News / Africa

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

A banner that reads
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

China’s Influence Grows With New Infrastructure Bank

Multibillion-dollar China-backed and BRICS-supported Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank seen as possible challenger to such lenders as IMF, World Bank More

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

Rabbi Michel Serfaty makes the rounds in his friendship bus to encourage dialogue and break down barriers between the two groups More

Post-deal Iran Leaders Need 'Economic Momentum' to Solidify

Economists say deal could inject more than $100 billion into coffers - not enough to entirely rescue ailing economy - but maybe adequate to create 'economic momentum' 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.
US Gay Marriage Ruling Yields Real-life Impacti
X
Michael Bowman
June 28, 2015 10:05 PM
Friday’s landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the United States is an outcome few thought possible just years ago, and shows a nation that increasingly tolerates and even celebrates the hopes and aspirations of gay people. VOA’s Michael Bowman spoke to a same-sex couple that will benefit from the high court ruling, and to a Christian scholar who is apprehensive about its potential consequences for America’s faith community.
Video

Video US Gay Marriage Ruling Yields Real-life Impact

Friday’s landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the United States is an outcome few thought possible just years ago, and shows a nation that increasingly tolerates and even celebrates the hopes and aspirations of gay people. VOA’s Michael Bowman spoke to a same-sex couple that will benefit from the high court ruling, and to a Christian scholar who is apprehensive about its potential consequences for America’s faith community.
Video

Video Syrians Flee IS Advance in Hasaka

The Syrian government said Monday it has taken back one of several districts in Hasaka overrun by Islamic State militants. But continued fighting elsewhere in the northern city has forced thousands of civilians from their homes. In this report narrated by Bill Rodgers, VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer describes the scene in Amouda, where some of the displaced are taking refuge.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video S. Korea Christians Protest Gay Rights Festival

The U.S. Supreme Court decision mandating marriage equality nationwide has energized gay rights supporters around the world. Gay rights remain a highly contentious issue in a key U.S. ally, South Korea, where police did a deft job Sunday of preventing potential clashes between Christian protesters and gay activists. Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Syrian Refugees Return to Tal Abyad

Syrian refugees in Turkey confirm they left their hometown of Tal Abyad because of intense fighting and coalition airstrikes, not because Kurdish fighters were engaged in ethnic cleansing, as some Turkish officials charged. VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer, in Tal Abyad, finds that civilians coming back to the town agree, as we hear in this report narrated by Roger Wilkison.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.
Video

Video In Syrian Crisis, Social Media Offer Small Comforts

Za’atari, a makeshift city in Jordan, may be the only Syrian refugee camp to tweet its activities, in an effort to keep donors motivated as the war in Syria intensifies and the humanitarian crisis deepens. Inside the camp, families say mobile phone applications help hold together families that are physically torn apart. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Chemical-Sniffing Technology Fights Australia's Graffiti Vandals

Cities and towns all over the world spend huge amounts of resources battling graffiti writers who deface buildings, public transport vehicles and even monuments. Authorities in Sydney, Australia, hope a new chemical-sniffing technology finally will stop vandals from scribbling on walls in the passenger areas of commuter trains. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Cambodia Struggling to Curb Child Labor

Earlier this year a United Nations report found 10 percent of Cambodian children aged 7-14 are working – one of the highest rates in the region – and said one in four children in that age bracket are forced to quit school to help their families. Although the child labor rate has dropped over the past decade, Cambodia has a lot more to do – including keeping more children in school. Robert Carmichael reports for VOA from Phnom Penh.

VOA Blogs