Rwanda: First Lady Talks Unity, Reconciliation at U.S. National Prayer Breakfast

6 February 2020

The First Lady Jeannette Kagame is currently in the United States for the 68th US National Prayer Breakfast, whose activities started Tuesday and end Thursday February 6 in Washington D.C.

On Wednesday, she attended two related events including the International Luncheon, and the Pacific Northwest and Rocky Mountain States Congressional Dinner IV, where she delivered keynote remarks, sharing Rwanda's journey towards Unity and Reconciliation.

In her remarks, she reminded the audience how, on February 3, 1994, the late Mother Teresa of Calcutta, addressed the National Prayer Breakfast and called upon the audience to be instruments of peace - while that same year, a few months later, Rwanda experienced the Genocide against the Tutsi.

"Mother Teresa, invoked the audience to pray for peace, joy and love. Tragically, in that same year, far across the ocean, in my home country Rwanda, peace, love and joy, seemed to be alien concepts. As turmoil, fear and anguish set in leading to the Genocide against the Tutsi, only a few months later," the First Lady said.

However, in retrospect, she noted that the prayer recited 26 years ago, "strongly resonated across the ocean and inspired the leadership of Rwanda to take, "by divine commission the high road" that eventually led to reconciliation and unity, that marks Rwanda today.

Sharing the steps taken to transform the country, the First Lady emphasized the fact that "Nothing grows where there is divisionism and hatred." In the case of Rwanda, she explained that "we understood that to bring sustainable peace, we needed to allow room for repentance and forgiveness and forever close the window to vengeance."

More specifically, she added that, Rwanda relied on lessons learnt from the country's history, to transform all aspects of governance.

"Thinking critically around issues of security and dignity for all, helped us to deeply analyse the options set before us, and carve out a clearly defined path, to a unified, peaceful and prosperous nation."

"We adopted inclusive policies and structures, and created platforms - many of which were home-grown solutions, at all levels, to encourage community involvement in nation building efforts." The First Lady also noted that Rwanda promoted inclusive and intentional leadership, defined by three key pillars: unity, accountability and thinking big.

"These pillars have instilled in each of us: the sense of responsibility towards sustaining our collective gains; as well as the discipline needed to work towards our shared goal of realizing the Rwanda we want," she said.

The First Lady concluded saying that, "overall, through repentance, forgiveness and a genuine value for unity, Rwandans walked a difficult path, leading us to where we stand today." She attributed, Rwanda's progress to-date, to the many sacrifices made by every Rwandan, to have the necessary discussions and take the needed steps, to transcend the pain caused by the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

"Today, the returns manifest themselves, in a growing economy, and in a society in which the rights to a dignified life are continuously fought for, in our pursuit of unshakable peace, and unity."

Later on today, the First Lady will attend the National Prayer Breakfast and thereafter the Leaders' Luncheon

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