‘We could and should have done more’ – Kofi Annan, 2004

The serene Lake Burera, northern Rwanda


Rwanda 2012 Reflection #2 – ‘We could and should have done more’ – Kofi Annan, 2004

A journey
I have just spent 8 days in Rwanda in preparation for a summit I am organizing with some colleagues – [rw12] Innovate Rwanda (www.scil.com.au/rwanda). During these days, I had the privilege of being invited into the homes of several families in rural regions of Rwanda. I also re-visited some amazing schools in districts such as the undulating Rugeshi region, the serene shores of Lake Burera and the fields of Kinigi at the foothills of the volcanoes. It was my fourth visit to Rwanda.

My hunch is that Rwanda faces a critical decade. By the end of this decade, history will be a generation removed from the genocide. I was initially anxious about visiting Rwanda, most likely linked to images of the genocide that are imprinted in my brain. Travelling through the country, you will see momentary uncomfortable reminders of that time – a young boy carrying a mattock on his head as he walks along the road, a man carrying a machete. But these items are no longer the implements of war, they once again just the tools of daily subsistence farming.

I feel repulsed by the genocide. It is impossible to visit the genocide memorial and not be moved to tears – especially when in the Children’s memorial section. The signs and photos say it all, recounting each child’s favourite food, toy, friends and how they were slaughtered.

I still feel angry when I re-read Kofi Annan’s statement in 2004 – no doubt his greatest regret: ‘We could and should have done more’. The world let Rwanda down in 1994 with devastating consequence. We must not do that again. And now as Rwanda continues to rebuild, reorder and reset their society, they welcome ‘borrowed talent’. People whose thinking can help them move forward – not to take over, just stand alongside.

Resilient hope
Last Saturday morning we went for a walk along a track near Kinigi, at the foothills of the Volcanoes NP. It was the start of the same track that tourists trek when they are going to see the mountain gorillas. A young man watches us then tentatively approaches. He speaks to Anne first, polite, respectful. I beckon him over. My intuition tells me that he sees an opportunity to simply talk. (How could I ever refuse that?) After a while, I ask the questions, some seemingly risky. And as I listened to James’ story, I start to learn. He is engaging. He looks tired. But I become aware of a resilient hope.

James (right), Barack (left)

I ask James about his family and we inevitably get on to the difficult but imprinted experience of 17 years ago. James recalls running in panic into the fields the day his father was killed. James was only about 2 years old then, he thinks. But that was then and this is now. Today he is a young adult, very evidently incredibly respectful. He is in Senior 4 at a district secondary school. He wants to study tourism. He knows he needs to improve his struggling English to do that. He doesn’t have an English dictionary. Sometimes there are words he just cannot work out. But he clearly has an indefatigable aspiration that one day he will have a job that will empower him to make choices. No doubt he will be an excellent Dad himself: generational healing – generational reconciliation.

Innovate Rwanda
Come and help people like James. We want to help jump the schools in the northern rural regions of Rwanda through the centuries to the 21st century. We are hoping that a collision of creative minds might just facilitate that. Please consider joining us – for the journey of a lifetime:
W scil.com.au/rwanda

T @scil #rw12

E aknock@scil.nsw.edu.au


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