Rwanda’s ambassador to the United Nations, Eugene-Richard Gasana, accepted the Presidential Merit Medal on behalf of Rwandan President Paul Kagame at Utah State University yesterday. He addressed an audience of faculty and students at the Taggart Student Center Auditorium about Rwanda’s efforts to recover from the 1994 genocide.Gasana said the Rwandan genocide 15 years ago killed more than 1 million people ambassadorduring a period of three months. To put this into perspective, he said the population of Cache Valley–approximately 100,000 people–would have disappeared in about 10 days, and the student body at USU of about 20,000 would have disappeared overnight.”Once you face those crimes, even those perpetrators, to think you can revenge yourself, to kill them, it is not the solution to revenge ourselves,” Gasana said about the difficult choices made to rebuild Rwanda for future generations. “It is not easy to sit together with someone who killed your mother, who raped your daughter, to sit with him and say, OK, let’s sit together and see how we can rebuild our country again. It is not easy,” Gasana said. “But it is a matter of choice.””Rwanda is truly a remarkable country, and it endured hardship,” Mary Hubbard, vice provost for global engagement at the College of Science said. Hubbard introduced Gasana and presented the award. “It is rebuilding at an incredible rate.”Gasana accepted the medal on behalf of President Kagame. Hubbard said this is the first medal awarded by USU President Stan Albrecht to a foreign leader, recognizing Kagame’s efforts to rebuild his country after the genocide.”We are pleased to have a good leader–I’m paid to say that, but still, Rwanda is a peaceful country,” Gasana said. President Kagame is responsible for stopping the genocide, he said. He gave Rwanda strong leadership, which the country needed to come out of the tragedies of the genocide. He said Kagane was able to make hard choices that helped Rwanda to recover.”We are proud of the success we have achieved through trade efforts to rebuild Rwanda,” Gasana said. “Our people have made significant progress while focusing on reconciliation. The new Rwanda is more than a developing country–it is poised to become an economic power.”He said Rwanda is the sixth largest provider of peacekeeping troops to the U.N., sending soldiers to places like Darfur where the U.N. commander is Rwandan. He said Rwanda also sent troops and police to Liberia, and Haiti among other places.”What happened in Rwanda shouldn’t happen ever in any country in the world,” Gasana said about the 1994 Rwandan genocide. He said Rwanda cannot stand by and look while genocide occurs in other countries if they can do anything to stop it. He said Rwanda was one of the first nations to send peacekeepers to Darfur.He said 2009 marks the fifteenth year after the 1994 Rwandan genocide that took 1 million lives, leaving thousands of children orphaned and many homeless. Gasana said Rwanda is now a peaceful and stable country.Gasana said reconstruction is done through a plan called “Vision 2020,” which consists of four key pillars: first, a responsible and accountable government; second, to establish justice; third, social reform focused on reconciliation; and fourth, to develop the economy of Rwanda.As part of the first pillar, Gasana said it requires establishing a government that is fiscally responsible, with a policy of zero tolerance for corruption. He said auditing agencies were created in Rwanda to make sure there is accountability in the government and to prevent corruption.”Among our highest priority is apprehending the perpetrators of genocide, and bringing them to justice,” Gasana said. He said justice is the second pillar of his plan, which includes creating a traditional and fair Rwandan court system to prosecute these criminals of genocide, and to establish justice through the country. Gasana said the motive behind this is not vengeance, but justice.Gasana said as part of he third pillar, Rwanda established a reconciliation commission in 1998, which helped to replace feelings of hatred with peace and stability–it was time to rebuild his country, he said. “We had to choose to either forget our country and ban it altogether, or reconstruct our country,” he said it was hard to sit with people from opposite classes who committed genocide, but he said Rwandans chose reconstruction. “Reconstruction not only of the economy, not only of the infrastructure, but also of the people.”We don’t have, I repeat it stronger, we don’t have ethnic groups in Rwanda–we used to have classes in Rwanda,” Gasana said, referring to the groups such as the Tootsies and the Hutus. He said Rwandans all have a common language and culture which is unique to the region, and was created by their ancestors – this is what helped the country to become unified, he said. “You cannot prove who is who [scientifically],” Gasana said.Economic development is the last pillar. He said Rwanda has become a model for economic reform in Central Africa, and was named the world’s top reformer in the Doing Business report published by the World Bank Group–the first time this honor is bestowed to an African nation, he said.”There is no denying that Rwanda is a country on the move,” Gasana said.He said Rwanda is able to improve its economy because they focus on investing in human capital and not natural resources. He said Rwanda introduced free universal education. Rwanda has also embraced information technology. He said 1 million children will own a computer by 2012 via the One Laptop per Child program. Gasana said school enrolment has increased by 1,000 percent in Rwanda.”We invested in human capital a lot,” Gasana said. “We invested in our cities. So we can be the heart of the inter-region of Africa.”
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