Lately, Rwanda has become the spotlight of the World due to its good leadership which enabled it to break records in various disciplines, but this was not the case 25 years ago. 25 years ago, this is a country that witnessed horrific atrocities; the genocide against Tutsi. What’s even terrifying is that the victims and the killers were people who lived within the same country and the same neighborhood, who also shared the same culture as well as the language of Kinyarwanda. After RPF liberated this country, they understood that the only way to move forward was through unity and reconciliation. This was a dream but it was the only solution. Ever since, it has been the pillar of our development.
But how do you shift from looking at a person in form of an enemy from another ethnic group to looking at the same person as your fellow Rwandan? Today’s youth didn’t live through those dark days but they sipped on the consequences. Rwanda We Want organization believes that in order to ensure continuity of the good leadership that this country has, the future leaders are to be prepared, and these future leaders are the youth we have today. However, this youth is not like any other; they lived in the consequences of the 1994 genocide against Tutsis which is why it is of paramount importance for them to understand our history and our identity as Rwandans. It is in that regard that RWW organization in partnership with Gasabo district organized the 2nd edition of the conference on our national identity “ndi umunyarwanda” with the theme “Igihango kiduhuza” for the youth to learn more about the meaning of being called a Rwandan, the responsibilities that come with it and also the oath that binds you to other Rwandans. This conference was held on 24th May 2019 at RRA-auditorium Kimihurura. It gathered more than 320 youth from all of Gasabo district.
The opening remarks were given by Mr. Karega Diogene, the vice president of the advisory council of Gasabo district. After a warm welcome, he urged the youth to uphold Rwandan values and virtues as far as good citizenship is concerned, and added that it should not be sang or in slogans only but rather put in action in their every day’s life.
While giving his remarks, the executive chairperson of Rwanda We Want organization, Mr. Tristan Murenzi showed gratitude towards the youth’s participation and zeal to build a country that everyone is proud to live in. He also thanked the district for their support towards the success of the conference. He then urged the youth to fully grasp the conference’s message and try to share it with their peers who had not gotten the opportunity to attend the conference.
It was the time for the panel discussion;
The moderator Mme. Gloria Mukamabano began by asking them what they understand by “ndi umunyarwanda” and before she could answer, Aline Umulizaboro chose to first share with us her story; that moment when people’s emotions melt into their eyes and pour down their cheeks.
Aline Umulizaboro: While growing up, I only lived with my mother, and like a normal child I could ask my mother where my father was; “He died” she could answer me, but little did I know that I was not a normal child nor that I was the gap that had separated my mother from her family. When I became a little bit older, I started hearing stories; stories about my origin and who was my father. That’s when I became a little bit more serious with my mum and requested her to confirm the rumors or tell me the real story. “Uri amateka mabi! (roughly translates as you’re a bad souvenir” she replied. This immediately confirmed the rumors that my mother had been raped by a hutu militia who committed genocide against Tutsis, and that I was the product. This was the most difficult thing to internalize throughout my whole life. Later on, she also admitted that we had other family members who had left us because she didn’t want to abort the child she had had with a Hutu militia who had killed her family relatives. (At this point everyone in the auditorium was mesmerized.) I hated my name and myself. I felt like I was a bad omen. Until one day I had a small quarrel with mum and felt like I didn’t want to live anymore, so I decided to go into the forest with the hope that dogs will kill me and I disappear. Fortunately, nothing happened; I slept there the whole night and not even a mosquito bit me. Thereafter, mum started taking me to SEVOTA where they taught me that it was not my fault. But the real healing process began when I fully comprehended that I am a normal child with no tag and I should make my mum proud. I started working hard in class, got good grades and I was admitted to the university; all that thanks to “Ndi umunyarwanda” program and the good leadership which puts a lot of efforts in unifying all Rwandans, and after hearing how I was performing, my family got reconciled and asked for forgiveness to my mum for having abandoned her.
The moderator thanked Aline Umulizaboro for having shared the unchosen story which she lived through which opened up a new compartment of unity and reconciliation. She continues asking the commissioner in the National Unity and Reconciliation commission Mr. Muhire Louis Antoine how the unity and reconciliation stats are especially in the youth.
Mr. Muhire Antoine: more than96% of Rwandans have embraced unity and reconciliation and are working towards an improvement in their day to day lives. One might think that these numbers are outstanding even though I don’t consider them to be because 3-4% of Rwandans, we’re talking about a whole district of people who haven’t yet understood the concept of being a Rwandan or even reembracing our Rwandan identity because we were Rwandans before the white man came and convinced us otherwise; our king was Rwandan. Furthermore, in order to have a different tribe, you ought to have different traditions, language, and be of different territories which was totally the opposite in our case. There is an ongoing research on the youth which will be availed in July this year. Nevertheless, the youth are showing more positive signs or attitude in embracing the “ndi umunyarwanda” nonetheless, there have been some cases of the youth showing signs of genocide ideologies, and these are very delicate because they are a threat to the future. When these youths are punished it’s a loss for the country because we still have a lot to build as a country in terms of ideas and other tangible things, so the loss of one youngster is a loss of energy which could have been used to build this country.
On the same panel Hon. Bamporiki Eduard, the chairman of the National Itorero Commission said “ I think the word “ndi umunyarwanda” is self-explanatory. This has to be that internal identity or a reflection from every Rwandan may perceive him/herself from. Around 1300, that’s when the Rwandan monarchy had the idea of expanding their territory. Their plan succeeded and they had a country which had the same culture and the same language. It’s only during the colonial period that things begin to change. However, some people think that the Hutu, Tutsi and Twa were brought by the white man which is not the case (they were social classes), and if the country was threatened, they could altogether fight against the threat as Rwandans. This did not make the white man happy. Our unity and our solidarity were the white man’s biggest threat, so they tried to find ways to destroy their biggest threat. This was showcased when they took King Musinga to Kamembe and Moba to kill him just to give Rwandans a message that what they believed in was useless and meaningless, but then the Rwandans kept on resisting. His son King Rudahigwa tried to fight for their Rwandan values and ways too but he too got the same fate as his father. In tearing apart the social fabric that had been established, the colonialists did not only put our social classes as our ethnic groups in our ID cards but rather destroyed the whole systems that were holding together the Rwandans. The colonialists and missionaries based on our social classes to divide us.”
The moderator asked again to Aline Umulizaboro the message she would like to convey to people who have a story like hers and who have not yet understood “ndi umunyarwanda” concept and she responded “This is my message. I advise him/her to sit down and examine him/herself, who does (s)he want to be and where does (s)he want to go in life, (s)he will then realize that in order to reach far, one has to walk with others. It is through this that (s)he will understand the true meaning of “Ndi umunyarwanda”, for (s)he will realize that where (s)he wants to reach, is where both the country and his/her fellow citizen/neighbor wants to reach.”
The moderator then asked Emmanuel Muneza, the national coordinator of AERG family what strategy they used in order to fully understand “ndi umunyarwanda” and he responded that they considered it as a medicine to our wounds. On one hand, it doesn’t mean that we should forget what happened so that we may never repeat it, but on the other hand, it helps us through the reconciliation process with our neighbors. It also helps us to not lag behind while others are embracing “Ndi umunyarwanda”, for we have been heavily affected by the lack of “Ndi umunyarwanda” within our society, so it is, in fact, us that have to fully embrace it before others. It required tremendous amounts of efforts to understand that someone who had killed your family is your fellow Rwandan. We are all called to be united.
When asked the message he would like to the leave to the youth in the room Mr. Muhire Antoine said “Let us fight for our Rwandan identity because if we don’t, other people will bring other things to divide us and we shall not be strong to overcome them.”
After being asked about the youth who are tempted to betray their identity because of certain profits or because their closest relatives have asked them to do so, Hon. Bamporiki Eduard replied: Simply, nothing should come before our Rwandan identity or our love for our country. We have had examples from the past; Ruganzu Bwimba who separated himself from his mother due to her betrayal towards the nation. The 2nd one tried to respect the kingdom by acknowledging the law that advised against helping or engaging in any kind of activity with the country’s enemy without asking the kingdom first. In simple words, nothing should come before Rwanda, our Rwandan identity or our love for Rwanda. As the youth, let us know what to accept and refuse in order to build Rwanda We Want.
Other leaders in the audience also joined the conversation;
Hon. Logan Ndahiro , a member of parliament emphasized on holding onto our national identity as Rwandans and not look at each other in an ethnic perception.
The Deputy Commissioner of Rwanda Revenue Authority in charge of human resources,
Mr. Emery Batayika said: “ We are all Rwandans because we share the same culture. Everyone is unique not even being siblings or sharing the same genes can ensure total likelihood of siblings. Let me end by saying this; as today’s youth, you’re very lucky. You are very lucky to have grown up in a country that loves you all and listen to you all as Rwandans. You are very lucky to have a country that unites you all as Rwandans, you should guard that and nurture it so that it stays like that for more generations to come.”
Mme Sylvie Mudidi in charge of programs at unity club: We thank the youth for having organized this conference. This conference should be a good time for you to think about “ndi umunyarwanda” as a bond that binds us, but also be the time to take measures of being more patriotic, guarding your country and developing it more and more because being a Rwandan is not only about a nationality but rather embodying the values of a Rwandan.
After the panel discussion, sauti Rwanda gave the participants an amazing play about ndumunyarwanda.
In his remarks Hon. Senator SEBUHORO Celestin commended the initiative that the youth is taking to raise the awareness of our identity “ndi umunyarwanda”. He said that it shows that our country headed to a better place, and it is an effort which should be endorsed to enforce its output through the development of our country. He added that such initiatives are motives to the current leadership, it is thus everyone’s participation to sustain the achieved goals and initiatives, he therefore invited the vice president of the senate, Rt.Hon. Gakuba Jeanne to deliver her closing remarks as the guest of honor.
The guest of honor immediately took the floor and said: “Kindly allow me to start by thanking Gasabo district officials and Rwanda we want organization for having organized such an amazing event. It is always a pleasure for us parents to respond to the invitations of our young ones who are a source of hope for both the present and the future of our country. Being here talking about our identity and trying to come up with resolutions on the way forward as the youth, allow me to also thank our good leadership, in particular, our president of the Republic of Rwanda, H.E Paul Kagame who always leads us towards a better Rwanda. Talking about the history of our country in such a small time is almost impossible, but everyone has tried to play his/her part in sharing the history, and hopefully, everyone will go back home with something. Nonetheless, everyone ought to be handed the “ndi umunyarwanda” concept paper for reading and understanding, but also grasping the concept fully and integrating it into our every day’s lives. Kindly allow me to also thank the NURC and unity club, for they were the ones who normally organized such conferences but now it’s the youth. Therefore, it is a positive sign that they have started to bear good fruits among the youth. Let this be a good model for other NGOs that “Ndi umunyarwanda” is a foundation of our country’s development. This identity was restored thanks to the good leadership; the one that stopped the 1994 genocide against Tutsis. Some of the youth present here were young during the genocide against the Tutsis, other were not yet born, but you’re all trying to find answers, and let’s try to find answers but not become prisoners of our past but instead build a brighter future. Allow me to also comfort all those who are wounded by their past, but this past shouldn’t be an excuse to not achieving one’s full potential, for now, we have good leadership that never discriminates anyone; which presents equal opportunities for all regardless of their history.”
A memento to mark the event was taken afterwards.