Marc Gwamaka delivered Coventry Lord Mayor’s Peace Lecture on 10 November 2023. The following summary was written by Marc Gwamaka, Nes Ozar, David Fish and Philip Brown. Coventry Lord Mayor’s Committee for Peace and Reconciliation organised the lecture and Coventry University paid for Marc’s visit to Coventry.
Thank you to the Lord Mayor of Coventry for inviting me to give this year’s Peace Lecture and thank you to everybody for coming, and thank you for coming in large numbers. My lecture will be in three parts.
The first part will be something about the connectiveness of the world and how this affects different places. The second part is about the genocide that was committed against the Tutsi. The last part is what are we doing after the genocide against the Tutsi happened.
Rwanda is one of the oldest countries of the Earth. Sovereignty began in 1100 and has a long history of education and poetry. In Europe issues that provoked the Rwanda genocide began with the philosophy of white supremacy and imperialism – the “Arian supreme master race over African races”. The European press still proposes that Europe is the best of places and Africa “is a hell”, the “worst of places”. Rwanda reflects on “European double standards” … how have you Europeans helped?
In 1872 Swedes passed “the purest of the north” teaching to Germany. In 1897 Germany colonized Rwanda followed by Belgium, in 1916. Both promoted Tutsi supremacy. In 1935, Belgium introduced an identity card system, which labelled each individual as either Tutsi, Hutu, Twa or Naturalised. These identity cards prevented any further movement between the classes.
The genocide of 1994 was the fastest ever in the world. In 100 days, 1,000,000 were murdered – 10,000 a day – Tutsi and politically moderate Hutu were killed. Many Twa were also killed. The major powers were verbally fighting between themselves, they could not agree, these powers stood by whist the killing continued. Did anybody of the rest of the world care about Rwanda? The civil war ended in July 1994 and the killing stopped. The new government of Rwanda instigated reconciliation and justice. Deaths – Rwanda stopped the deaths. Identity became Rwandan, meritocracy with no identity cards or quotas. Marc believes the key principle is that Rwandans did this themselves – making reconciliation their own, the empowerment of making reconciliation their own. Genocide erodes trust and takes a long period of time to reverse. The Rwandan reconciliation process took place and still taking place.
Rwanda is still a very rural population with isolated communities who need practical support e.g., new local markets. Rwanda’s approach to reconciliation addressed Rwanda’s community needs and Marc’s hundreds of programmes to engage with thousands of young people and help them build their capacity for leadership. Marc believes, this, is in contrast to a western “top down” ”from outside” approach. The approach of the west was like “someone from afar comes after the rain”. If you wait for others to do it for you, you wait for ever. Rwanda refuses revenge. Rwanda’s communications are about what Rwanda is doing – all collected. The stability due to the reconciliation process has created a Rwanda Marc is proud of. How do we live now? With different conditions, we are still looking for leaders with ideas. Rwanda is a country of 13.5 million in 2023 and in twenty-nine years has raised one and a half million people out of poverty, raised life expectancy from 39 years to 62 years men and 72 years women. 98% access to medical care. 100% to school. Women in power – politics, education, any work – everyone in volved. Rwandans sustain and give – Rwanda was the first country to send medication to Gaza. Rwanda opens its arms to refugees.
Genocide affects more than those involved in the conflict. People’s lives were changed forever – victims of something that none of them had created. Marc’s principal is that young people can take a stand and ensure that history doesn’t repeat itself (rather than to be prisoners of the history of genocide). Marc teaches history without prejudice so not to hurt anyone, particularly story telling – emphasis on human-to-human responsibilities – always discussing current affairs.
In 2007 Marc still a teenager and friends founded “Peace and Love Proclaimers” with principals of hope unity and social responsibility -In 2008 the first forgiveness campaign in schools for the new generation. A bridge for the future. In 1994 Rwanda lost empathy. The programmes principals’ are “never again”. In 2009 Marc founded “a walk to remember” with the principal that “never again” was insufficient … that “a walk” involving a significant gathering would transform words into meaningful action. Marc believes that “a walk to remember” raises the questions – Can I do something? Why are you walking? Can you experience what you have not experienced. The serious answer is “To remember death”. In 2013 Marc began Aegis Youth Champion Leadership Programme. Marc has trained over 3000 young people to continue 460 projects – young people to have greater resilience – involving every year from grade 1 to grade 12. Critical thinking to take own responsibility. Responsibilities starts for others. Teach history without prejudice not to hurt anyone in the story telling. Not harming those who listen. Families or individuals communicate from human to human. People are encouraged to write of genocide . Learning – teaching forgiveness steps to forgiveness. Marc has led programs in places of extreme conflict e.g. South Sudan, and has trained in South Africa Zambia Gambia Uganda United States Kenya from his base in Rwanda. Rwanda remains his focus.
Marc spoke for twenty minutes and answered questions for an hour, leaving attendees saying how privileged they were to have heard Marc’s lecture and his thought-changing words.
The Aegis Trust, 2000, is a British NGO which campaigns to prevent genocide worldwide. Based at the United Kingdom‘s Holocaust Centre, which opened in 1995, the Aegis Trust coordinates the UK Genocide Prevention All-Party Parliamentary Group, funds the Genocide Prevention Group (Canada) and is responsible for the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre in Rwanda.
For a short video of Marc and some slides from his visit to Coventry see Marc Gwamaka Coventry Peace Lecturer 2023