Visit of US congress and UN foundation in Mbyo reconciliation village
On this Wednesday Mbyo village received the visitors from US congress team and UN foundation led by senior Vice president Peter Yeo accompanied by the UNDP Resident Representative Mr. Stephen Anthony Rodrigues and his team, the representative of CNLG, the Division Manager at NURC and the Representative of Bugesera District Mayor The aim for the visit was to see the progress of the projects funded by UNDP and also learning from what Rwanda has achieved since the 1994 genocide against Tutsi with the support of UN organs.
The vice Mayor in charge of Economic Development Umwali Angelique who spoke on behalf of the Mayor of Bugesera district, welcome the visitors and thanked them for choosing to visit Bugesera District. She shared the tragic history that happened. She stressed on Bugesera history, that ‘Bugesera has particular long history of ethnic discrimination. Since 1952 the former regime moved Tutsis from mainly the northern part and dumped them in Bugesera which was a total forest covered area infested with Tsetse flies’. She praised those who made great sacrifice to end the genocide and paved an uncompromising way towards unity and reconciliation.
Dr. Kalimba, PF Rwanda representative, started by thanking the visitors for paying the visit. He alluded on the remarkable work PF Rwanda has been undertaking in the wake of the genocide and what a success it has been notably in the area of psycho-social healing and the promotion of unity and reconciliation through various interventions and programs implemented across the country. However, he reiterated on the role reconciliation village initiatives and its contribution to social cohesion, healing, reconciliation and social integration. He added that ‘despite the progress registered for the last 25 years, the mass release of genocide prisoners which will be occurring successively in the coming five years will necessitate the support of both government and other development partners.’ He called upon the UN foundation, UNDP and other institutions and partners represented to advocate for this cause so that the same climate of healing could be extended to those who will be out of the prison and the hosting communities.
Mugaga Johnson, Division Manager at NURC, began by thanking the visitors for visiting the village. He thanked the village residents and members of surrounding communities for welcoming the visitors in a large number. His remarks revolved around the transformative journey Rwanda has embarked on since the horrific events of 1994 genocide against the Tutsi. He mentioned how ‘Rwanda was left alone in the genocide while the entire nation sank crumbling to its knees. Rwanda was left out to see its children falling while the entire world watched silently.’ He added that perhaps Rwanda was not a priority, there were crises in Somalia and South Africa. However, he stressed that after the genocide and international community and development partners responded to the urgent needs the country was facing while the government of Rwanda overwhelmingly took bold steps to address issues the country was faced with. Almost everything was a priority. He made clear the interventions Rwanda made to curb the trajectory of a wide range of issues through home grown solutions such as Gacaca courts which was inspired by the ancient culture. The latter claimed the success of bringing a very number of genocide suspects to justice which could not have been possible had the means used were only classic courts. He concluded by sharing what is driving the country quoting his excellence the President of Rwanda: Unity, Thinking big, and Accountability. He thanked UN agencies for their contribution to rebuilding.
UNDP Resident Representative Mr. Stephen Anthony Rodriquez In his remarks he reiterated on what has been said earlier commending the efforts of the Government of Rwanda and its agencies to fostering unity and reconciliation. He commended the work Prison Fellowship Rwanda has done to bring healing to hurting and affected communities. UNDP has been supporting the National Unity and Reconciliation Commission in its quest to facilitate unity and reconciliation initiatives. One in many is the reconciliation barometer which portrays the extent at which reconciliation is achieved. The current measure is at 95%. He added that ‘a lot has been achieved as the indicator shows, but there is still a divide in terms of genocide ideology.’ He continued to acclaim the existing partnership between UNDP; other UN agencies and PFR and how the efforts are being coordinated to enhance unity. He concluded by thanking the village residents for their commitment to see a more united community and urged them to keep working hard for better gains, in that regard they will keep supporting in order to change the narrative and ultimately reach a desired outcome.
Senior Vice president of UN Foundation Peter Yeo in his remarks said how delighted he was that the work they do to fund UN activities is producing good results. He added the ‘the stories shared moved him, at the same time they are the epitome of what resilience is. The cultural troop that entertained them left a mark in his memory that he could not wait to share with his family and friends.
The stories inspired a multifaceted chronicle of Rwandans who endured the darkest chapters of the history, the brave men and women who against all odds rose up to preserve their resilience as a people. The stories featured accounts of former perpetrators and genocide victims who met for the first after the genocide to walk their way through reconciliation. It was a long and hard way when former genocidaires, after being released by the presidential pardon, and having facilitated by PFR to confess were released back into the villages to meet with the families of their victims who had been prepared to received them. Through a number of dialogues and healing sessions, a place where confession and healing and forgiveness occurred. Through joint hands and the support of Prison Fellowship Rwanda, the Mbyo village was constructed hosting mixed families as means for true reconciliation.
The youth shared their stories
The children of both survivors and former prisoners have grouped in unity clubs where they learn about Rwandan values through traditional dance, poetry, dialogues, debates etc…These children who had been affected by what their parents went through said how difficult it was to identify themselves in line of how ethnic labels and features were described. The two children who shared the story came from both sides. The stories of their parents affected them to the point that they only associated at school with those who looked like them. Their life made a turn when dialogues started to happen in the villages as they learned about the story of Rwanda and seeing their families reconciled.