THE LAST WORD: Why other political parties in Rwanda have endorsed the candidacy of Paul Kagame
The Last Word | ANDREW M. MWENDA| The government of Rwanda has been working with a concept called “Ndi’omunyarwanda” i.e. I am a Munyarwanda. It seeks to facilitate people to see themselves as Rwandans, not as Hutus or Tutsis. Some Rwandans grew up in circumstances where their entire family was killed and often the killers now live with them in the same village. Others are from families that killed. The children from these families grew up taking food to their parents in jail. This becomes a stigma. People tell them: “so you are the son of this man who killed my family.” For many the shame and guilty are heavy to bear.
Let me illustrate this with a story from one of the sessions of Ndi’omunyarwanda. Two girls, Jane and Jane (real names) were born and grew up in the same village. One is a daughter of Matthew and another a daughter of Peter (both names are real but I have omitted surnames deliberately). Mathew killed Peter. As they grew up, Jane learnt that her dad is the one who killed the other Jane’s dad. So Jane kept avoiding Jane.
Jane even changed the school because she felt ashamed seeing the other Jane. Even when they met in the market, she would hide. If Jane met Jane on the road, she would walk into the bush. She would go to visit her dad in jail and ask him why he killed peter. He would say: Why are you asking me this? He would not deny but would refuse to answer the question and this continued to torture her.
During one of the Ndi’omunyarwanda sessions attended by some leading politicians in their village in Gisagara, Southern Province, Jane whose father had killed stood up to speak. She said: I am called Jane. I know there is a girl in this room called Jane whose dad was killed by my dad. I don’t know whether she knows it or not. But all my life I have been trying to avoid her. I am tired of this life… I cannot keep this any longer. I want to tell her that I regret what my dad did. I know Jane has no family because all were killed. I want to be her sister. I want to be her family.”
The other Jane stood up and walked to her and hugged her and they all cried. Jane without a father said: I accept to be your sister and your friend. Ever since that session, the two girls have been living together as sisters and friends. Both these girls did not go to school. Both were four years during the genocide. Now they are both 26 years. Ndi omunyarwanda is a process of reconciling people and bringing them together to rebuild community and trust.
There was another Ndi’omunyarwanda session at the National University of Rwanda at Butare. Then Prime Minister Pierre Damien Habumuremyi showed a documentary on the role of political speech in uniting and/or dividing people. In the documentary there was a scene where soldiers put a Tutsi man onto a pick-up truck and were kicking him and beating him with gun butts.