Ending Carleton’s Rwanda Initiative unacceptable: Dallaire

Posted: April 15, 2011 in News
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By Eddie Rwema–April 14, 2011

A Carleton University professor thinks pulling the plug on a program that supports the development of journalism in Rwanda would be a mistake.

The Rwanda Initiative was launched in 2006 to address the shortage of journalism educators in Rwanda, build capacity and improve journalism standards in a country that had been ravaged by the genocide that occurred there in 1994. It has sent more that 150 Canadian journalism teachers and students to the post-conflict country.

Founded by Carleton professor Allan Thompson, the project is a partnership between Carleton University and the National University of Rwanda.

Past participants met on Friday, March 8 to celebrate the project’s fifth anniversary and forge a way forward for the program that participants think has greatly affected the media landscape in Rwanda.

“We have never tried to bring the project participants to talk to each other about what worked and what didn’t work, what we could do better and maybe other places where we could be involved,” said  Thompson.

Though there has been questions about the effectiveness of the program, Thomson thinks the work isn’t done yet in Rwanda.

“Personally my view is, it would be a mistake to leave Rwanda,” he said.

Concerns about lack of media freedoms and government crackdowns on independent media in Rwanda have led some people to question if it is right to continue the program.

“Of course it is challenging, there are problems and tensions, but in the long run we do have an impact on young new journalism students and we have already started to see that,” said Thompson.

The program has also brought Rwandan journalists to Canada to study or train.

Eugene Kwibuka is pursuing his master’s of journalism at Carleton University. He agrees with Thompson that suspending the program would affect Rwandan journalism students who stand to benefit from the experience and knowledge of Canadian teachers.

“The program is doing a good job and I think you can do more in the future,” Kwibuka told the gathering.

Rwandan High Commissioner to Canada said her government was putting in place mechanisms to professionalize and support the media.

“Our media landscape is growing and we are doing everything to improve it even more,” said Edda Mukabagwiza.

The reception to celebrate the Rwanda Initiative’s fifth anniversary featured a multimedia presentation about the project, performances by traditional Rwandan dancers, and comments from past participants.

Retired Lt.-Gen. Roméo Dallaire, who served in Rwanda during the 1994 genocide, expressed a need to inculcate in young Rwandans the need to be truthful, transparent, objective, and courageous in presenting what is happening even when it makes people unhappy.

He thanked the project for having been part of building the depth of freedom and democracy in Rwanda.

“Helping a nation build freedom and sustaining it and building depth to it is a higher calling,” said Dallaire.

He said that it would be unacceptable to have the program pull out of Rwanda

“You have established the credibility of what you have been able to bring forward to that country in the world of journalism. Now you have to build on that and sustain it,” he said.

Participants observed a minute of silence in honour of the victims of the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

“Seventeen years ago the international community abandoned Rwanda,” Dallaire said.

“Tonight is a sign of optimism, an expression that in fact we can bring back or even introduce values, morals, ethical and legal references that are needed in a democratic society in order to permit individual citizens to thrive with a hope of seeing freedom for their next generation.”


Source: http://www.yourottawaregion.com/print/984878

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