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

Is Air Travel Safe?

Aviation expert says despite tragic losses of Malaysian Airlines flights 370 and 17, industry experienced lowest fatality rate in recorded history last year More

Multimedia 100 Days Later, Nigerian Girls Still Held

Activists holding rallies in Nigeria and several other countries to mark 100th day of captivity for more than 200 schoolgirls being held by Boko Haram More

Chocolate Too Bitter? Swap Sugar for Mushrooms

US food technology company develops fermentation process using mushrooms to reduce bitterness in cocoa beans, believes it will cut sugar content in candy 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 Carriers Suspend Travel to Israeli
X
Carolyn Presutti
July 23, 2014 1:21 AM
The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israel

The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video NASA Focuses on Earth-Like Planets

For decades, looking for life elsewhere in the universe meant listening for signals that could be from distant civilizations. But recent breakthroughs in space technology refocused some of that effort toward finding planets that may harbor life, even in its primitive form. VOA’s George Putic reports on a recent panel discussion at NASA’s headquarters, in Washington.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video US Awards Medal of Honor for Heroics in Bloodiest of Afghan Battles

U.S. combat troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, on pace to leave the country by the end of this year. But on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama took time to honor a soldier whose actions while under fire in Afghanistan earned him the Medal of Honor. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.

AppleAndroid