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THE LAST WORD: Inside Rwanda’s politics of unity

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.

14 comments

  1. Thanks Andrew for the article. Leaders have to live by example. This will be a turning point in the process of reconciliation. May God bless Rwanda. Nd’omunyarwanda at heart

  2. as Rwandans we Thank you Andrew Mwenda for this Good article where you explain this program of ndi umunyarwanda, this ndumunyarwanda helped Rwandan young people (those who Came from Killer’s families and those from killed families ) in real reconciliation

    • when i hear foreigners trying to poke their noses in the politics of my country Rwanda, i pity them cz had it not been Paul Kagame, Rwanda would be a failed state, thank u Andrew

  3. I like Mwends’s style of writing! This story defines who we’re and our Destiny. Made Simple to understand.

    • This story has touched me indeed. I wish all Africans we could recognise each other as brothers and sisters. These deep rooted tribal divisions, leading to civil wars and conflicts account greatly to the slow development of Africa. The only thing I find interesting in Mwenda’s article is that “leaders of other parties were declaring support for President Kagame”. If that’s true, then one wonders why have political parties that will endorse the inccumbent? Isn’t Rwanda better off under one party system of governance?

  4. The process of reconciliation is tough and Rwanda has done a lot of creative stuff to move towards it. However there is a massive bug in what on the surface seems like a good solution. The promotion of nationalism(ndimunyarwanda) is tainted by these public apologies children are made to say on behalf of their parents or antecedents.The big problem is that they are pushed more by government policy than personal volition. First in the process of reconciliation you must always ensure that you don’t make people who were not perpetrators apologize to people who were not victims. If you fail , you have started a social process of generational transfer of guilt and victim hood. …..and actually the foundation for the repeat of the very thing you were trying to avoid.

    • But Maceni, that is the best Rwanda could do for the present. And since reconciliation is a process so continuous it might take forever, this is where your contribution and advise as a sincere and well-meaning person should come in. It is like a burning house where one applies first-aid (sand) while waiting for the fire engines to come.

    • Poor MACHENI, as usual you seem to hurt every time something good happens in Rwanda! Have you been told by the pain stricken young men and women that they were coerced by the state to say what they said and do as they did? A good hearted person can discern spontaneity in their actions, while evil minded genocidaire apologists and detractors see the state hand at work. You may be predicting your evil wish, but rest assured that Rwanda’s young generation, is on the move on the right path, in the right direction in hurry to get there, and they will, Inshah Allah. I hope Kakyama takes note.

      • Joe, you sound like someone who could be advised so I will try. Only light,no matter how dim, can counter darkness…..like water does to fire. Maceni likewise must be approached from an angle of amity and tenderness, not counter-attack.
        Hopefully he might see light and his animosity neutralised. People like Maceni,kakyama,Adhola etc… normally have a harsh(not poor) and/or advantaged up-bringing which tends to give them skewed vision (outer and inner) of issues. So their approach in Sociology requires tact. Please don’t blame them whenever they view genocide as a result of the arrogance of the killed which provoked the killers to anger……anger which lasted 100 days. People such as they are so right in their own eyes and so sure in their own twisted ways that no civilised inferential debate can convince them otherwise. we have experimented for 20 years and we came back to where we started from. Imagine a person shooting own mother dead allegedly because they are of different ethnic tribe!!!!!! It is no fiction.

        • Unless you believe that the current solution is perfect , you should have no problem in one pointing out its flaws. I want reconciliation to succeed in Rwanda ( under their own terms and not under the not very well thought out prescriptions of the west) . Instead of knee jerk reactions to put me in various boxes (harsh/advantaged upbringing, genocide sympathizer etc ) because I dared to have an opinion , please point out the flaw in my thinking , educate me , make a well thought out argument why I am wrong — it would serve both us and the larger cause better. There was a time in this blog most of the contributors were more preoccupied with impersonal well thought arguments and not name calling matches — lets make this blog great again!

  5. 1.Its true that the people of Rwanda love Kagame alot coz the genocide terrified them he is a sort of a god to the people of Rwanda remember the sombre mood that engulfed Ug when Kaweesi was killed now just imagine the impact of a genocide!The people of Rwanda dont take Kagame for granted let them enjoy his rule while it still lasts they takig day at a time.
    3.Why is Kagame going thru all the political rituals of holding delegates conference to nominate him?Dont they have provison in the consitution for declaring one as unpposed?

  6. @ Rajab must still be celebrating IDD in Butambala Rwanda is his favourate topic but he has made no comment are you aware that Kabaka is soon making a police statement on land issues?Are you aware that land that is under lease is a risky collectual for a loan

    • Rajab might not even be muslim; judging from the way he openly shows hostility to Kagame and sympathy to genocide perpetrators Winnie so his being in IDD celebrations don’t arise.
      He has gone underground because there was no audience for his obsolete text-book copied ideas that ceased to be applicable in the last century…..or with the present-day hardships, you may find he has no access to internet. You know Winnie how life is tough and tougher when you are a (……) like Kakyama.

  7. Stop wishing, I am as sparky as ever. I was observing the Holy month of Ramadan and the six days of Sitat. I kept a cool head but a very watchful eye. Its good to hear from Maceni. I will respond in good time. Internet is a social good. One only has to live in a 21st Century Country.

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