Divide-and-rule and religion are two most dangerous trends that Tanzania and the whole of East African region should attempt to discourage when marking the 18th commemoration of the 1994 genocide which occurred in Rwanda.
Professor Chris Maina warned participants to the Rwandan genocide commemoration seminar held at the University of Dar es Salaam yesterday.
“Sadly, it appears we have not learnt from this tragedy. Today, in our politics, we have just witnessed this during the by-election in Arumeru where some politicians played divide-and-rule and religion cards during their campaigns,” noted Prof Maina.
He warned that the biggest conflicts still raging today could be attributed to two major causes: religion and resources. He said although religious organizations were ideally divine, there was evidence where they had been manipulated, resulting in human tragedies.
The don affirmed the relevance of the commemoration of the Rwandan genocide 18 years ago, saying human minds always tended to remember positive things and tried to ignore negative ones.
Under the commemoration theme: ‘Let us learn from our history to shape a bright future’, Prof Maina reminded that however ugly the past might look, it was true that a better future could be built through making right decisions.
He hailed Rwanda for its remarkable recovery from the tragedy, saying, “Unless you visited the genocide cite, one would hardly notice that 18 years ago the human race was brutally abused in the mountainous country”.
Rwandan Charge d’Affaires Lambert Sano highlighted some of the achievements which Rwanda had made since the genocide, including reconciliation, improving security, resettling of refugees and rebuilding the nation at large.
“The most important action that the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) leadership took in the rebuilding of Rwanda is that it resisted the natural temptation of ‘the winner takes all’, Sano pointed out.
He explained that although the RPF had just won the war and stopped the genocide, it intentionally established a broad-based government of national unity which included people from all walks of life, including all political parties – with the exception of those who spearheaded the genocide.
With regard to international relations, Sano said the new government formulated a foreign policy which emphasised building relations with other countries based on mutual respect and benefit.
“Rwanda became known in the international community by its frankness and as a country which does what it says and is a predictable partner,” he said.
Last week at the genocide commemoration, President Paul Kagame castigated some Western nations for harbouring a number of genocide suspects, saying this was acting as an obstacle for Rwandan efforts in implementing justice.
“When some of your people lose lives through attacks in your states, we hear calls, sometimes even commands, for all the members of the world to stand and fight by taking in custody all who got involved in the acts, but when things of a similar nature, or even worse occur on our continent, you sometimes even offer refugee to the fugitive of such undertakings. Does this mean that the lives of Rwandans and, for that matter, Africans, are less valuable than the lives of your people?” Kagame wondered.