I would not have thought it possible to start a day with a genocide museum and having hope for mankind by sunset. But such a day it was.
Rwanda 1994 stands us a low point in human history. Over a million people killed by their neighbors, family’s, and friends in a 3 month orgy of horror. 20 people per minute, slaughtered up close and personal.
Here every grown up has a story, either as a hunter or as the hunted. The museum sates that 5% chose not to take part and 5 % chose to act heroically. For some reason this statistic stands out more than any others. Perhaps because of what it tells us about our specie and its obedience to the statuesque and authority. If you think your society will behave differently I suggest you read the Migram experiments and then ask yourself if you can still be sure.
I tried my best to absorb every story, every quote and every picture inside that dark building, not because I wanted to but because I felt I had to, to at least see what we are capable of, even if I could not understand it.
In the afternoon we had interviews scheduled that I would rather have cancelled. One of the reason we came to Rwanda was because it is one of the success stories of the continent, but miraculously as the turnaround appears it seemed to matter little in the face of where they came.
Hiowever, with every interview, my admiration for the people and the country grew, not despite of the Genocide but because of their reaction to it. Rwanda is a society in a hurry. They have experienced rock bottom and have vowed never again. Rwanda has risen from the asses, to become a regional leader, more importantly it has done so by being realistic. Government strategies are built on the best of African culture and not Western Ideology. Politicians are held responsible to their voters by contracts and corruption is almost unheard of.
This is no utopia, this is not even a free society, there are soldiers on every corner, and party politics, inevitable based on tribal allegiances, are suppressed. It was hate propaganda that sparked 1994 and free speech today is not allowed. The first stage in oppression is a division of ‘us and them’. Once we believe that they are not like us, we can look down on others, next we can believe that they don’t feel like us, once we cross this bridge we can we start to hurt others. Here the party line is: There is no more Tutsi and no more Hutsi, only Rwandans. The hope is that the very real divide can be suppressed long enough that the new generation might forget about it or realize its true insignificance.
The measures can be classed as oppressive. It would be easy to look for faults in the new government, there are many. At our core we are all the victims of like and dislikes based on marketing/ propaganda. If more governments would stand up for the right thing instead of playing on emotions, Africa could be a better place. I don’t know if this could work anywhere else and under any other leader.
President Paul Kagami is no Nelson Mandela, as far as world leaders go he probable has more blood on his hands than most. My opinion is a murky reflection in a mess I will never understand, but it seems to me, no one else could have resurrected the corpse of a society he freed from the greatest horror of our time and rebuilt it in such short time.
How you judge’s improvement is a matter of opinion, I use a simple measure. Is it a better place to live under the current regime that it was before? In Africa this can normally be measured on the most basic of human needs. Security, when you don’t have it, it is all that matters. It is impressive that Rwanda is now one of the safest countries in Africa, but to measure Rwanda by this is inadequate; anything apart from total annihilation of the population would be an improvement. In a country with just about every challenge that could face a nation, perhaps the best measure that can be used is that it is a place where everyday people can be optimistic.