Saturday, July 21, 2007

Rwanda: Rwandans Need to Know About Other Atrocities

New Times (Kigali)

13 July 2007
Posted to the web 13 July 2007

Josh Kron

Today was the 12-year anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre.

To be fair, the massacres are not enormous pop culture anywhere but in Bosnia, where the atrocities occurred. Many in Rwanda may have known or do not know that on July 11 and 12, 8000 Bosnian Muslims were slaughtered in the largest single massacre since World War II and the first legally-determined act of Genocide.

But because of Rwanda's history, the schism between its attention to itself, and its attention to others like it, is all the more noticeable. Rwanda should care about what happened in Bosnia that day-or, for that matter, the last decade of the 20th century in the Balkans-and what happened in Cambodia, and in Armenia; what happened in Nazi Europe or present-day Namibia.

Genocide has been all around us. For the better half of our existence, up to this very day in the Sudan, people have been killing people out of simple dislike.

People need to know this, and more importantly, the youth of Rwanda need to learn in schools about other atrocities similar to those that took place here. Just like we expect the entire world to know the truth of the 1994 Genocide, we will only be able to understand and correct ourselves once we understand what happened with others.

Unfortunately, today's Rwandans may largely be absent of explicit awareness of these cousin histories. Although the memorial centre at Gisozi has in-depth coverage of other genocides throughout history, there is little attention-and more importantly, a sense of empathy-paid to them.

Of course, such attention brings up a few questions. On one hand, it is essential for Rwandans of all ages to know that the phenomenon and act of Genocide has happened elsewhere. There's not something inherently wrong with Rwandans; people all over the world, from the beginning to the end of history, have done horrible things. Remembering other genocides, I believe, allows people to relieve themselves of undue inferiority complexes.

On the other hand, there is-as there should be-strong resistance to any sort of undermining or belittlement of the 1994 Genocide. Acknowledging other genocides might, but shouldn't, make the events in Rwanda less meaningful; especially given that the progress the country has made since then has been fuelled by the memory of the killings.

What Rwanda will ultimately have to deal with is, how much the 1994 Genocide contributes to Rwanda's national consciousness in the long-term future?

The country is hoping its memorials make UNESCO's World Heritage list. The question that we really need to ask ourselves is, do we want things like this to become part of our heritage? And what, exactly, does 'heritage' imply? Most of them have never found answers.

Rwanda does not want to find itself in a situation where, fifty years from now, it defends its policies and positions on continued Genocide-ideology eradication, however real the threat may be. Secondly, I doubt that any country wants its history and psyche built from mass killings or the reaction to mass killings. This country continues to grow and will not always be 13-years old. But at some point, I assume, Rwanda just wants to be Rwanda.

How does Rwanda today prepare itself for Rwanda tomorrow? A question is a cheap way to end an argument, but it's not one for me to answer. The people's hearts and minds will ultimately decide, but in the interim, the Ministry of Education must come to terms with the terms

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.



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