Friday, June 25, 2010

Newspaper Editor killed

Jean Leonard Rugambage, the acting editor of a major newspaper in Rwanda, the Umuvugizi was shot outside his home on Thursday evening.
Claims made by the paper’s Editor in exile, Jean Bosco Gasasira said his acting editor was shot and killed late Thursday night in the Rwanda capital, Kigali.
He said Rwandan security forces killed acting editor Rugambage because the paper was investigating the shooting of Rwandan General Kayumba Nyamwasa in South Africa.
“I’m 100 percent sure it was the office of the national security services which shot him dead. This happened after publishing a story on the Umuvugizi website which cited Rwanda’s chief spy of being involved in the shooting of General Kayumba Nyamwasa in South Africa,” he said.
Police spokesman Eric Kayiranga has told the press that the police do not know who was behind the attack or what the motive was.
He said they were investigating. Gasasira said the article on the Umuvugizi website quoted information which showed that there was communication between Rwanda’s chief spy and his driver.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Lessons from Rwanda

By Fatuma Noor

Rwanda, a Spectacular sight to behold, settlement that radiates from a winding succession of steep terrace slopes and with beautiful hills and valleys.
A flame that burns at the Kigali memorial center for a 100 days in remembrance of the 1994 genocide dies the memory of turbulent ethnic rivalry in which countries social fabric was deeply affected.
The country which is still fighting to get out of the shadows of genocide is in many ways an African success story. Towards this the youths are deliberately given tasks to improve the country for their future.
With the large percentage being the youths, the Rwandan government has now signed a contract with different youth’s groups and association to contribute to the development of the country.
“The youths do things like cleaning the streets of Kigali, planting palm trees along the medians road to make sure that the country is green and attractive” said Charles Osidi who is the Director of Youths Associations at the Ministry of Youths.
A poster at the airport warns arriving visitors that the country has outlawed plastic bags, it is better for the environment and helps keep the streets clean. Indeed it does - there is little of the trash on the streets of Kigali that is ubiquitous in other poor cities

These Rwandan youth do all this purely on voluntarily basis get stipends from the council and in return they get to host the gardens.
“If someone is in the Association and maybe wants to have a party or wedding at one of the parks of Kigali, they are provided for free” said Charles.
With a large percentage being the youths, the country In a bid to promote youths self employment and development, a youth Fund was established.
Kojad a youth Fund was established 3 years ago and has been operational since then and its been used by the youths to generate income and more than Ksh. 600M has been loaned to the youths.
“The youth fund is meant to be loaned to either individuals or groups to generate income and provide employment for the youths” said Uwingeneye Moolestine the Manager of the Kojad youth fund.
Moolestine says that this is one of the Rwandan youth recovery plant and it has worked as more youths keep benefiting from the progress.
“The people who use the motorbikes are all the beneficiaries of the youth fund, some businesses here are all beneficial of this youth fund, we have less of idol youths” said Moolestine.
But inlike the Kenyan youths, The Rwandese youths most of them being the witnesses and survivors of the genocide are on their way to recovery and making the country a better place to live.
Unlike the Rwandan government which is doing much to promote the leasers of tomorrow, Kenya could borrow a leaf from the Rwandan government.
“ al of a sudden we have a huge number of young people who are unemployed and the Kenyan government has no prospects for them, this makes them idol and act up” said Raphael Tuju the Director Kenya Hope Foundation and an advisor to the president.
Tuju added that despite the many initiatives started in Kenya for the youths, little or no effort is being seen to helping them.
“Kenyans could learn a lot from the Rwandan govermet, the country has prospered like this because of the youths” said Tuju.
Ethnic tension in Rwanda is nothing new but they are on the recovery process, Kenya mirrors a same history of ethnic tension, a good example what happened in the 2007 disputed elections.
In 1994, the ethnic tensions started in Rwanda and Military and militia groups began rounding up and killing Tutsis in masses which spread all over the country.
However, now The Hutu-Tutsi relations in Rwanda today is that of a brother to another. “the ethnic differences is all behind us we are all Rwandans” said Gilbert Mucharama, our tour guide in the trip.
He adds that there is no more mention of the Hutus and Tutsi’s in Rwandans and even its risky calling one by which ethnic group that they belong to.
“Even calling one a Tutsi or a Hutu is a risk as you can face to 3 years in prison just for that identification” he tells me.
The only identification that one would know one is a Tutsi is they are tallerr, slender while the Hutus are a bit plumpy and shorter as compared to the Tutsis.
“The ethnic differences is what caused this country to crumble down into peaces, we have learnti don’t think we want to go back to where we were 16 years ago” said Gilbert.
Ethnic tensions in Kenya mirrors a similar situation but if we could learn from Rwanda after the genocide this is one such lesson
Also as Kenya is in the process of trying the perpetrators of the 2007 post election violence, we could follow suit and form a local tribunal to try out some of the perpetrators.
In Kenya who have opted for the ICC as compared to local tribunal has generated lots of debate, however the Rwandese believe that they could have opted for that much earlier.
With debates as Kenya doubts its own judicial system, it could follow suit and form a system which will try the perpetrators
As a result, the Rwandan government has turned to a traditional system of justice known as "gacaca" to relieve the burden on prisons and courts. Gacaca hearings are traditionally held outdoors (the word loosely translates as "justice on the grass"), with household heads serving as judges in the resolution of community disputes. The system is based on voluntary confessions and apologies by wrongdoers.
With Over 250,000 community members trained to serve in panels of 19 judges in gacaca courts all over Rwanda. The tribunals will operate in several stages, first identifying victims, then suspects - and finally holding trials.
According to denis Wahawayo, teh Director of the Gacaca court said taht it has been a process and more people have been tried with this court.
“ here the local residents will give testimony for and against the suspects, who will be tried in the communities where they are accused of committing crimes.” Said Dennis

By Fatuma Noor

Between April and June 1994, an estimated 800,000 Rwandans were killed in the space of 100 days.Most of the dead were Tutsis - and most of those who perpetrated the violence were Hutus.Even for a country with such a turbulent history as Rwanda, the scale and speed of the slaughter left its people reeling. Sixteen years later the country has made great strides in its reconciliation process but despite the passing of time the memories of the 100 days are still very clear to many survivor victims.

Sixteen years ago Redempta Jaramba,27, witnessed as her family of 15 burned to death in the western part of Rwanda, although she was too young then to understand, the memory of what happened is still very clear in her mind.
She was only 11 years of age when the Rwandan genocide happened which left more than 850,000 Tutsis massacred including her family.
Now as she sits at the Kigali Memorial centre where more than 250,000 people, including her entire family are buried in a mass grave, she recalls the events of that fateful day.
With tears rolling down her cheeks she tells me that it was too late for anyone else in her house to run as the men who were surrounding her house had locked the house from both sides and already doused the house with petrol.
“It all started with gunshots and the next thing we had men surrounding our house, my father threw me out using the back window as all doors were closed, but no one else could fit” she recalls.

Redempta, who was the youngest in the family, recalls that her father tried to break down the door but in vain and in no time the house was up in flames and as much as she cried for help no one could come to rescue her or the family.
“I stayed there watching, too young to understand why people would kill each other, trying to understand what people had done to each other to attract the awful attacks against one another, against neighbours, friends and even family” she says.
Weeks later with nothing to eat and surviving by the grace of God, the 11 year old just sat alone and lonely among the burned bodies of her father, sick mother, sisters and other family members "The killers had set fire to everyone and everything that was left," she says quietly. "So, I sat among their teeth and bones, the only thing that was left of my family before Red Cross who came to pick the remains of those that survived rescued me."
Redempta was then taken to a children’s centre where she found other hundreds of children and widows who were provided rescue by the centre.
A decade and a half later, she still cannot believe that her family's Hutu neighbour, the owner of a local shop they sometimes visited and whose children she played with one day without provocation just burned her family alive.
“Jonah’s father was someone who knew us well, we bought milk from him, went to school with his son and even ate at his house, he was the only one I recognized among the four whom I watched torch my house from my hiding place” she says.
She remembers the dates only too well. “It was on a Wednesday April 27, we had spent the entire week in the house as it wasn’t safe for us, at least that’s what my father said” she says. “I just wouldn't die," she adds.
“Some nights I can’t sleep and I have no one to call family, I replay the incident over and over I my head and 16 years later, my memory is still clear and it doesn’t seem ready to go away anytime soon,” said Redempta.
Even visits to counsellors providing help to the children at the centre did not ease the pain that she still feels or make her forget the trauma she witnessed.
Her scars have grown no less livid with time, she is yet to forgive Jonah’s father.
“To this moment I don’t understand why he did it, if only I could meet him now that am a grown woman. I don’t know what I would do to him.” She tells me. After she left the orphanage the Red Cross placed her in, Redempta wanted to go back and just look at the man who killed her family but her aunt whom she now lives with refused and said it wasn’t still safe for a Tutsi” she tells me.
Her understanding of the genocide came to her at the orphanage because the older children and the widows were always talking about the whole sorry event. “They were saying things, my father never told me about the hatred that existed between the Hutus and the Tutsi’s, it’s here that I understood,” she says.
Redempta wishes that she could have given her family a proper burial but since she cannot she visits the mass grave once every month and tries to go back just so to remember the loved ones she lost every time she gets a chance.
“I come here twice every month to place flowers at the memorial and say prayers for the people buried here with my family,” she said.
She is yet to forgive the murderers of her family and she says that for her life can never be the same again because of the genocide. “ I cannot trust anyone, be they a neighbour or even family. I believe they could all turn on you like my neighbour did, which proves how cruel the world is” she says.
“This is not what I had planned for, I wanted to have children and they would have people they would call family, but now even if I start my own family, I have no one to call my family, my children will not have grandparents who could spoil them with love” she laments.