Speaking of… Some thoughts from the first days of the Global Human Rights Youth Summit

“The best thing Gacaca did was to bring the victims and the perpetrators together to talk of the genocide, to learn the truth.”
• Jean Baptiste Habyarimana, Executive Secretary of the National Commission for Unity and Reconciliation, discusses the community justice court system established after the 1994 genocide.

“ When one has been sick for a long time and then he recovers, he says he has to survive or else.”
• Laurent Nkongoli of the Rwandan Human Rights Commission notes the fast growth of his country after years of underdevelopment and genocide.

“Africa has become what it’s been thanks in part by the influence of us in the rich world…Africa has spent the last 500 years going from slavery to slavery.”
• Gerry Caplan, author of the Betrayal of Africa, discusses the reasons behind Africa’s slow growth.

“ A leader is one who must foster change. To change the area where we are and to go beyond.”
• Honorable Tito Rutaremara, Ombudsman, Rwanda, talks about leadership and sustainability in the developing world.

“In terms of human rights and the environment, water is going to be the next big challenge. The right to water is a human right.”
• Environmental expert Philip Osana discusses environmental sustainability in the East Africa region.

Rwanda 2010 Youth Forum – Opening Ceremony

Allison Hoffman shares her initial reactions from the Rwanda 2010 Youth Forum opening ceremony at Kigali Serena Hotel.

Local media hits: Who’s been reporting on us in the region

The New Times (Kigali daily paper): Tutu to address Kigali Rights Forum

The Citizen (Tanzanian Daily): Rwanda chosen to host global forum on human rights 

The New Times: Human rights values deeply rooted in our culture – Makuza

The New Times: Activist call for political will in conflict resolution

Izuba (Daily Kigali Kinywarwanda paper)

Final rundown of participants attending Rwanda Global Human Rights Youth Summit

Drumroll please. 

And the countries represented at the 2010 Global Human Rights Youth Summit in Kigali, Rwanda are:

United States of America: 27 participants

Rwanda: 25

South Africa: 5

Canada: 4

Uganda: 3

Kenya: 3

Ghana: 3

Australia: 2

India: 2

Tanzania: 2

Ireland: 1      Democratic Republic of the Congo: 1       Peru: 1        Burma: 1        Sweden: 1        Korea: 1

Egypt: 1         Nigeria: 1           Brazil: 1         Tajikistan: 1        Austria: 1         Mexico: 1

The opening day: Global Human Rights Youth Summit

UNESCO Chair Professor Amii Omara-Otunnu, Rwandan Prime Minister Bernard Makuza and National Commission for Human Rights Chairperson Kayitesi S. Zainabo stand for the Rwandan national anthem.

The group poses with the Prime Minister at the opening ceremony.

Sharing of experiences in the conference hall — Sylvia from Brazil introduces herself.

Participants listen to speakers at the opening workshop.

Participants mingle during a break.

Thoughts on Rwanda, human rights and genocide: By Patty Kean (USA) Facilitator

What of Kigali?

So far, it is a city of juxtapositions. The genocide, the killings before those three months of dedicated killing and the killings afterwards (both sides killed) and the harshness of this reality within the poised gentleness and hospitality of the people I have met thus far. It is a challenging juxtaposition as it suggests to me again that we might all be capable of knowing such horror. It suggests to me that it is necessary for all of us to intentionally think about this human capacity for violence so that we can intentionally decide against it. It is important, I think, to own all of our humanity – all of our capacities – so we can choose which capacities to live into, and, so that we can create systems to safeguard us from ourselves: Educational systems, healthcare systems, systems of international accountability and response.

I am also thinking about the shaming that seems to have been introduced into Rwanda through the colonizers who first created the privileged ethnicity of the Tutsi – creating artificial distinctions between them and the Hutus. We know that our human nature is programmed to define its own group in positive light, and when any group’s identity is shamed, it reverberates within the self-identity of each member of the group. I am wondering how this internalized shame contributed to the genocide, expressing itself in rage?

How to go forward? Rwanda now declares there is no Hutu, no Tutsi, just Rwandans, thus undoing the colonizers’ categories. It seems right to use descriptive words of perpetrator and victim and survivor when speaking of the genocide in Rwanda, with its many layers and long history. It is not fair to the people already so deeply wounded to reduce the genocide merely to the artificial distinctions introduced by the colonizer or perhaps even to the three months in 1994.

We watched a group of people at the genocide memorial, men, women and children, dressed as for a formal occasion; carry beautiful flowers down to the mass grave. It was a solemn haunting procession as they traveled almost as one person might down the stairs to the gardens.

First pictures from Rwanda UNESCO Chair Regional Forum

Angelina with some of the local kids.

JJ, Allison and Danny at the conference facility outside Kigali.

Tim, Angelina and Claude sharing a laugh at a Kigali eatery.

The roads of downtown Kigali.

A woman walks by mass graves at the Kigali genocide memorial.