This year, Never Again Rwanda adopted the theme Kwibuka 25 — Engaging Youth in Memory and Healing: Building a better future.
It is in this regard that Never Again Rwanda mobilised the youth to increase their participation in genocide remembrance and prevention.
By engaging the youth in Umuganda and genocide memorial visits, Never Again Rwanda intends to increase awareness among Rwandan youth about the Genocide as a means of preserving its memory, while eradicating its ideology and dealing with its consequences.
Over the past five years we have been placing particular emphasis on remember, reunite, and renew, which enables us to reflect on our past and events that led to the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
Despite existing platforms the youth still need to be provided with safe spaces to discuss some of their wounds which could hinder their participation to become active citizens as indicated below;
“I learnt that I am the light of my society, I consider this space as medicine for me because I used to feel alone and I isolated myself from others who are wounded and sometimes I would get stigmatised by my community yet I didn’t have a space to express my wounds.
Through healing space, I will be able to share my wounds and learn from other people’s experiences” said a female participant of Muhoza space for peace.
The term remember redirects us to some of the consequences of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi and the role of young people.
On the other hand, unite and renew are linked to Never Again Rwanda’s work in providing platforms for youth from diverse backgrounds to understand the importance of engaging in dialogue about the country’s sensitive history as well as the road to recovery.
Our theme this year is Kwibuka 25: Engaging Youth in memory and healing: Building a better future.
This theme aims to engage the youth in discussions on their role in preserving memory and healing spaces to overcome their traumatic past. The theme was also inspired by our experiences from healing spaces and citizen forums that host youth from diverse backgrounds.
In previous conferences, the youth demonstrated a variety of wounds stemming from the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi and they have demonstrated interest in addressing some of these wounds by setting up peace initiatives in their communities.
It is my hope that the youth will also be more inspired through the discussions with experts and will continue to engage in more peace work to prevent future violence.
Also, the youth through our platforms noted that most parents have difficulties in sharing genocide history with their children and this is why this conference is necessary to share such sensitive experiences and be supported by experts on how such issues can be addressed.
The youth should note that victims of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi were exterminated by their peers who were taught for a long period of time to hate, hence their participation as perpetrators and masterminds. They used their power and influence to exterminate their fellow peers.
Today, it is important for us to learn important lessons based on our history, by using such platforms to think critically how we can become active citizens, we should visit genocide memorials so that we can understand the history of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, read and write books so that you can educate others, learn and understand some of the events that led to the genocide.
This will enable the youth to tackle some of the stereotypes, hate and genocide ideology as well as negative messages in our homes and communities at large that the youth have reported as serious challenges in their communities, which continue to frustrate the process of healing and reconciliation.
We need to think back and reflect on Rwanda’s healing journey and events that led to the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
It is also a time for us to reflect on how to prevent negative influences especially among the youth, and that’s why we need to teach genocide history at the same time prevent any form of conflict/violence that could take Rwanda back to a dark past.
Let’s all remember, unite and renew. I wish you fruitful interactions and continue to support genocide survivors and continue to collaborate to promote a unified and peaceful society free of genocide ideology.
Dr Nkurunziza Ryarasa Joseph is the country director & founder of Never Again Rwanda, a peace building organisation that promotes human-rights and advocates for peace among the Rwandan youth and the population at large. This is a slightly edited version of his speech at the 8th annual youth conference on commemoration policy and practices of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi on April 18 in Kigali.