One wonders why the world insists on re-visiting Rwanda's violent past when it has such a promising future. To be sure, we must never forget, which is why last night's touching service was so important. Today though, when I think of Rwanda, I think of Joyce, Bruce, and Victor, and celebrate the victory of a bright future over a dark past.
In 1994 in the space of 100 days up to one million people were killed in Rwanda, in a calculated act, fueled and perpetrated by Hutu extremists in the then ruling government. It was one of Africa's defining moments, and one of the greatest crimes against humanity of the late 20th century, causing a shock wave across the world that still echoes today.
On this day in 1994 the Rwandan genocide was unleashed. Extremist members of Rwanda's Hutu majority set about slaughtering Tutsis and moderate Hutus, irrespective of age or gender. More than 800,000 people were killed in 100 days of murder, rape and torture. I am in Rwanda today to commemorate the genocide, pay respect to the victims and honour the ordinary people of Rwanda for their remarkable efforts to rebuild their country after experiencing unimaginable horrors. But today we must not only pause and remember the genocide, its victims and survivors; we must also reflect on the lessons of that experience...
Rising early means beating the unbearable heat that makes her journey on foot with a heavy load of maize on her head even more arduous. It means getting to the border crossing before custom officials - who frequently ask her for a bribe or worse - and securing a place at the market ahead of her competitors.
It was announced that Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda have agreed a joint tourist visa, opening up all three countries to visitors, much like the Schengen visa system in Europe. Sadly the visa does not yet include Tanzania, which means visitors will now have to pay extra for the Tanzanian leg of their East African safari, but hopefully this will change in the due course.
Sexual violence has been a central feature of the conflicts that have raged through the region for decades. Thousands of men, women and children are affected each year in activities that constitute war crimes under the Geneva Conventions.
The virtues of forgiveness in many different contexts of life are manifold and well known. Forgiveness can encourage and enable healing, peaceful relations, improved individual and social welfare, and psychological well being. But forgiveness is a personal choice and it must not be coerced, whether implicitly or explicitly. It is not a panacea.