10 years after 9-11, Rwanda must keep vigilant

Today, New Yorkers, and the rest of the United States, remember the thousands that died during the horrible terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. Watching the Twin Towers fall right here in Kigali all those years back, I felt the breath get sucked out of me. All I could think was, “what does this mean for all of us, if Americans aren’t safe what chance do the rest of us have”? For weeks after that horror, the question on everyone’s lips was, “what exactly will happen now”? Well, we know what happened. The Taliban was bombed to smithereens, Saddam Hussein will never torture another Iraqi again and Bin Laden is at the bottom of the Arabian Sea. A lot of bad, nay evil, men have felt the winds of change blow upon their cheek and that’s a good thing. The ‘War against Terror’ is a word that entered the American lexicon post 9-1. However, it’s been one that had been on the lips on Rwandans even before that.

When the forces that orchestrated the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi fled into Zaire they did not simply dissipate into the rainforest and throw away their arms. In fact, not only did they not lay down their arms in the tent cities in Tingi-tingi they even recruited more people into their army in the full sight of the world’s media. This army wasn’t going to stay in Zaire cooling their heels; they were planning to launch an offensive into Rwanda. And over a period of years they did just that; making incursions into Rwanda and killing Rwandans. The murder of the young women in the Nyange Secondary School, who refused to separate into Hutu-Tutsi groups, by the marauding gang of killers was probably the darkest period the country faced since April 1994. But there were many other un-named victims of this terror as well.

Over the last two years, Kigali has been rocked by grenade attacks that left people dead, maimed and scared. And as we’ve learnt during this week’s trial that pits Victoire Ingabire, Vital Uwumuremyi, Tharcisse Nditurende, Jean Marie Karuta and Noeli Habiyaremye (who are being all charged under the 2008 anti-terrorism law) against the National Public Prosecuting Authority, the forces that killed the Nyange girls would love to continue their campaign of mayhem.

Reading the Guardian newspaper a few days ago, a blogger wrote that the ‘war against terror’ is over; that it had been won by the good guys. I found that article absolutely ludicrous. This war didn’t begin in 2011 and it certainly isnt over now that we are remembering those that lost their loved ones ten years ago. It’s a continuous fight that each and every nation in the world must partake in. It will not be won simply by deposing one leader or another. It will be won by the sustained pressure of all civilized nations.

The International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), a grouping that  brings together Angola, Burundi, Central African Republic, Republic of Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia, this week had a meeting in Kigali. The meeting, which brought together the Defence ministers of those countries, met to figure out ways to combat the armed groups terrorizing the region; groups such as the Lord’s Resistance Army and the FDLR. These groups are a real problem and I’m pleased they are being recognised as such.

This war against terror isnt about being too afraid to live life. It’s about recognizing the realities of the kind of world we are living in. We mustn’t become slaves to fear; if we did, the terrorists would have won. But sticking our heads in the sand and pretending that there isnt an issue is something we can ill afford.

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