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Why remember the horrors of the past?

Rwandan refugees cross Rusumo border to Tanzania from Rwanda May 30, 1994 carrying their belongings even goats, mattresses and cows. Photo: Reuters/Scanpix

Norwegian People's Aid would like to pay our deepest respect to the victims of the genocide against the Tutsi. We are committed to support a prosperous development of Rwanda through our support to civil society.

Even though, reconciliation and unity has been the highest priority in Rwanda, 25 years is not a long time and the collective memory of trauma persists. Kwibuka means ‘to remember’ and describes the annual commemoration of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda. ‘Kwibuka’ is the annual national commemoration period and is an important event for people to have time and space to grief, reflect and visit their loved ones at memorials around the country.

In a time where hate speech, xenophobia and discrimination is advancing globally, it is more important than ever that the world be reminded of why the genocide against the Tutsi was possible. By asking ourselves how this could happen, we will find answers of how to prevent future crimes against humanity. Being able to detect and counter the early signs of division and xenophobia must be the duty of everyone, and power holders in particular.

25 years has passed since the devastating genocide against the Tutsi took place in Rwanda. More than 800 000 people was killed, mostly Tutsi, but also moderate Hutu and others who opposed the genocide.

Today Rwanda stands out in the region. The country has risen from ruins and has focused on building a common national identity where everyone identifies as Rwandans, rather than by their ethnic identity. Economic growth, modernization and good international relations is high on the governments’ agenda. In addition to prioritizing the tourism sector, the government is digitalizing both business and government services in an attempt to attract foreign investors to look to Rwanda. One example of implementation of high tech solutions is the use of drones transporting blood between health clinics. They can be observed as mechanical birds as you travel across the country.

Meanwhile, in the countryside agriculture is dominating people’s lives. People make a living from small-scale farming. Although, the percentage living below the poverty line has decreased, most people struggle to make ends meet.  Inequality increases if people do not have access to power and ability to influence their own lives. Without rights awareness and having capacity to advocate for fulfillment of your rights people will not be included in the development process, thus inequality will persist. 

Norwegian People's Aid runs two development programmes in Rwanda in partnership with civil society organizations to contribute to the process of democratization, with support from Norway, Sweden and the UK.  Both projects endeavour to contribute to strengthening a democratic society characterised by empowered civic participation and a robust and independent civil society. PPIMA has been operating since 2009 and is now in the final year of its 3rd phase. Norwegian People's Aid has had a particular emphasis on women’s empowerment and combatting gender based violence through our Ending Gender Based Violence programme.

Through our governance programme, civil society partners support citizens to raise and express their opinions and interests with decision makers, and to advocate that government planning and decision making is influenced by those citizen concerns.