It isn’t what happens to you that counts, it’s how you respond to it. I have heard this many times, and believe it to be true. Crisis can hit any of us any time but hope need not give way to fear. There is always a bright future for those who will carry the right lesson forward.
Seventeen years ago last month the plane carrying Rwanda’s president Juvnal Habyarimana and Burundi’s president Cyprien Ntaryamira was shot down, and during the 100 days that followed, 800,000 people were murdered in what will go down in history as the Rwandan Genocide.
It inspired a critically acclaimed movie ‘Hotel Rwanda,” which was nominated for multiple awards in 1994, including Academy Award nominations for best actor, best supporting actrsss and original screenplay.
When he visited Rwanda in the summer of 2005, former U.S. President Bill Clinton apologized for refusing to step in, as the leader of the free world, to prevent the slaughter.
“I express regret for my personal failure,” he said before touring the museum commemorating victims of the 100-day massacre.
Whether or not you like Bill Clinton or agree with his ideology, you have to respect his willingness to come to grips with his mistake in Rwanda. He has backed it up with action, as well. In a touching article written by Kate Snow on the Good Morning America website, Clinton’s visit to Rwanda in 2008 with his daughter Chelsea is highlighted. After describing their movements through the Rwandan countryside, the article ends with a sense of reflection on what happened in 1994:
‘No, not guilt. I’ve atoned for that,’ Clinton said. ‘I’ve been here in 1998 and told them I was sorry. But I do feel a lifetime responsibility.
Clinton continued, ‘When I left the White House, I told [Rwandan] President [Reuben] Kigame that I felt I should do whatever I could for the rest of my life to help them become whole and make a new beginning.
Today, Rwanda continues a remarkable recovery. Rwanda’s economy suffered heavily during the 1994 Genocide, but has since strengthened. It is now one of the safest and most orderly countries in Africa.
In an interview with NY Magazine, author and expert on the genocide, Philip Gourevitch, describes the incredible and inspiring leadership of president Kagame, who has brought Rwanda back to phenomenal recovery:
He’s become, probably Africa’s pre-eminent evangelist of entrepreneurship and freedom from foreign aid.
You can pull up the fascinating 12 minute audio of the interview HERE.
So many men were killed in the genocide of ’94 in Rwanda, that when the smoke cleared, the population was 70% female. This was a deeply wounded nation, where 200,000 people had HIV and 800,000 children were orphaned.
Kagame, whose personal friends includes people like Bill Clinton and Rick Warren, rolled with the punches, and began to champion women at every level of society.
‘You shut that population out of economic activity at your peril,’ he told an interviewer. ‘The decision to involve women, we did not leave it to chance,’ he added. ‘In the constitution, we said that women have to make up 30 percent of the parliament.’
The result has been a new Rwanda that has amazed outside observers. It has one of the fastest growing economies on Africa and also one of the least corrupt and best-governed countries in Africa.
Rwanda has proven on the macro level what can happen if the right lesson is carried forward and if women are given a platform to make a difference in every level of life. Gendercide can be answered with gender empowerment.
So the question must be asked: can women who are rescued from human trafficking and the slave trade find their place as healers and world changers? Why not?