Rwanda: lessons of horror and hope

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The Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences hosted a moving and inspiring public lecture by Yves Kamuronsi and University of Melbourne alumnus David Toovey about genocide recovery and reconciliation in Rwanda.

Yves Kamuronsi, whose parents and brother were killed during the 100 day genocide in 1994, discussed the role that education can play in remembrance and healing. As Country Director of genocide prevention organisation Aegis Trust, he overseas a team of over 250 staff at the Kigali Genocide Memorial in Rwanda, where students can hear testimonies of life before, during and after genocide, and learn how to build a peaceful society.

Yves said this involves acknowledging what happened and forgiving perpetrators – a difficult process - and replacing hatred with love so people can live peacefully together.

Expat Australian David Toovey, who has worked on government, peacebuilding and remembrance projects in Rwanda, said that genocide starts with discrimination, division and exclusion. However, genocide survivors have shown that it is possible to rebuild lives and inspire others to become champions of humanity.

David said that Rwanda’s remarkable transformation in 22 years is due to ordinary citizens being involved in decision making. They advocated for a traditional justice approach to reconciliation - which saw modified courts processing 1.9 million cases in 10 years - the government reducing corruption so funding could be directed to healthcare programs, and Rwandans working as peacekeepers in countries where there is conflict.

David said that the nation acted to wipe out discrimination based on race and social class.

“There is no them, only us,” he said.

“Genocide takes place over time and we need to bring people together to build unity.”