For one to know the distance on a journey there has to be a point of departure or initial point. The same logic applies to Rwandan youth. In order for them to know the Rwanda they want, they have to know their point of departure, for them to also know the distance covered and the remaining distance. In other words, progress.
Rwanda We Want understood this and in partnership with the National Unity and Reconciliation Commission(NURC) and Rulindo District, organized the 3rd Edition of the “Ndi Umunyarwanda” conference at Base, Rulindo district on 17th October.
On a sunny morning, amidst the mountainous Northern Province, the youth had come in numbers-more than 300 youth- to learn more about their Rwandan identity and the amending power it holds. The day’s theme was Ndi Umunyarwanda Icyomoro Cyacu.
“Ndi Umunyarwanda” as a bridge towards the Rwanda we want
Welcoming the guests to the conference, Marie Claire Gasanganwa- the Vice Mayor in charge of social affairs of Rulindo district, highlighted the need for such discussions among the youth.
“Allow me to thank Rwanda We Want and NURC for such discussions that integrate the youth in unity and reconciliation programs, and also for having brought them here in Rulindo district,” said Gasanganwa.
This is because, she attested, today’s youth are the ones to pick the baton up from their parents and keep up the race towards the Rwanda we want.
This was echoed by Fidel Ndayisaba- Executive Secretary of NURC, in his opening remarks.
“Today’s youth are lucky. Your parents lived through unspeakable atrocities, and you were directly told about and lived the consequences of those atrocities,” Ndayisaba narrated.
That, however, he explained, automatically makes you a bridge for the future generations to pass over towards the Rwanda We want.
The youth are lucky again to have been born in a country that restored our identity, that fits us all and well. Wherever you may go, if they don’t welcome you, your motherland will always be there for you with open arms. This wasn’t the case 25 years ago. Nevertheless, we shouldn’t be defined by that dark part of our history. Because, as Rwandans, we are defined by our culture-which upholds unity-and thus draw strength from that unity as one family- Ndayisaba added.
During the panel discussions, the panelists shared their brief history and how “Ndi Umunyarwanda” has helped to revamp their lives. The discussions were moderated by Mme Assoumpta Mugiraneza.
Aline Umulizaboro who was born from rape during the genocide perpetrated against Tutsis in 1994, shared how her family used to disregard her because of her father. However, after so many years of stigma and self-hate, she later found comfort in “Ndi Umunyarwanda” and began to heal slowly.
Later, she urged the youth to “stop dwelling on the past and start exploiting all the opportunities the government gives to the youth.”
Alongside her, was Joel Murenzi- Ag. Coordinator of Youth Empowerment unit at Imbuto Foundation, whose dad was killed in 1994 genocide against the Tutsis, said having grown in hardships didn’t discourage him to think positively. This is because, he said, as the youth, they grew up in a unified country- that does not discriminate anyone- an opportunity that his parents did not get.
For this, he added, the youth ought to make good use of this opportunity because in this country you can achieve everything you want if you work for it.
Vicky Manoter Riberakurora, whose parents belonged to what was then called “Twa” ethnicity, recounted how his dad wanted to study but was later told to drop just because “The twa people live to please leaders and people in general” his dad was told. This was a brief example he gave to testify how they faced a lot of discrimination, downgrade, and belittlements. The same fate haunted my childhood and my study life. He was always exasperated but later decided to make a U-turn because of “Ndi Umunyarwanda”.
“I decided to free from my heart all those bad things that held it captive and I would recommend it to everyone,” he said.
Riberakurora added that it was because he understood that he was as much as Rwandan as any other Rwandan. Now, he only moves with those who want to build their country.
Irene Mizero too was among the panelists. When he was 11 years old, both of his parents were convicted of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsis crimes. This left him in a very sorrowful state and led him to detest the government for having jailed both of his parents. Nevertheless, he continued his studies. Upon finishing with good grades, he was given the government scholarship to further his studies. Something that shocked him and pulled him up from the dark place he’d lived in since the imprisonment of his parents.
“It was shocking to get a government scholarship because I didn’t think I would, because of my parents’ crimes. On top of that, I constantly lived in fear that one day they lock me up too because of their crimes,” said Mizero.
“(…)This government upheld one true identity, which is being Rwandan. I guess it also earned me this life regardless of my parents’ crimes. Through that identity, “Ndi Umunyarwanda”, I was also able to heal and start Mizero care organization to help other needy youth,” he added.
He urged the youth to never lend an ear to someone who would urge them to deflect from the current leadership’s good values that unify Rwandans.
Comments from the audience were mostly comforting the panelists and expressing how their stories helped them in relation to their lives.
The attendees vowed to go and share all the lessons from the conference to their peers at the village level.
In his remarks, Lt.Col. John Muvunyi of the Rwanda Defence Force-RDF reiterated on the importance of unity as Rwandans and the Rwandan identity.
“One of the greatest wealth we have is our identity as Rwandans(…) Therefore, It is of paramount importance for every Rwandan to preserve and take care of what binds and unites us,” said Lt. Col. Muvunyi.
In his closing remarks, Tristan Murenzi-Executive chairperson at Rwanda We Want organization underscored the importance of “Ndi Umunyarwanda”, Rwandan identity.
Our national identity, he said, unites us as Rwandans and I would like to urge every youth to embrace it, for only then shall we achieve true unity and reconciliation and hence build sustainable development.
The event was marked with a memento.