traditional attire, 'imikenyero', and traditional jewellery portraying the Rwandan identity," he added.

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