The Ministry of National Unity & Civic Engagement – MINUBUMWE has shown that Rwanda has made progress in building unity and reconciliation despite existing challenges of genocide denial and negationism manifested in the Great Lakes Region.
The Minister of National Unity & Civic Engagement, Dr. Jean Damascene Bizimana made the revelation while presenting a report on Rwanda’s Journey of Unity and Resilience on the second day of the 19th National Dialogue Concile, Umushyikirano 2024, on January 24, 2024, indicating that 97% of Rwandans say they are living in harmony.
The Minister said that rate of unity and reconciliation among Rwandans has also been increasing every year and according to a survey conducted in 2010, the rate was 82.3%, in 2015 it reached 92.5%, and in 2020 it had reached 94.7%.
That represents an increase of 12.4% in the last 10 years.
The report also showed that the current rate of unity and reconciliation also indicated that 99% of Rwandans put ‘Rwandanness’ (Ndi Umunyarwanda) first and stick to strong values of promoting it.
It showed that 94.6% understood the history the country went through while 97.1% believe that they live well and cooperate with others in their daily life.
Citing a survey conducted by Rwanda Governance Board (RGB) in 2023, Dr. Bizimana noted that “93.63% of Rwandans are confident with the security agencies, which is the first time in the history of Rwanda that the citizens confide in the security agencies, which the work with together day by day,” he said.
Bizimana also said that citizens perceive political decisions and policies taken as an aspect that has contributed more than 90% to the level of unity and reconciliation- for example removing ethnic identity in national Identity cards.
However, Bizimana said that though Genocide was declared (by UN resolution 955) as a crime against humanity in Rwanda and its naming changed to- The 1994 genocide against Tutsi and a special commemoration day set (April 7), Rwanda’s unity still faces aspects of genocide denial especially in the African region despite visible efforts from European countries.
DRC and Burundi Inciters:
Bizimana stated that last year, on September 20, 2023, the 45th meeting of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee placed four genocide memorial sites (Murambi, Bisesero, Nyamata and Gisozi) on the list of world heritage sites to teach the world a lesson on the history of the genocide against the Tutsi but this lesson has not sunk.
“There are those who have not yet learned from these decisions which I have summarized. Now there is nothing being said on the social media except the ideology of hatred called TUTSIPHOBIA which was adopted by the Congolese government in an open plan like the one used to plan and implement the Genocide against the Tutsis in Rwanda in 1994,” Bizimana said.
Bizimana raised concerns over the DR Congo and Burundi leaders whom he said have failed to manage the problems of their own citizens, but instead focus on spreading genocide ideology and hate speech, especially among youth, at a time when Rwanda is hosting a big number of their refugees who fled hate speech and ethnic cleansing.
“Our youth should not listen to hate speech, as said by the President of the Congo while he was looking for votes on December 3, 2023 and repeated by the Burundian President this week on January 21, 2024. Both believe that the Rwandan government is their enemy, that they are in the struggle to free the Rwandan youth who were made ‘prisoners’. That is for them, not for us,” Bizimana stated, reflecting on the rampant hate speech in the two countries.
During a panel discussion on “Youth Leadership in Shaping Rwanda’s Future”, Dr. Doris Picard Uwicyeza, the Chief Technical Advisor at Rwanda Ministry of Justice said that tactics of denying genocide have changed and deniers no longer refute that genocide happened but instead turned to social media to trivialize the genocide against Tutsi.
For example, Uwicyeza said that deniers are using words which take out the specificity aspect of 1994 genocide against Tutsi- such as “Double genocide” (both Tutsi and Hutu killed), “Accusation mirror” (the genocide performed by the rescuers), “Spontaneous genocide” (people woke up angry and killed each other).
“The denial was not the only one that changed but also the deniers changed, we were used to perpetrators denying, but the biggest deniers are children of the perpetrators, researchers and media personalities who push different theories through big media and universities; to make this a common phrase,” Uwicyeza said.
She noted that politicians in the neighboring countries in the region have who have embarked genocide denial as their agenda to push in international courts and communities.