By Saman Nooh, Translation by Dr. Pshtiwan Faraj
After a quarter of a century of civil war and ethnic genocide described as the worst in the 20th century, Rwandese people, were divided into two tribes, are looking for a secure and prosperous future in a country that is achieving remarkable economic development driven by social stability after reconciliation, tolerance and reform initiatives have succeeded in averting the threat of war. Rwanda has suffered hunger and homelessness in the past period.
The economic reform programs that have developed agriculture, industry, tourism and attracted investments, along with the initiatives of reconciliation, forgiveness and coexistence, have enabled Rwanda to overcome the consequences of the devastating war and genocide in the early 1990s. The country becomes two of the most stable African countries and one of the fastest growing economies in the world. With a growth of nearly nine percent in 2017.
The country, which lost about one million people during the ethnic war, has no oil fields or mineral mines. It has bet on agriculture, small industries, the service sector and tourism. It has become the first tourist destination in the continent, under a strategy focused on achieving the conditions of reconciliation and coexistence. With development of economic infrastructure and included joint work sincerely under good governance to ensure transparency and integrity, to strengthen infrastructure and reduce poverty and improve the efficiency of the educational system and provide the appropriate foundations for domestic and foreign investment.
Between 1990 and 1993 Rwanda witnessed a bloody conflict between the Rwandan armed forces representing (the majority Hutu) government and the Rwandan Patriotic Front (Tutsi-minority), which ended with the signing of a peace agreement. But the agreement collapsed when an extremist Hutu Pauer group in April 1994, carried out genocide against Tutsis, which killed 800,000 to 1 million Tutsis and moderate Hutus in just 100 days. The war ended after the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) took control of the country’s cities, including the capital Kigali, in less than three months.
These massacres are considered the greatest genocide during the 20th century and were the result of the racist propaganda practiced between the two tribes as part of their competition for governance in a country of some 12 million people.
Forgiveness and Tolerance
How did Rwanda succeed in overcoming the years of power struggle between the Hutus and the Tutsis and the pain of genocide? Experts of Rwandan experience summarize the answer in two things: forgiveness, tolerance and good governance.
According to an Agency France Press report, forgiveness and tolerance have enabled the foundations of rebuilding society and the state.
The report tells the story of the Rwandan Jean Bosco Jakuinziri and Pascal Sharahuamabuku, who have a shocking story about one of the murders that took place. Twenty-five years ago, the second participated in the murder of the father of the latter during the genocide.
At the end of the Sunday at the church of their town, the Rwandans, who have known each other for 50 years, have exchanged friendly talk and smiles and entered into a long and warm embrace after a long journey of forgiveness and tolerance between the perpetrators and the victims.
In 1994, Shirahuamabuku was a member of a gang that beat Jakuinziri’s father to death, just after Rwanda descending into horrific violence and genocide.
The men are still working as farmers in cassava and potato fields outside the small town of Mutiti, 40 km north of Kigali.
“I hurt him a lot, but he forgave me,” said Shrahawamabuku, now 68. “He is now my best friend.”
During the month of April 25 years ago, the town of Mutiti was the scene of unimaginable violence, with bloody clashes between neighbor and neighbor.
According to UN data, more than 1,000 people were killed in the few days following the eruption of ethnic violence, which rose to a genocide that killed more than 800,000 Tutsi people between April and July 1994.
The 65-year-old Jakuinziri, wearing an orange cowboy hat, remembers the arrival of men with machetes in an armed gang of Hutu ethnic who form the majority of the town known as Interahamue.
They came to the village to hunt down and kill the Tutsi population and called them “cockroaches”.
“They went to every house they knew had a Tutsi population … They cut them with machetes,” he said with his grief-ridden eyes.
Jakuinziri managed to hide from the militia, but his wife and four of his six children failed to do so and died at the hands of the militia.
His father managed to escape to the forest with his herd, but Shrahawamabuku says that one of Interahamue’s gangs found him and forced him to join them.
Shirawamabuku said he initially tried to save his friend’s father, but the militia put him in front of a difficult choice, either leaving them to kill his friend’s father or kill him personally.
“I saved myself,” he said, and later joined the killing of dozens of others.
Tribal Trials for Confessions and Forgiveness
After the genocide ended, he was arrested and brought to trial in a traditional court system headed by the tribal elders known as Gacaca, which was adopted to deal with the large number of accused to be tried.
In an effort to support national reconciliation, those who even acknowledged the most heinous crimes were condemned to carry out simple community actions.
But Shirahuamabuku initially refused to admit, making him vulnerable to tight judgment.
“It was difficult,” he explained, adding that he envied those who had confessed their crimes.
“I was confused. How can I explain to people that I killed an innocent person? ”
For a long time, it was believed that no one would ever forgive him.
“At first, we thought it was impossible because we committed acts that even wild animals do not commit” he said.
But after a long pause, “we understand that it can not go on like this.”
While Shirahawabuku was in prison, he realized that things had really changed. He heard that the villagers treated his wife with respect, despite the crimes he committed.
In the end, he gathered his strength and acknowledged and demanded forgiveness from the old childhood friend.
When he was released, he went to meet Jakuinziri face to face.
“It was an indescribable disgrace … It was shameful to stand in front of someone who had done him a lot of damage after having already shared everything with him,” he recalled.
Sharahuamabuku’s confession to his crimes has publicly contributed to restoring his relationship with his childhood friend.
“I do not know if that was because I became rational as I grew older, but in fact I feel better than before,” he said.
Over time, Jakuinziri slowly found a place in his heart to accept that his old friend was really sorry for what he had done to him.
“I did not feel able to talk or share anything with those responsible for what happened,” Gakuinziri said.
“But over time and with prayers, a little bit, we began to forgive and talk about forgiveness and teach it” to others.
It took a long time to Jakuinziri to re-engage in life and rebuild himself. Finally he married and fathered five other children.
“I forgave many people, all of them my neighbors. I know that the dead will never return and that what we have lost will never return. But that allowed me to move forward and not go back. ”
The Ruziicka Valley witnessed Reconciliation
Another report by Francois Bard draws attention to reconciliation and the return of coexistence in the Ruziicka Valley, where reconciliation sessions were held between the families of the killers and the victims in the area, which is surrounded by a spring of bananas, mangoes and avocados, about 40 kilometers west of Kigali.
In this valley in central Rwanda, two villages have lived in harmony for years, before the atrocities of genocide in April 1994 put an end to this balance.
Discover the spring that overlooks the houses with tiled roofs, scattered along the hillside, during Belgian colonialism. The spring, which draws water from a lagoon behind a nearby hill, has become the centerpiece of Ruziicka and Gohitia.
The report, about some older people, reminds them of the events about the spring and the waiting lines in the dry season when people came from far-off areas to ascend, expressing the brotherly harmony that prevailed in the two villages.
But everything turned upside down on April 6, 1994, when the Rwandan President Hutu Juvenal Habyaramana was assassinated, causing the day after the genocide that resulted in 100 days, according to the United Nations, at least 800,000 dead, most of them Tutsi minority.
The unrest has engulfed the entire country. The inhabitants of the village of Gohitia, whose Hutu are overwhelmingly overwhelming, have been fantasized by extremist propaganda, attacked Tutsis in Ruziicka and killed some 70 people.
“It was a big surprise to us, because they were people with whom we lived in harmony, and we share everything with them,” recalls Davrosa Mukarubiaza, aged 57, who lost her husband and son.
After this tragedy, doubts prevailed for years. Residents of the two villages were spying on each other and used the spring water only separately to avoid friction and confrontations.
A First Step to Building Reconciliation
The AFP report refers to the first initiatives in the creation of reconciliation launched by people who did not participate in the killing and others who recognized the importance of co-existence and peace-building for all.
Jean-Claude Mutarendoa, 42, a resident of Gohitia, was one of the first to establish the foundations of reconciliation. He began to bring reconciliation with one of his friends. The fact that he was not personally involved in the massacres, unlike his older brothers, helped him in this complex task.
Mutarendua participated in joint work with members of the village of Ruziicka. “I said to myself, as a member of the village, it is my duty to participate in this work of love, by asking them what we can do to forgive us. But the task was complicated. ”
A popular radio bulletin has also had an impact, especially since 2004 recounting the daily realities of the fictional villages of Boumanzi and Mohomoru, which are trying to heal their wounds after years of conflict.
In 2005, when the truth about killings, looting and property damage was revealed to the people’s courts, the first concrete steps of convergence began.
Jean-Claude persuaded his neighbors to help the Ruziicka population in the fields. Slowly the barriers fell. “The request for forgiveness was not at all easy: the first time we expressed our desire to seek forgiveness, we were about 100 people. In our ranks, people were scared. ”
“After we saw those who did not make the trip, we returned safely, almost doubling the number … On the other hand, I was reassured by those who were afraid to receive us. On the third trip, in my village, no one remained at home.”
Compensation Restores Unity
Later, in a general meeting, reconciliation was made after the village of Ruziicka agreed to pay 40 million francs to compensate for the destroyed property in the village of Gohita. Followed by a big celebration.
“I felt ready to be tolerated, encouraged by the leaders, we learned to live together,” said Davrosa. “In a humanitarian gesture, I told Claude to ask his family to organize and come to ask for official pardon.”
The children of the two villages knew what happened and were the first to meet near the spring, where life soon resumed its normal course.
Since then, the inhabitants of Guheta have been planting fields for the Rusiicki region. Jean-Claude is pleased with this “unity,” and Davosa asserts that she is going to Gohita without fear.
But everyone is not so optimistic. No one ever came to seek the forgiveness of Josepha Mukarozima, born in 1948, the only survivor in her family. Noting that it has joined the reconciliation process so as not to remain immune from what is happening.
“I could not do anything,” she said. What else can I do? I can not stay alone, without talking to anyone. We can not grant official pardon to those who do not ask us. ”
“Do you think that recognizing the crimes only before the authorities, without returning the request for forgiveness from the victims, suffices? It is not enough. There are many things missing. ”
The Economic Engine
During the civil war and the genocide, millions were displaced and or fled the killing, hunger and chaos. The state was drained of its human resources, further aggravating the economic situation. But the picture changed completely after two decades. Rwanda became one of the world’s most developed economies and the brown continent’s first tourist destination.
According to the Noon-Post report, immediately following the war, the Rwandan government put in place plans for the development of agriculture, including the provision of fertilizer and agricultural equipment at favorable prices, the provision of financial loans to farmers, the establishment of an agricultural information telephone network and the export and transfer office as a first step towards economic and structural development. The result was only five years later, with coffee production rising from an average of 30,000 tons after the war to 15 million tonnes.
The Investment Climate
The process of encouraging foreign investments began with the adoption of a new investment law and the introduction of a one-stop system and the establishment of an investment and development advisory board whose members were highly qualified Rwandans and throughout the world. The capital Kigali became a global investment hub, Foreigners, whether Africans, Europeans or others, until the small country ranked ninth on the index list of the most attractive countries for investors in the African continent.
Between 2000 and 2015, GDP grew at a rate of around nine percent per year, while the poverty rate declined from 60 percent to 39 percent, the illiteracy rate from 50 percent to 25 percent, and the average life expectancy rose from 48 percent of age to 64 years.
Rwanda has seen the largest economic development in the world since 2005, and the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) rose to about US $ 8.48 billion in 2016, up from 2.58 billion in 2005 and 1.74 billion in 2005, according to a report by the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) In 2000.
The government is seeking to reduce the economy’s reliance on agriculture to sustain high growth rates by directing the country to become a regional leader in Information Communication and Technology ICTs. The government aims to join the middle-income club of countries by 2020.
The First Tourism Destination in Africa
Rwanda has also built on the tourism sector, focusing on expanding public parks, attracting investment in scenic and natural sites, rebuilding modern cities and ensuring cleanliness until the capital Kigali was named the cleanest African capital by the United Nations and became a tourist destination.
With the beginning of 2014, Rwanda receives one million tourists a year. This is to remember that Rwandans were fleeing their country a decade before. As the collapse of tourism was one of the factors of the fall of the state during the war, the renaissance of tourism became a major factor in supporting and accelerating state building.
War against Corruption
The Rwandan government has adopted a tough stance against corruption and graft by launching a national anti-corruption initiative in 2012 aimed at making Rwanda a corruption-free country while promoting integrity and good governance. A vision that did not remain on paper, but turned into reality. According to the latest version of the Corruption Perception Index, Rwanda ranked third in the list of the least corrupt countries in Africa, according to the Noon-Post report.
Simplification of the procedures that investors must undertake to set up their projects has contributed to fighting corruption by making tax declarations and payments through an electronic system; making corporate registration, tax clearance and payment free of charge for government employees and investors to pay bribes and accept them.
Paul Kagame, leader of the victorious Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), led the country. Kagame served as vice president in 1994, then head of state from 2000, and won the elections in 2003, 2010 and 2017. The RPF began a program to rebuild the country’s infrastructure and economy and bring the perpetrators of genocide to trial.
The Republic of Rwanda, or the so-called land of “One Thousand Hill”, is an East African country in the Great Lakes region, bordered by Tanzania to the east and Uganda to the north and the Democratic Republic of Congo to the west and Burundi to the south. It has an area of approximately 26,338 square kilometers and is located at a high altitude, with the lowest point on the Ruzizi River at 950 meters above sea level.