THE colonial era and pre-1994 government policies and actions whose climax was the 1994 genocide against Tutsi decimated the Rwandan social fabric, national infrastructure and social services.As a divide-and-rule strategy, colonial masters created ethnic identities from what were social classes: land farmers (Hutus), cattle herders (Tutsis) and hunters/ gatherers (Twa).
Based on the artificial ethnic parameters determined, national identity cards were issued by colonialists in 1935.
The pre-1994 republics escalated ethnic-based politics with cyclic killings and discrimination producing a mass of refugees from as far back as 1959.
Ethnic-based identity cards were, during the genocide, used for identifying Tutsis for the purpose of killing them at roadblocks. Within 100 days, April 7 to July 4, 1994, over a million Tutsis and some moderate Hutus had been killed. An average of 10,000 deaths per day – the fastest killing rate ever recorded in the history of genocide.
Public media was characterised by deep hate. There was large-scale mobilisation of Hutus and de-humanisation of Tutsis (calling them snakes, cockroaches) to ensure total annihilation of Tutsis.
This year’s commemoration was held under the theme: ‘Kwibuka twiyubaka’ or remember – unite – renew.
Indeed, as President Kagame said in 2004: “We cannot turn the clock back nor can we undo the harm caused but we have the power to determine the future and to ensure that what happened never happens again.”
We as Rwandans always remember our past to inform how we plan and build a future we want.
We must continue working on our unity, fight ignorance of all forms and build our people’s capacity to live better and valuable lives.
Indeed as scholars will attest, genocide has eight very distinctive phases: (i) classification; (ii) symbolisation; (iii) dehumanisation; (iv) organisation; (v) polarisation; (vi) preparation; (vii) extermination; and (viii) denial.
Rwanda is still confronted with the last phase, denial. This is mainly manifested through smear targeting government and Rwandan officials. Using social media and other communication platforms, this phase of genocide ideology is aggressively disseminated by remnants of the perpetrators of the genocide against Tutsis and their support networks.
At the climax of the 1994 genocide against Tutsis, most experts predicted the country was a failed state in the making, or at best be a permanent United Nations protectorate.
It is worth reminding all that at the peak of the genocide the UN Force, The UN Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR), which was in the country, withdrew, leaving Rwandans at the mercy of the genocidal government.
Thankfully, the Rwandan spirit did not slumber, thanks to the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF). The Army wing of the RPF was, against all odds, able to stop the genocide by July 4, 1994.
Following the defeat of the genocidal government, the new visionary leadership began writing a new chapter of Rwanda’s history.
Under the current visionary leadership of President Kagame, you see a reconciled people and a peaceful country that is on a well-defined mission of striving for success.
It is a country united around a common vision of building a new, resilient and more independent Rwanda; a Rwanda that is fully integrated in the global community of nations.
Home-grown solutions have since been designed to answer specific challenges of the day. Examples here are: (i) Unity & reconciliation; (ii) Pro-poor programmes, e.g. Girinka; (iii) consensual democracy as opposed to confrontational politics; (iv) rule of law and accountability; (v) broad-based governance system as opposed to winner takes it all; (vi) National dialogue (interactive sessions of leaders & citizenry); and (vii) new technologies to address socio-economic challenges. Now results of prudent policies by government are there for all well-intentioned people to see.
The 2015 Rwanda reconciliation barometer shows the rate of reconciliation in the country at 92.5 percent.
Remarkably, Rwanda is today rated one of the safest countries in the world; the safest globally, according to the Gallup Global Law and Order Report of 2017.
There has been very commendable progress in governance and democracy. Having very peaceful elections in August last year was yet another landmark for Rwandan democracy.
Indeed, the re-election of President Kagame by an overwhelming majority was an affirmation of the people’s confidence and trust in his results-oriented leadership style,
Relatedly, Rwanda’s economy grew by six percent in 2017 and according to lMF, it is projected to grow at 7 .2 percent in 2018. The 2017 World Bank Doing Business Report has Rwanda ranked second in Africa in the Ease of Doing Business.
Rwanda is a firm believer and is involved in regional integration programmes. It is among champions of the open borders policy and has since January this year introduced a visa-on-arrival regime to all citizens of the world.
The development of Rwanda is inextricably linked to the African continent. We as Rwandans are proud of the trust bestowed upon President Kagame by his fellow heads of state and government to lead the African Union Reform Agenda and also chair the AU at this epic integration moment of the continental organisation.
Remnants of the perpetrators of the 1994 genocide against Tutsis are still scattered across the globe.
Given the inherent responsibility of fighting genocide by the global family of nations, complete end of its threat can only be achieved with support of all nations.
We are thankful to Zambia for her commitment in fighting genocide-related impunity as explicitly stated by President Edgar Lungu during the state visit earlier in February.
While honouring the 250,000 genocide victims laid to rest at the Kigali Genocide Memorial, President Lungu unequivocally reiterated his Government’s commitment to bring to book any perpetrators of the 1994 genocide against Tutsis that may be hiding in Zambia.
We are also thankful to some other nations on the continent, North America and Europe that have actively facilitated the process of bringing some genocide fugitives to book.
Many of these were tried by the International Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), while others have been extradited to the country and have either been convicted or are still undergoing trial in Rwandan courts.
Indeed this commendable collaboration is not only effective in fighting impunity and genocide ideology, but also reinforces global commitment to never again have another genocide anywhere.
Bilaterally, I am happy to note that following the opening of the Rwanda High Commission in June 2015 in Lusaka, interactions and multi-sectoral cooperation between both countries and peoples have grown considerably; bilateral relations between Zambia and Rwanda have been on a positive growth trajectory.
This is evidenced by exchanges of state visits by President Kagame and President Lungu in June 2017 and February 2018 respectively. A Zambia-Rwanda Joint Permanent Commission of Cooperation (JPCC) meeting was also held in Rwanda in February.
So far seven Memorandums of understanding have been signed across very strategic sectors of mutual interest.
I wish to call upon Rwandans here present to keenly follow developments in Rwanda, support to stay the course and pride in the incremental progress being registered.
Let me close with the solemn words spoken by our President during the 20th commemoration of the genocide against Tutsis:
“lt is always difficult to find adequate words, to convey the pain in our hearts as Rwandans during this period. We remember our history, what we saw, what we heard, what we lived through. What happened is difficult to comprehend but we have to find within our hearts the strength to go on, not dwell on the pain but rather keep working on achieving our goals like we always do.”
By Monique Mukaruliza, Rwanda High Commissioner to Zambia.
The Express News