The scars of the 1994 Rwandan genocide – in which almost one million people were brutally killed in 100 days – run deep. Every single person we meet on our travels in Rwanda was profoundly affected by this horrific history – either first-hand, as is the case with the adult population who survived the genocide, or second-hand, as with the children whose families were so tragically impacted before they were born.
21 years after the genocide, this young generation makes up about 50% of the population of Rwanda, and the country is very much moving forward. A great emphasis has been put on reconciliation and reunification, and ethnic differences are once again de-emphasised. The resilience and general positivity of a population working hard to overcome its past, and embrace what is wonderful about its present, is truly awe‑inspiring.
On our annual visits to Rwanda, we are struck by the amount of new infrastructure that has been installed in the past 12 months. With the government eager to modernise, and serious in its zero-tolerance approach to corruption, the economy is developing. There are opportunities for higher wages, and a strong focus on trying to improve the general standard of living.
Although much has changed, the country is still in the process of defining what a peaceful, post-genocide Rwanda will look like, taking care not to only identify with its tragic past, but to celebrate and showcase all the wonderful things the country has to offer now. As Celestin Rwabukumba, the 39-year-old CEO of the fledgling Rwanda Stock Exchange says, “It’s important to remember what happened and to honour the people who died, but the best way to honour them is to build a better country.”
Everyone we talk to in this beautiful country has shared a similar sentiment with us. They are proud to be Rwandan, dedicated to working hard to build a better country, and looking forward to the future.