Encounters with conflict and peace

It’s healthy, brave… and very difficult

“What these people have achieved in the short time since the genocide is unbelievable… this is a terrific country.” Paul Schonherr, Ambassador of the Netherlands

Let’s remind ourselves of the situation. A tiny African country, abandoned by the west, is turned on itself in genocide. At the end of three months, infrastructure is destroyed, the population is deeply traumatised. Schools, health centres, water and transport are in ruins. Families have been murdered, scattered, driven from their fields and unable to feed themselves.

The genocide ends. A trickle of returning Rwandans becomes a flood. Killers and survivors are living side by side. Everyone knows it… no-one feels safe, no-one trusts. Overcome with grief, many see no possible future - no reason to live. It sounds like a recipe for another failed African state. But within fifteen years Rwanda has brought itself back from the edge.

Kevin Terry, a British born mining engineer said, “When you think of what this country has gone through and look at where it is now, it’s something you can hardly believe.”

Leadership: a complicated challenge

kigali street
Many put the progress down to great leadership. Under the current President, Paul Kagame, Rwanda has stabilised. He has introduced policies to minimise ethnic divisions, encouraged economic development partnerships, taken a strong stand against corruption, given Rwandans hope and encouraged them to be more self-reliant.

But the hatred which sparked the genocide is a living memory for most Rwandans, and maintaining social stability while allowing political openness is a complicated challenge for the government. Human rights groups criticise Kagame for restricting political freedom.

Kagame is a fascinating character. However this is not really a story of leaders. It is a story of ordinary Rwandans.

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