News / Africa

'I am Rwandan' Campaign Confronts Nation's Ethnic Divisions

A banner that reads "Remembering 20 years" is erected at the Kigali Genocide Memorial grounds as the country commemorates the 20th anniversary of the 1994 Rwandan Genocide in the capital Kigali, April 2, 2014.
A banner that reads "Remembering 20 years" is erected at the Kigali Genocide Memorial grounds as the country commemorates the 20th anniversary of the 1994 Rwandan Genocide in the capital Kigali, April 2, 2014.
Gabe Joselow
Twenty years after Rwanda's 1994 genocide, a government campaign encourages reconciliation by taking on the taboo subject of ethnicity. Supporters of the program say it promotes national healing, while opponents say it is forcing some people to apologize for crimes they did not commit.

In high schools and universities, corporate offices and government ministries, Rwandans are engaging in a dialogue about ethnicity in a campaign called Ndi Umanyarwanda, or I Am Rwandan.

One of the campaign's main proponents, member of parliament Edouard Bamporiki, says the idea is to start a conversation about the ethnic roles created by the genocide, while reaffirming a national unity.

"We are not sure 100 percent that we are different because we are Hutu and Tutsis, but we are sure 100 percent that we are all Rwandans,” he said.

Twenty years ago, 800,000 people were killed in a country-wide campaign of violence orchestrated by extremist Hutu militias targeting ethnic Tutsis and some moderate Hutus.

Freddy Mutanguha is the country director of the Aegis Trust, which runs the Kigali Genocide Memorial. He is also a survivor.

He says the I Am Rwandan program has helped him to confront this dark history.

“The most important thing that I get from this program is learning about how to dialogue with the perpetrator, how to really feel much more comfortable to talk about your past,” he said.

Ethnicity has been a sensitive topic since the genocide. Now in villages and public institutions, people are addressing the issue openly in moderated discussions.

Mutanguha says this gives people a chance to talk truthfully about what happened and to share different experiences.

“A few things which have been taboos can be opened up so that Rwandans can really decide together how they will drive this country and also drive their lives in the future,” he said.

The ruling RPF party came up with the ideology for the program, which was developed in youth groups across the country. Participation is officially voluntary.

But opponents say the program unfairly expects Hutus to apologize on behalf of the perpetrators of the genocide, even if they themselves were not involved.

Frank Habineza is the president of the United Green Party, the country's only registered opposition party.

“Those who have wronged, they should apologize to those who they have wronged," he said. "They say they were criminals or whatever, but not on behalf of my father, behalf of my mother and my grandfather. We do not support that.”

Habineza also expresses concern that the effort is too one-sided, as public requests for pardons from Hutus are going unanswered from the victims.

The initiative is one of many Rwanda has employed to try to unite communities divided by one of the worst atrocities of the 20th century.

While the country has developed rapidly since the genocide, becoming a major political power in the region, reconciliation remains a long process.

Speaking about the I Am Rwandan program ahead of a cabinet retreat in November, President Paul Kagame said “we can't just solve easy problems and ignore their root causes.

You May Like

Hostage Crisis Could Divide Japan Over Plans to Boost Military

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Monday the government is working closely with the Jordanian government to secure the release of remaining Japanese hostage Kenji Goto More

Video Brussels Shaken as New Greek Leader Challenges Europe’s Austerity Drive

Country's youngest ever PM Alexis Tsipras, 40, sworn in Monday and says he will restore dignity to Greece by ending spending cuts More

Multimedia National Geographic Photo Camps Empower Youth

Annual mentoring program's mission is to give young people a voice to tell their own stories through photography More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: BasilB
April 06, 2014 8:13 PM
Should white America apologize for slavery? Should all Hutu apologize for crimes committed by the so called Hutu
government? No clear cut answer. I think
that people are oversimplifying a complex problem, and they know it.
This is a time for soul searching for the people of Rwanda, and not a time for gimmicks.


by: Jason N from: USA
April 05, 2014 2:48 AM
If genocide against Tutsi was done I the name and on behalf of hutu, why they should not apologize on their behalf?
If they don't do it, it show that they haven't changed their mind and wishes yet.
After all forgiveness is a gift of peace people give to themselves.



Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visiti
X
Aru Pande
January 26, 2015 9:33 PM
U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visit

U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video US, EU Threaten New Russia Sanctions Over Ukraine

U.S. President Barack Obama has blamed Russia for an attack by Ukrainian separatists that left dozens dead in the port of Mariupol and cast further doubt on the viability of last year’s cease-fire with the Kyiv government. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington.
Video

Video White House Grapples With Yemen Counterterrorism Strategy

Reports say the U.S. has carried out a drone strike on suspected militants in Yemen, the first after President Barack Obama offered reassurances the U.S. is continuing its counterterrorism operations in the country. The future of those operations has been in question following the collapse last week of Yemen’s government. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Kerry Warns Against Violence in Nigeria Election

US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Nigeria Sunday in a show of the level of concern within the U.S. and the international community over next month’s presidential election. Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sides

The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, and even music, are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. VOA’s June Soh met some animal artists at the zoo in Washington. Faith Lapidus narrates.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Saudi, Yemen Developments Are Sudden Complications for Obama

The death of Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah and the collapse of Yemen’s government have cast further uncertainty on U.S. efforts to fight militants in the Middle East and also contain Iran’s influence in the region. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports on the new complications facing the Obama administration and its Middle East policy.
Video

Video Progress, Some Areas of Disagreement in Cuba Talks

U.S. and Cuban officials are reporting progress from initial talks in Havana on re-establishing diplomatic ties. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State (for Western Hemisphere Affairs) Roberta Jacobson said while there was agreement on a broad range of issues, there also are some “profound disagreements” between Washington and Havana. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins has the story.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid