Kenyans Bury Ethnic Affiliations in Rwanda Visit

Posted: October 24, 2011 in Uncategorized
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By Anthony Njagi

Referred to as the Land of a Thousand Hills, Rwanda is a beautiful green country. The capital, Kigali, is well paved and very clean, as is the countryside.

Cleanliness is encouraged through a monthly exercise, in which President Paul Kagame participates. No one can enter Rwanda with a polythene bag.

Beneath this serene façade, however, lies a history of horror which, years later, still haunts the citizens of this country.

Rwanda hosts several memorial sites in remembrance of the 100-day genocide that rocked the country in 1994.

Hundreds of thousands of Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed in one of the world’s worst ethnic cleansings.

An eye-opener

A recent seven-day tour of Rwanda by Kenyan drama teachers was an eye-opener. The teachers saw for themselves to what extremes ethnic animosity can reach.

The teachers visited the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre where hundreds of skulls and human remains are kept.

They also visited various other sites, including mass graves and museums containing human remains.

Some of the most sobering sites, though, were the churches in Nyamata, where more than 15,000 people were killed. The churches were for years a place of refuge for Tutsis whenever they were attacked.

The visiting Kenyan teachers were reduced to tears at the Murambi memorial site at the border of Rwanda and Burundi.

The museum is home to bodies, not bones, preserved in the brutal nature in which they died. At this point, the teachers’ tribal affiliations were buried forever and they became just Kenyans.

The 130 drama teachers were visiting Rwanda, courtesy of the National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) and the ministry of Education.

In Rwanda, they were hosted by the Rwanda Commission on Unity and Reconciliation.

“Teachers are powerful. We entrust our children to them and they work in communities where they are respected and their opinions sought,” said Alice Nderitu of the NCIC.

“People are unable to visualise how a genocide happens, yet it begins small — two people here, 20 people there until one day you realise one million people are dead. The consequences of ethnic animosity are very real,” she said.

The drama teachers from primary and secondary schools, colleges and universities are expected to translate their experiences in Rwanda and Kenya into plays, poems, dances and oral narratives to be performed at the Kenya Schools and Colleges Drama Festival, starting on April 1, 2012 at Kakamega High School.

“Drama festivals can be used to preach peace and integration. After all, drama is both educative and entertaining,” said Ms Nderitu.

During the tour, the teachers were taught how to overcome ethnic hatred, which they will apply at community level and at their schools.

Ill-feeling still festers in Kenya years after the 2007-2008 post-election violence, which was why the Mzalendo Kibunjia-led NCIC was formed.

The Rwandese have learnt from their experiences, though they have not quite healed — some say it will take a generation.

They have drawn on their joint history as Hutus and Tutsis who share one language, culture and past to put together a united nation.

Indeed, people we asked whether they were Hutu or Tutsi either quietly asserted they are Rwandese or became offended.

According to Mr Sirengo Khaemba, the executive secretary of the Kenya Schools and Colleges National Drama Festival, it was a learning experience for the teachers.

Community policing

“Drama is a reflection of life, and there is no better way to portray what could happen than through theatre,” he said.

The teachers also got to learn how community policing has worked in Rwanda, from the village level to the headquarters in Kigali.

They visited Mutobo Rehabilitation Centre where former militiamen, many who have come back from the Democratic Republic of Congo, are prepared for integration into the community.

Some are rehabilitated and integrated into the army. Others undergo training for three years on human values, patriotism and nationalism.

“There are a lot of lessons to learn from the Rwanda experience,” said Mr Obino Nyambane, one of the teachers.

Another teacher, Mr Joseph Kubende, was amazed at the honesty of the hosts. He forgot Sh7,000 in his trouser pocket when he took his clothes for laundry.

On returning that evening, worried that he had lost the money, he was pleasantly surprised to find it on a table in his hotel room.


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