Do you need another reminder of what happened 20 years ago in that little hilly nation at the heart of Africa? Every major media outlet already reported this news earlier this year. You read, watched, you remembered. Then you moved on. Just like Rwanda, right? But Rwanda is still remembering. Yes, to grieve the tragedy of those 100 days, but it is more than that.
“Kwibuka” is the Kinyarwanda term for the annual commemoration of the 1994 genocide. For more than four months, the signs hung from nearly every major building on every block of every town in the country. The Flame of Remembrance, the symbol of Kwibuka, traveled to each district across the country. Kwibuka is about remembering the 1994 genocide so that it never happens again. Yet today, it is just as much about celebrating one of the world’s greatest success stories.
We like to use statistics to evaluate progress in economies or examples of social advancement. Rwanda has those: Greater than 8 percent annual GDP growth over recent years. A 65 percent women-run government. The percentage of people living below the poverty line has dropped from nearly 60 percent to less than 45 percent between 2001 and 2013, with the share of people living in extreme poverty falling faster. Measurements of life expectancy, literacy, primary school enrollment and health care spending have all improved dramatically over the past several years.
Impressive as these numbers appear, they still do not begin to capture the immeasurable distance this country has traveled in just two decades. Only the most miraculous of stories can possibly do that.
Over the next several weeks, I will attempt to reveal a series of stories (featured here) intended to offer a more complete perspective and greater appreciation for the incredible triumphs of this Land of a Thousand Hills.
Image credit: Kwibuka.rw