Monday, November 1, 2010

Peace and Reconciliation in Rwanda

As I sat on the couch, blindly staring at the television screen, a visiting friend asked me whether I was tired enough to visit a neighborhood bar for a few drinks. At first, my aching body drove me to turn down the offer. The previous day's excursion to participate in one of the biggest political rallies of the year had left my already worn-out body in dire need for recuperation. However, the fact that I hadn't stepped an inch outside made me reconsider and viewed it as an opportunity to get some much needed stretching.
The bar was sparsely populated as we sat down and ordered a round of brew. As soon as it seeped into our brains, we began to talk about the political situation in our homeland, Rwanda. What exactly could we do to help?
In the past, I have been approached to be part of several political parties, but I turned the offers down because of my personal conviction of not belonging to any particular political party. I believe we don't understand their meaning or purpose, so we see them as opportunities to advance our own greedy personal agendas. He offered me a chance to start a political party, and my brain, souped up as it was, still rejected the idea.
My reasons for not belonging in any one political party stem from the fact that taking care of the party would divert attention from taking care of the needs of the country as a whole. We already have other things such as jobs, family, health, and such that take our time from addressing the needs of the people. Party meetings, rallies, fundraisers, and such would take away from time that we could use to help the country. What if instead of calling a rally for the RPF we could call a rally for all Rwandans so that everyone can come to the rally and see what their leaders have to tell them about their progress??? What if the colors people wore to the rally were those of Rwanda and not of a particular party such as PL or PSD??? What if the signs the people carried spoke of their allegiance to the country and not just singing the praises of a particular party???
My goal, as is the goal of my Rwandans I have spoken to, is to establish a system that views everyone as important and equally-deserving of the fruits of the country's development. Everyone has a hand to play. My friend mentioned that all parties have to be given a place in the government. That's true, but we have to give someone a place at the head table based on their ideas and potential to help the country move forward, not just because they're at the head of a political party. 
If you want to make a difference, come forward as a Rwandan and state your case. Let's talk about your plan, give you a chance to explain yourself and, also, a chance to explain our positions. Then we can reach a compromise that will have the most benefit for the country and not just any particular segment of the population. 
He told me it wasn't feasible...wasn't something likely to work because success requires precise organization that a political party can offer. I pointed out that great organization does not require a political party, but rather a will to see one's convictions realized. 
Rwanda needs its citizens to work together and not continue to partition themselves amongst political parties. We need to come together and find solutions by brainstorming and striving to put our decisions into action. When things go bad, we shouldn't barricade ourselves behind labeled forts and throw missiles of insult and accusation at other camps rather than sitting down together and finding solutions to the wedges between use. 
A couple of hours later, as I sat on the same couch and pondered back upon our discussion in the bar, I realized that we still have a long way to go in Rwanda and the solution might not be as simple as I would love it to be. His reason for wanting to start a political party was that many Rwandans are extremists who only want to satisfy their own thirst for power without regard to the common citizen. We agreed about that. But, is the solution to continue to carve ourselves up much as the Europeans carved up Africa in Berlin? Are we to figure out the cure for our ailments by running away from our fellow Rwandans? 
What if we were to come together under an umbrella movement whose only requirement was that you were Rwandan and concerned about the well-being of the country? There would be organizational tiers, but not the morbid fanaticism that accompany political parties. We form a think tank that puts its decisions in action for the benefit of the people by inclusion, not exclusion. We put the people to work for their own advancement. We mobilize the country to work to fix its shortcomings, and not to the singular benefit of a particular demographic group. 
Only then, I believe, will we realize the peace and reconciliation that we so love to sing about. Only then will we be  united for a common cause...Rwanda!!!


  1. This post was reprinted with full credits at

  2. Becuase of your interest in reconciliation efforts in Africa, I want to introduce you to a new documentary my daughter Leah is making on the subject, profiling stories of hope by young Rwandan filmmakers called FILM FESTIVAL: RWANDA

    This labor of love has been 4 years in the making and we are now in the final stages.