Rwandan MP: the youth will benefit from reconciliation, not us
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Reconciliation and unity are two words used consistently when speaking of the 20th commemoration of the genocide in Rwanda. The government has instituted the ‘I am Rwandan’ campaign organised to bring Rwandans together to talk about the genocide and heal through their own stories. Rwandan MP Edouard Bamporiki sat down with RFI in Kigali to talk about the controversial campaign and the Hutu apology.
In January, the UN Security Council accepted the proposal to change the name of the genocide to the 1994 genocide against the Tutsis. Your party, the RPF (Rwandan Patriotic Front), has pushed for this designation. Do you feel as if this is a step towards reconciliation?
If genocide was prepared against the Tutsis, it has to be that. If you try to bring other stuff, you are confusing people. This was a genocide against Tutsis.
I’m not a Tutsi. I am not mixed we are nine generations. We are Hutu. So I have seen Hutu killing Tutsis, including my neighbours, uncles, my relatives. There’s no way to say any other genocide, only the genocide against Tutsis.
Late last year the government launched the ‘I am Rwandan’ campaign and it is part of the country’s reconciliation. The government has asked all Hutus to apologise to their Tutsis acquaintances and neighbours. However, they also asked Hutus who were born after the genocide.
There’s usually some misunderstanding about this programme. When this programme started, I was one of the people [who carried it out]. I was in the field, I can explain this programme. This programme builds trust between different generations, old and young generations. In this programme, we don’t only talk about forgiveness or repentance - we talk about the history. We teach different stuff. And asking forgiveness is one step of this programme.
The government of Rwanda has never called all Hutus, even those were born after the genocide, to apologise. But we say, all Hutus who have been involved in this genocide those who killed people, those who were pointing fingers bushes where Tutsis were hiding, those who were happy that Tutsis were being killed.
In this programme it’s about the heart. The Hutus who committed something, they already know that, in their heart. So the programme is there, no one is pushing them. The space is there for them, to apologise. So that they can feel in their heart, so that they can get this freedom. You can’t do anything good when you have shame. These crimes that they committed during the genocide brought shame. So there is no way to develop your country when you are shameful. People outside, they used to say, the government of Rwanda is pushing the Hutu, even those born after the genocide – it’s not true.
You were travelling outside of Kigali promoting this campaign, can you give us some specific examples of reconciliation, or things that you saw, which struck you.
I have some good examples. When I met young people in the village, two ladies. One is a survivor, another is a child of the perpetrator. Her father is in prison. He killed the child’s parents. When they’re talking about this programme, the survivor said, ‘I’m always angry seeing the daughter of my parent’s killer in the village. But based on what you are teaching us, the way you are showing responsibility of our parents and our responsibility as kids, I feel like I hate her, but she’s innocent’. The other lady from Hutu side, she also said, ‘because I know that my daddy killed your parent, I feel like I can’t come to your side. But as you’re saying that I’m innocent, I’ll be your friend’. Today, they are very close friends. That is one of the examples that I really appreciate in this programme. There are some interesting stories. But also, still, we are having some denials. Those who don’t want the programme to be realised. Of course they are in Western countries, in USA, in Europe. They used to criticise this programme. But no way. This is the Rwandan spirit. The spirit that will drive this country forever.
You see that Rwanda is growing together, but do you see that there’s still a long way to go? For some people...
No, of course, you know having perpetrators of the genocide outside [of the country], their kids are outside, they’re still having this hatred and genocide ideology from their parents. It’s a big challenge. So having a big number of people in prison, you know they killed people, but some of them used to claim, saying that, you know I killed them but I should not be in jail. I killed them but I should not be punished in this way. So those are still some challenges. It’s a process. It’s good, but it’s good for the young generation, not for us. We can’t see the result now. It’s a day for our younger generation. We are in a transition. Sometimes when you are in a transition, sometimes you don’t understand what is happening. You don’t see the result of what you are doing. But the result is there for the younger generation.
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