By Tiri Masawi
WINDHOEK – Twenty-five years is a life time to keep bitterness, anger and live as a people looking for each other beyond the confines of tribe.
Yet Rwanda, now cherished as one of the beacons of peace, development and growth, walked that road.
Sad as it may, the Rwandan Genocide of 1994 which saw more than a million innocent people butchered within hundred days for no reason but a difference in tribe, still lingers fresh in the memories of most Africans and the world.
It took a bold statement by the Rwandan First Lady, Jeanette Kagame, last week while accompanying her husband, President Paul Kagame, on a state visit to Namibia to remind the world and the Southern African Development Community that peace cannot be taken for granted.
In Madam Kagame’s few words, there is a definite paradigm shift in Rwanda that believes in the old adage, the tribe must die for a nation to live.
Kagame equated Rwanda’s state after genocide to a shattered glass with thrown pieces everywhere, but at the same time is proud of the same country having achieved so much in uniting a people devided by bad government policies of the past and tribal connotations within a silver jubilee.
Perhaps those that still live with memories of Rwanda under the brutality that ravaged the East African country 25 years ago had one or two lessons to pick.
According to Kagame, Rwanda is now a new state that has left the pain of the past and harnessed all the pain inflicted on its citizens to build a prosperous country that caters for all its inhabitants regardless of colour creed or race.
Rwanda’s unifying story after 25 years is perhaps something many African countries ravaged by war or still in the trenches of endless civil war and torn between political patronage and patriotism could take a cue from.
One does not need to read too widely to authenticate Kagame’s pride in Rwanda as the country is by far one of the fastest growing economies on the continent, whose creation of the best social amenities for Rwandans are there for everyone’s eyes.
“In Rwanda we have come up with different initiative to build peace and unity among our people and let them believe that we are one together. After 25 years, we continue to heal and reach out to each other from our past. This peace we enjoy is something we cherish,” Kagame told a multitude of young Namibians who gathered for the Be Free, Build a Nation campaign.
The Be Free Campaign is a brainchild of Namibian First Lady Monica Geingos who aims to harness positive energy among Namibian youths to create positivity and fight social injustices meted against the youth.
“Young people are important in shaping the future and back home in Rwanda, we have come up with our own Be Free campaigns meant to encourage working together among the youth and also build national pride among our youth. I thank my host for giving us such an opportunity to speak to young people in Namibia about the importance of unity in Africa,” she said.
First Lady Kagame, who is the Chairperson of the Unity club, a grouping formed in 1996 after the dark years and made up of former members and current members of the Rwandan government to promote social cohesion towards sustainable development of that country, believes there is no better platform for development of any country than unity.
As part of finding solutions to society, Kagame has served in the Organisation of African Union First Ladies where they drive ideas to combat the challenges brought by HIV and Aids.
Her belief is that Africa stands to benefit more by ploughing into young people and creating a generation that believes in its abilities. Kagame told the multitudes that gathered to hear her speak that while in the past division has been the order of the day among tribes and nations in Africa, the continent will benefit more by finding solutions that unite its youths.
She said some mothers killed their own because of a difference in tribe during the genocide but today Rwanda symbolises a country that has been there, seen it all and energized to see her development and social mobility of its people come first.
Although each country can find ties that bind for its youth going forward, without her prescription, her firm belief is that Namibia, itself a victim of genocide more than a century ago, has made tremendous efforts in bridging the gap.
Kagame’s sentiments were also echoed by Bishop John Kabango who has seen the depth of Rwanda’s pre and post genocide. Bishop Kabango’s belief is that most African nations need to inculcate a culture of nurturing the youth in all leadership positions through teaching them their history.
“Young people I urge you to read and learn your history so you can understand where you are going. I also urge parents in Africa to educate their children, not for certificates but for life,” he said.
The Rwandan bishop also told the gathering in Namibia that peace is something to enjoy and cherish and should never be taken for granted for political expedience.