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Three Decades After Genocide, Rwanda Rises

Three Decades After Genocide, Rwanda Rises

Yet from the ashes of this unimaginable tragedy, Rwanda has undertaken nothing short of a miraculous revival. A nation once torn asunder along ethnic lines has knitted itself back together through truth, reconciliation and an unwavering determination to build a society where the divisions that fueled the genocide can never take root again.

Today, April 7th 2024, has to be one of the saddest yet most hopeful days in Africa.

Thirty years ago, on April 7th 1994, nearly one million lives were extinguished in just 100 days during the Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda. Hutu extremist militias and the then Rwandan army slaughtered men, women and children with machetes, clubs and guns in one of the swiftest acts of mass murder in modern history. The international community's failure to intervene effectively remains a haunting reminder of the consequences of inaction in the face of mass atrocities.

Yet from the ashes of this unimaginable tragedy, Rwanda has undertaken nothing short of a miraculous revival. A nation once torn asunder along ethnic lines has knitted itself back together through truth, reconciliation and an unwavering determination to build a society where the divisions that fueled the genocide can never take root again. Trauma still runs deep not just in millions of Rwandan individuals but in the Nation’s collective psyche. Rwanda’s healing is still work in progress. Which is why Rwandans need our understanding and support.

The strides Rwanda has made in the decades since the genocide ended are stunning. It has the world's highest representation of women in parliament at nearly 62%. Education has become a top priority, with state schools outperforming private institutions. Corruption has been rooted out of government to make Rwanda one of the most effectively administered nations globally.

These achievements have come through the strong but controversial hand of President Paul Kagame and his Rwandan Patriotic Front ruling party. While criticized by some for heavy-handed rule, this firm hand has helped ensure the demons of ethnic hatred remain exorcised for good.

To truly grasp Rwanda's revival is to understand just how far it had fallen even before the genocide. By 1990, it was the world's poorest nation. Life expectancy sat at just 33 years - lower than any active war zone on the planet. The rot had long set in.

That made the RPF's ability to resurrect the Rwandan state all the more remarkable. Today, life expectancy has doubled. An expansive national healthcare system has slashed child mortality rates. A whole generation has grown up knowing only peace and development, blissfully disconnected from the unspeakable horrors that engulfed their parents.

As commemorations commence this week to mark three decades since the killings began, Rwanda can rightly be toasted as a beacon of hope piercing through Africa's cycles of conflict, chaos and failure. But its story also stands as a chilling reminder of the depths of human depravity that fester when ethnic hatred and divisiveness are left to consume a society.

The lessons of Rwanda's genocide must never be forgotten - not just in the nation's hills and cities, but across a world still driven by the visceral strains of tribalism and racial animus. At all costs, we must relentlessly wage peace through dialogue, understanding and the fundamental respect for the universal dignity of all people, regardless of race, creed or identity.

What happened in Rwanda must remain forever scorched as an intolerable rupture in our common humanity. Only by nurturing the values that enabled Rwanda's improbable reconciliation can we hope to ensure such an atrocity is never repeated.
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