As we solemnly mark the 30th commemoration of the genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda, our hearts ache with the weight of the atrocities endured by this resilient nation. It stands as a stark reminder of one of humanity's darkest moments, where the world turned a blind eye to the cries of the country’s people. In just 100 days, over a million Tutsi lives were brutally taken, and Rwanda was left in ruins, its very essence shattered by the horror of genocide.

Yet, amidst the pain and devastation that lives on today in the shadow of a horrifying past, there shines a glimmer of hope – a testament to the resilience and strength of the Rwandan spirit. Kwibuka, meaning "commemoration" in Kinyarwanda, is more than just a word; it embodies the  commitment to honor the memory of those who lost their lives while forging a path towards unity and development. It is a promise to never forget, to learn from the past, and to build a future where such horrors can never take root again.

The actions of the Rwanda Patriotic Army (RPA) in halting the genocide and establishing a new government on July 19, 1994, marked the beginning of a long and arduous journey towards healing and reconciliation. Recognizing the deep-seated causes of the genocide, was a pre-requisite for embarking on a multifaceted approach to rebuild the nation. Rebuilding trust, fostering reconciliation, teaching tolerance, and respecting diversity are strategies that the government, in collaboration with the private sector and civil society organizations, put in place to correct the dehumanization, division, and discrimination that led to genocide.

Enormous efforts were made, mainly through education. New school curricula, teaching and learning materials, especially on history and citizenship, as well as values that promote living together harmoniously, contributed to a better understanding of the genocide and its consequences. Through education, values of tolerance, respect, and unity, would be instilled, laying the groundwork for a more harmonious society.

In the wake of destruction, Rwandans dared to dream of a brighter tomorrow. They decided to take their destiny into their own hands, and there was a collective reflection about what the future should look like. Vision 2020, a blueprint for the nation's rebirth,was born out of collective determination. Through initiatives like Ndi Umunyarwanda (I am Rwandan), the nation reaffirmed a shared identity and commitment to a common future. As the culmination of Vision 2020 nears, the nation sets its sights on Vision 2050 and remains steadfast in the pursuit of progress by focusing on five areas: quality of life, modern infrastructure and livelihoods, transformation for prosperity, aspirations and shared values as a society, and international cooperation and positioning.

Through Visions 2020 and 2050, Rwanda is on a promising and prosperous path to development. Importance was given to social transformation through different programs such as improving healthcare, bolstering education, and providing support such as the "Gira Inka" program, which consists of providing cows (a valuable asset) to poor families.

Today, Rwanda is one of the safest countries in the world, with an inclusive economic growth model which prioritizes gender equality, youth empowerment, and climate resilience. Notably, women comprise the majority of the Parliament (61%) and the majority of the Cabinet (52%) — resulting in the most gender equal parliament in the world. Since the population is growing, the country is investing significant resources in agribusiness and is also setting a trajectory towards a net-zero emission future and climate-resilient urbanization.

Rwanda has partnered with the University of Rwanda Center of Excellence for Biomedical Engineering, Carnegie Mellon University, African Leadership University, BioNTech, and Cooper Pharma to invest in research and development. Through innovative partnerships like these and investments in research and development, the nation is harnessing the power of technology to address the challenges of tomorrow.

Amidst the triumphs and progress, we must never forget the journey that brought the nation to where it is today. The scars of the past serve as a reminder of shared humanity and the importance of resilience in the face of adversity. It is through the collective efforts of every Rwandan, guided by the principles of self-determination, solidarity, and dignity, that they have emerged from the shadows of despair into the light of hope.

In just thirty years following an apocalypse-adjacent experience that nearly erased Rwanda from the world's map, Rwandans have been motivated by the decisions to reconcile and unite as one, to envision grand possibilities, and to safeguard their shared accomplishments.

Jean-Damascène Gasanabo is the former director-general of the National Research and Documentation Center on Genocide at Rwanda's National Commission for the Fight Against Genocide. His research interests focus on the construction of exclusive identities in Rwanda from 1962 to 1994. He previously worked within UNESCO headquarters in Paris as an education consultant. From 2006 to 2008, Gasanabo was head of support in charge of research and communications at Geneva Call, an international humanitarian organization dedicated to engaging armed groups to end the use of anti-personnel mines. Gasanabo received his Ph.D. in education from the University of Geneva, Switzerland.


Demand Equity

Reflecting on Resilience: Commemorating 30 Years Since the 1994 Genocide Against the Tutsi in Rwanda

By Jean-Damascene Gasanabo