In what has become an annual ritual, leaders of Rwandan Communities across the U.S. met in Washington, D.C. at the Rwanda Embassy last weekend to assess the progress Rwanda has made, and strategize the way forward.

I am not aware of any other Embassy in the nation’s capital that galvanizes its citizens and challenges them to action in similar fashion. But this is not surprising. ¬†Rwanda has made a mark on the world stage by many other firsts.

This leadership retreat is the brainchild of Rwanda’s maverick Ambassador, Mathilde Mukaantabana who has opened Rwanda’s Embassy to Rwandans like never before and challenged Rwandans to take an active and consistent role in fighting negationism, genocide denial and trivialization of the 1994 genocide against Tutsi.

“If you don’t tell your story others will, and they will not tell it well or accurately”, Ambassador Mukantabana warned the Rwandan Leaders.

Representing Rwandan Communities in 16 states, these leaders are charged with organizing and ensuring an active role by Rwandans in the Diaspora in the affairs of Rwanda, at home, and being good ambassadors abroad, fighting those who seek to demonize The Motherland.

As opposition to Rwanda by her enemies and fringe opposition groups wanes, it is becoming increasingly obvious that their message, to begin with, had no substance, and at best, is empty, hollow slogans intended to divide Rwandans and incite ethnic hatred.

We have been there before, and it almost wiped us off the face of the globe. Such meetings and convictions are but the hallmark of the new Rwanda. We refuse to be defined by a bloody history, and we will not keep looking backwards. The way forward is to forgive, but never forget how we descended into the abyss, in the first place.

It is refreshing to observe the fiery participation in these gatherings by Rwaandan women, though not surprising. They represent that which is best in us, and gives you goose bumps to see how they have spearheaded the fight for gender equality at home, and depicted Rwanda’s spirit and soul across the globe glowingly.

If truth be told, Rwandan women have been the glue that held us together and nursed our wounds in our darkest hour. I refuse not to acknowledge their contribution to Rwanda’s healing. Through them we have shown compassion and civility, and the arrogance of forgiveness. This is the tonic to our wounded hearts.

The simple message from this retreat is that Rwandans abroad have a role to play in Rwanda’s development, and they will surely rise to the occassion, as always.



About Willis Shalita

I am a writer who is very impassioned about Rwanda and its remarkable journey from the barbaric carnage of Genocide against Tutsi. I am an avid photographer. I believe the African story should be told through African lenses. Our time has come. If not now, when?
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