For Online E-newspaper
The East African : November 25th 2013
The EastAfrican OPINION NOVEMBER 23-29,2013 19 To conf≥ont the past, o≥ let it stay bu≥ied: Rwanda’s dilemma are reacting in strikingly varied ways, with indications that so are the baturage (villagers) at the grassroots. I have not been anywhere near a village lately, so I have not spoken to any ‘muturage’ (villager) about this or any other matter; whatever I know about their reactions, I have been told. I have, however, randomly and unscientifically sounded out a good number of Kigali’s politically alert residents. “What do you think of the ‘Ndi Umunyarwanda’ initiative,” I would ask. As background, it is essential to recall A when this idea of digging up the past in order to arrive at some kind of closure, first exploded into the public domain. It was earlier this year at a gathering, in Kigali, of some of the country’s youth, at a YouthConnekt Forum. One Edouard Bamporiki, a feisty chap in his 20s, decided that it was time for him to apologise for the bad things that had been done in his name during the genocide and before. He felt it would be good if other Rwandans who felt the way he did about things that have happened in the past, followed his example. President Paul Kagame was present, as were other senior leaders. They, too, agreed that it was indeed a good idea. The seed of what would metamorphose into the Ndi Umunyarwanda campaign had been sown. The idea drew immediate reactions, partic- ularly from those whose attention was caught by the “apology” and “forgiveness” aspects. Bamporiki and those who agreed with him, s Rwanda’s leadership continues to roll out the “Ndi Umunyarwanda” (I am Rwandan) initiative across the country, Kigali’s well-heeled elite others. Metaphorically, Bamporiki who has since Some fear that revisiting the past will prise open the Pandora’s box of ethnic identification.” F≥ede≥ick Golooba-Mutebi they said, were floating a dangerous idea. How and why, they asked, should someone apologise or ask for forgiveness for wrongs they did not personally commit? However, as it came to be embraced by the leadership, the idea is broader. It entails looking back at Rwanda’s history in general, especially where people, whatever their description, have been left feeling wronged or victimised. The questions to be asked are: Who was re- sponsible for what; who did what, on whose behalf; and who chose to do nothing where they could have done something to oppose or prevent the maltreatment or victimisation of Whether it is now or later, confronting the past in all its ugliness is necessary to allow Rwandans to reach closure about their collective history. become a Member of Parliament can be said to have lit a match that has produced more light than he envisaged. But it is not the kind of light some people want to be caught up in. They fear that the argument for revisiting the past is the thin end of a wedge that will prise open the Pandora’s box of ethnic identification and possibly recrimination, after nearly 20 years of being told they should see themselves as Rwandans, not Bahutu, Batutsi or Batwa. A young man who was born and grew up in the pre-1994 diaspora was emphatic: “I do not usually oppose my government, but on this one I am not with them. We have been used to looking at ourselves as Rwandans. Why are they bringing up these things that will divide us again?” Others argue that this kind of attitude amounts to the proverbial hiding of heads in the sand. They maintain that whether it is now or later, confronting the past in all its ugliness is necessary to allow Rwandans to reach some kind of closure about their collective history. Underlying this view is the argument that to avoid discussing difficult issues in the open is akin to allowing a wound to fester. The infection can only get worse, its proponents argue. Less discussed but equally important is the pace at which the campaign is being rolled out. There is a view that it is very fast, possibly too fast to allow for people to prepare themselves by thinking carefully through what it is they may want to say. Related to this is the view that the massive rolling out of the initiative into public and private institutions and onto the hills poses questions about how precisely the discussions will be moderated, and by whom. There are, of course, facilitators whose function is to guide people as they examine what has gone wrong, where, and how and who should take responsibility and atone for it. Nonetheless, those who have attended discussions so far claim the skills displayed by the people who presided over the discussions in which they took part were not up to scratch. Those citing this shortcoming wonder whether the rollout should not have been preceded by some kind of training for the facilitators so that by the time it happened, they were all clear about where the parameters within which discussions should happen start and end. What if, they ask, facilitators without ad- equate skills allow discussions to degenerate into recriminations as people with different assessments or interpretations of the country’s history argue it out? These are difficult issues to resolve. What- ever happens in the end, Rwanda and Rwandans have crossed yet another Rubicon. F≥ede≥ick Golooba-Mutebi is a Kampala- and Kigali-based ≥esea≥che≥ and w≥ite≥ on politics and public a≠ai≥s. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Why involve the youth in climate change? Because it’s thei≥ futu≥e that is at stake Youth require support from those with experience, skills and technology” Susy Wande≥a Change (UNFCCC) took place at the National Stadium in Warsaw, Poland, last week. The conference started on November 11 and ended on November 22. Kenya was among the over 190 countries that sent a delegation to the Warsaw conference. Since Kenya, a vulnerable develop- T ing country, hosted the 12th Conference of the Parties [governments] to the UNFCCC also serving as the 2nd Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol in 2006, a variety of stakeholders have emerged to engage in matters to do with climate change. Notably, the Kenya Climate Change Working Group, a network comprising NGOs, CBOs, faith-based organisations, research institutions and he 19th session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate academia, the Kenya Youth Climate Network, comprising youth groups throughout the country who focus on climate change, governance and leadership, and the Parliamentary Network on Renewable Energy and Climate Change in the 10th and 11th Parliaments. The Conference of the Parties (COP) is the global policy decisionmaking body on matters concerning climate change. The decisions made therein are implemented by all the parties in their respective countries with support from the industrialised countries who have the financial means, technology and capacity to support the realisation of “Common but Differentiated Responsibilities and Respective Capabilities (CBDR).” So what’s COP got to do with Ken- ya’s aspirations to economic and social growth under Vision 2030? Understanding that climate change is a development issue is the first prerequisite in engaging with the dynamics of this phenomenon and its impact Understanding that climate change is a development issue is the first prerequisite in engaging with the dynamics of this phenomenon and its impact on a country, its people and society. As challenging as addressing climate change is, drawing from the Austrian poet Rainer Maria Rilke, we can embark on activities based on the following: “Everything that makes more of you than you have ever been, even in your best hours, is right,” where the poet urges us to push beyond our current best. To achieve results that enhance resilience and minimise the negative impacts of climate change, long-term thinking and action is required, that is actions taken today to benefit the generations to appear 100, 150 and 200 years from now. Kenya’s youth comprise 73 per cent of the population, meaning that out of 42 million, 30,660,000 are under the age of 35. Clearly they are a significant stakeholder who must be included in all the stages of handling climate change — negotiations, decision-making, deriving solutions and implementation. While a key player, youth also require support from those with experience, skills, technology and capac- ity in order to contribute to the goal of building resilience. As Daisaku Ikeda states, “The presence of a supporting stake is indispensable in helping a young sapling grow into a mighty tree. Otherwise, before the young tree has a chance to sink its roots deep in the ground, it will be toppled by the next storm.” In all endeavours, the start is ab- solutely critical. It is vital to clarify the intention of any endeavour at the outset. Cultivating youth and communities’ abilities is necessary to achieve effective outcomes. The kind of commitment or at- titude we have in this journey of building and sustaining Kenya’s resilience and response to the inevitable impacts of climate change is crucial. A transformation in people’s underlying attitude becomes evident in their voice, expression, behaviour and spirit, which then is reflected in their ability to change every aspect of their lives, livelihoods and the space around them. Training, teaching and fostering capable people in greater numbers to engage and partake in undertaking practical efforts in this journey underlies our endeavour. In any sphere, climate change included, grasping the basics is fundamental, and mastering them is the key to growth in ability and capability. Susy Wande≥a is the conveno≥ fo≥ the Road to COP (Confe≥ence of the Pa≥ties) Taskfo≥ce in the Kenya Climate Change Wo≥king G≥oup. Elsie Eyakuze’s column will ≥esume next week.
November 18th 2013
December 2nd 2013