Rwanda’s First Lady Acknowledges Role of Church in Reconciliation Efforts over the Years

First Lady Jeannette Kagame with Archbishop Antoine Kambanda of Kigali and other officials at the end of a Conference on Peace and Justice organised by the Catholic Church in Rwanda
Credit: Public Domain

25 years after the 1994 Rwanda genocide that pitted majority Hutus against minority Tutsis leading to the death of an estimated 800,000 people, the Catholic Church in the Central African nation has been hailed for its contribution to reconciliation efforts in the county.

“We cannot ignore the fact that the Church had heroes who lost their lives because they stuck to the values of being Rwandan, a pact of humanity, and knowing to choose what’s right,” Rwanda’s First Lady Jeannette Kagame is quoted as saying on November 29 during the Conference on Peace and Justice organized by the Catholic Church in Rwanda.

The conference was part of the month dedicated to unity and reconciliation, which offers the Church an opportunity to evaluate its role in the ongoing reconciliation efforts.

The First Lady noted that restoring normalcy after the crime against humanity required the collaboration of various stakeholders including the Catholic Church.

“When the people of Rwanda received peace after the genocide, building the social fabric of the people of Rwanda required strength, discernment, collaboration and thinking big,” Ms. Kagame said and added, “This could not have been achieved by one individual.”

Acknowledging the trauma arising from the genocide, the First Lady called on the Church to assist the affected through its various platforms saying, “Let us use the spaces and the capability we have within ourselves, so that Christians can be part of it. In that sense, we shall have offered our contribution in building today’s family and that of tomorrow.”

On his part, the Archbishop Antoine Kambanda of Kigali expressed the commitment of the Church in Rwanda in ensuring that the reconciliation efforts are successful.

“25 years is a short period compared to the weight of what Rwandans experienced, but we shall continue to dedicate ourselves towards achieving the remaining journey and to be a light to others,” Archbishop Kambanda is quoted as saying during the conference.

Taking stock of the reconciliation efforts 25 years later, the Prelate said, “Where we have reached can be compared to a people climbing a long mountain, but close to getting to the peak of it. When we look back, it still daunts us that we cannot get the best way to explain how bad the genocide was.”

The Catholic Church in Rwanda has been instrumental in reconciliation efforts, where it trained 10,350 voluntary observers in all the country’s parishes from 2001 to 2012, who were instrumental in monitoring the Gacaca jurisdictions.

ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.

Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa
[email protected]