In a cold misty morning, 137 youth had gathered under one roof with one agenda. It was to talk about their national identity “Ndi Umunyarwanda”, as it would be said in Kinyarwanda. With the theme “Agaciro kacu” which roughly translates to “Our dignity”. This was the 4th edition of the Ndi umunyarwanda dialogues and took place on 30th January at splendid hotel in Muhanga district.
Welcoming the guests to the dialogue was Mr. Innocent Kayiranga, the Vice Mayor in charge of economic affairs of Muhanga district, He went on by highlighting that normally Ndi umunyarwanda dialogues are mainly organized by adults and said that it shows great promise that the dialogue is now being organized by the youth. “this gives hope for a great future” he noted.
This was echoed by Thacienne Dusabeyezu- commissioner of National Unity and Reconciliation Commission (NURC), in her opening remarks.
“It is a great joy and pride for the country that the youth are now taking initiatives to organize such dialogues and engage other fellow youth,” madam Dusabeyezu said.
She went on by saying that our national identity is our pride and is assured by the fact that it is all Rwandans coming together to build the Rwanda we want.
Moderated by Assoumpta Mugiraneza, the dialogue was ignited by the panelists, namely Irene Mizero, Elise Musomandera, Victor Manoter Riberakurora and Albert Nsengimana, personal stories in relation to “Ndi umunyarwanda” concept within their lives.
Madam Elise Musomandera, the author of “Le livre d’Elise”, was the first among the panelists to share her story.
“I was only 10 years old when the genocide against Tutsis happened and all my family was killed.” Musomandera recounted. She then added that afterwards life was very tough for her despite having access to education. But after a long time reflecting on her past, Elise said that she came to terms with the fact that she could not run away or hide from the history of genocide.
“I made peace with my past by accepting my history and realized that I had to live with the survivors and that helped me to gather strength to work together with other youth to develop my country while igniting unity and reconciliation as the only path towards sustainable development,” Musomandera said.
Next in line was Irene Mizero who was, at the age of 11, left with 3 younger siblings, shortly after the 1994 genocide against Tutsis, as his parents were found guilty of charges against the genocide against the Tutsis.
“I held a grudge over our government that had separated me with my parents,” said Mizero.
The founder of Mizero Care Foundation, however, attested that upon receiving a scholarship from the government, he realized that he was not treated differently from any other children and was not blamed or punished for his parent’s wrongdoings, “and that made me comprehend the ndi umunyarwanda concept,” Mr. Mizero noted.
He, later on, said that it helped him realize that the path of the country of unity and reconciliation was true and that it helped him embrace with pride the national identity of people working together as one to build a country where everyone is equal.
Mr. Victor Manoter Riberakurora, who was being segregated as he grew up only because of what people considered his tribe to be, “Twa” was it called then, said that after the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi when everyone was working to resolve the issues that resulted in the genocide, his community was cast even more in the shadow.
“When I was in secondary school, one of my teachers persecuted me because of where I come from and what he considered my tribe to be, it filled me with rage against the Rwandan people for what I then believed was false unity,” he recalled.
It is through dialogues like this one that opened his eyes towards the journey of unity and reconciliation being undertaken by all Rwandans and his responsibility on this journey.
Lastly, Mr. Albert Nsengimana who was between a conflicted family, with his mother’s brothers hunting down and killing his father’s family during the 1994 genocide, spoke about the hardships he met after the 1994 genocide against Tutsis.
“I could not be accepted whether on my mother’s or my father’s side, each accusing me of being the other side’s son,” said Nsengimana with an emotional voice.
“Such dialogues allowed me to see the whole picture and find the strength to forgive and heal my wounds.”
After the panel discussion, the youth participants took center stage to share their opinions and stories in regard to Ndi umunyarwanda in their everyday lives. The participants thanked the organizers of the dialogue and said that they were enlightened about values that define Rwandans and their responsibilities towards a united Rwanda. The youth said that the dialogue shone a light on how segregation was used to divide Rwandans which resulted to the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi.
The participants also indicated that the dialogue reminded them that what unites Rwandans is far greater than what separates them.
While giving her remarks, Madam Regine Iyamuremye, the Executive Secretary of Unity Club, applauded that those kinds of dialogues are being conducted by the youth.
“We used to be the only ones at Unity Club to conduct such dialogues but we’re delighted to see that the youth are also taking the lead in initiating such dialogues among their peers,” she said.
This was corroborated by the Executive Director of Rwanda We Want organization, Colbert Rulinda, who stressed on the youth’s involvement in such conversations.
“It is important for the youth to engage in dialogues about unity and reconciliation, for it is the one true base upon which the Rwanda we want should be built,” Rulinda said.
The youth, he added, being the powerhouse of the country’s development, should wear with pride our national identity, for it represents our strength to overcome any obstacle and achieve great things while shielding us from division and genocide ideologies as seen in the past.
This was echoed in Hon. Alvera Mukabaramba, Vice president of the Senate’s closing remarks, who didn’t hide her delight after being invited by such young people for such a conversation.
“This dialogue is like an implementation of fundamental principles of our country, and it pleases us to see the youth taking the lead to integrate lessons drawn from these dialogues within their lives,” she said.
Hon. Mukabaramba added that they, as elders, draw a sense of pride to see the youth shaping their future through such dialogues.
“I would like to request these dialogues reach as many youths as possible because Ndi Umunyarwanda is a journey and we shall make every step together as Rwandans.”