On the 23 January 2020, the University of Global Health Equity (UGHE) hosted Bishop John Rucyahana for a public lecture commemorating the 71st anniversary of the UN Convention on the prevention and punishment of genocide.
Facilitated as part of a series by the National Commission for the Fight Against Genocide (CNLG), the talk provided UGHE staff, faculty and students the context surrounding the UN Convention and how this applies both to the Rwandan context and to the future leaders of Africa and beyond.
Bishop Rucyahana, Chairman of the National Unity and Reconciliation Commission, experienced firsthand the devastating effects of the 1994 Genocide Against the Tutsi when he returned home from exile to a devastated country.
When he assumed responsibility for the Shyira Diocese of Northwest Rwanda in 1997, the events of 1994 and years of proceeding violence sparked by the Genocide Against the Tutsi had destroyed the social fabric. This drove him to widely promote the message of healing, hope, repentance, and forgiveness to a post-genocide Rwanda.
The importance of unity and reconciliation was a common thread throughout the session, with the Bishop explaining that consolidation strategies are vital to our future security.
To start the discussion, he retraced the colonial history. He explained how the UN failed Rwanda in 1994, and why this instruction remains important and needs the support of people globally, including Rwanda.
He affirmed our responsibilities to support the UN as the People of Rwanda in first accepting that the 1994 Genocide Against the Tutsi happened, then opening up clear channels of communication to talk about it, and lastly fighting against the genocide ideology by living in harmony. “We need to use our unity as a source of energy to develop,” he explained.
These responsibilities were echoed by UGHE’s Vice Chancellor Dr. Agnes Binagwaho, who spoke about the unifying after effect of the Genocide and the importance of our contributions in supporting the most vulnerable.
She said: “The strong willingness of Rwanda to recover after the Genocide Against the Tutsi pushed people to help and support each other. This continues and should continue to happen across the world today. All over the word we hear the words ‘Never Again’, and yet genocides still occur. So our responsibility as a University in educating students coming from all over the world to transmit to them the knowledge on why and how genocides occur and why and how to contribute to prevent it and give our student the willingness to do so”.
By reimagining health education, UGHE’s mission is to provide quality care to every individual in every corner of the globe, and in doing so, it supports the growth and regeneration of our entire nation with a global vision of peace and human development.
The message of unity resonated with UGHE’s students, staff and faculty from around the world, as they identified the need for pan-African and global collaboration to eradicate harmful genocide ideologies and racism globally. This move will be spearheaded by people like themselves comprising young future leaders both from Africa and other continents.
Salome Sijenyi from Kenya, a Master of Science in Global Health Delivery (MGHD) student at UGHE, spoke about how presenting ourselves as ‘One Africa’ would be a strong global statement, whilst not discrediting the unique identities of each country.
Dr. Agazi Gebreselassie, an MGHD student from Ethiopia spoke about the importance of good communication to ensure these important messages are not misinterpreted.
The importance of good communication can be translated through advocacy, helping others understand what is needed to overcome emotional hardship and heal.
Both Daniel Bangura (an MGHD student from Sierra Leone) and Dr. Chinonso Emmanuel Okorie (an MGHD student from Nigeria) advocated for the simple act of loving your neighbor, and encouraging others to do the same; ‘Teach the next person to love the next person’ Chinoso urged the audience, ‘Teach your child to love and be the bedrock of your family’.
The discussion was both vibrant and passionate, students, faculty and staff evoking that whilst love is the starting point to progression, we also need to be actively developing and supporting the vulnerable for all of us to live in harmony.
The Bishop’s audience of aspiring global health leaders were encouraged to see Rwanda’s past, present, and future as intrinsically tied to tomorrow’s bold, transformational leadership.
“Our rights and our destiny cannot be donated to us; we have to fight for it…The future of this nation is in your hands,” Bishop Rucyahana explained.
Bishop Rucyahana closed the session with a call to action, inspiring UGHE staff, students, and faculty to “leave a legacy behind us that will define who we are,” and in doing so, pave the way for restorative justice and societal transformation.
UGHE’s Dean Abebe Bekele concluded the session by reminding the audience to ‘use this as an example globally to ensure this does not happen again’. UGHE looks forward to continued collaborations with CNLG as it expands its academic offerings and development opportunities for students, faculty, and staff.
Text filed by Laura Wotton, on behalf of students, faculty and staff of UGHE