25Rwanda National Unity and Reconciliation Commission
For forging a path to recovery and redemption amid severe trauma
After Hutu extremists killed approximately 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus in 100 days in 1994, the scars of genocide could have divided Rwanda forever. Determined to save the country from that fate, government leaders launched the National Unity and Reconciliation Commission in 1999.
To change hearts and minds, the group focused on promoting civic education, peace building and conflict management, and communication and information. One program aims to build bridges by requiring that all citizens from 18 to 65 participate in community service once a month—with Tutsis and Hutus working side by side.
Although challenges persist, hostility is slowly giving way to progress. According to the commission’s most recent research, 92.5 percent of Rwandans feel unity and reconciliation have been achieved.
At the same time, the commission has helped Rwanda make particular strides in three areas:
- Education: In 2003, Rwanda introduced free education while also prioritizing access and reconciliation. Now, 98 percent of the country’s children attend primary school, with peace education part of the curriculum. Children and teachers are also encouraged to identify as “Rwandan,” rather than along ethnic lines.
- Women’s Rights: Women endured horrible violence during the genocide. The nation’s efforts to increase gender equality are particularly apparent in politics. The government requires that women hold a minimum of 30 percent of the seats at national and local levels. In a true sign of the progress made, Rwanda now has the highest representation of women in politics in the world, with women holding more than 60 percent of parliamentary seats.
- The Economy: Rwanda now boasts one of the fastest- growing economies in Africa, averaging a 7.2 percent increase per year since 2013, according to the International Monetary Fund. As Rwanda President Paul Kagame said at the 25th commemoration of the genocide in April 2019: “All of us. Wounded and heartbroken, yes. But unvanquished.”