Peace, justice and a strong institution are the 16th among the 17 2030 sustainable development goals. It states, “Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.” Peace, justice and a strong institution goal encapsulate many different things like human rights, good leaders, social cohesion, patriotism, democracy etc. The key role for achieving peace, justice and a strong institution is the rule of law and human rights, as well as, active participation of citizens in promoting peace and healing from the past to move forward with the best future.
Active citizenship is about voluntarily getting involved in one’s local community and displaying values such as respect, inclusion and helping others by considering human rights and democracy. Sustainable development can be defined as development that meets the needs of the present without compromising future generations’ ability to meet their own needs. To achieve sustainable development, we need to make sure that there is an inclusion of future generations. This is accomplished by ensuring intergenerational equity, which refers to a sustainable way of life that ensures that future generations can fulfill their needs. Intergenerational equity is achieved through intergenerational learning. This is promoted by being active and accepting to learn from each other. It may also be viewed as a kind of restorative justice for past generations. These events aren’t only experienced in the past and left there, but they are also embedded in today’s societies’ social, political, ecological, and economic structures. For example, the effects of 1994 Genocide of Tutsi in Rwanda is still there till now, although the citizens are trying to rebuild the country and heal the deep scars. Intergenerational learning – learning from and with other generations, which is important in deepening mutual understanding, building trust, and it’s promotion could be one key towards justice and equality. Intergenerational learning connected with active citizenship promotes sustainable development.
In just 100 days in 1994, starting from April 7th, over a million people were slaughtered in Rwanda by ethnic Hutu extremists. They were targeting members of the minority Tutsi community and their political opponents, irrespective of their ethnic origin. By early July, RPF (Rwanda Patriotic Front) forces; a group of youth, had gained control over most of the country, including Kigali resulting in the end of the Genocide. His excellency Paul Kagame described it as: … the worst thing I have ever seen or experienced. More important and more challenging was knowing that we still have to deal with this. We had defeated the murderers, we had taken over, but now we had an equal or bigger challenge. Where do we start? How do we bring back some sense of life? What do we do about the effects created by so many dead? Something really fills up in your mind, like filling a glass until it starts overflowing (Kinzer, 2008, p. 181). After the Genocide, Rwanda has been trying to restore peace and justice for people who suffered because of it and create strong institutions. This has been done in different ways, including the creation of the National Unity Reconciliation Commission, Gacaca Court, other groups/organisations. Promoting Peace Consciousness “Among the lessons we have learned is that in order to prevent future episodes of violence, it is important to intervene with forgiveness and reconciliation processes when the opportunity arises, and often this means during the aftermath of a violent conflict (Kalyajian & Paloutzian, 2010, p. 3).”
The National Unity Reconciliation Commission was created to reunify the citizens of Rwanda. This was done in different ways, one of which they expanded one organization called Itorero ry’igihugu which existed before and created new groups under that organisation (Urugerero and ingando) and it is still there. In Itorero ry’igihugu, citizens join voluntarily even if the government tries their best to make sure that the majority joins. It’s goal is to solve problems related to mindset and bad behavior, through the application of Rwandan cultural values. It is done to strengthen the foundation for sustainable peace and development. Itorero ry’igihugu is for public teachers and other public officials. While Urugerero is for secondary school students before they enter universities. And Ingando, is an activity done at the village level, where people called INTORE are trained, they enjoy the responsibility of being counselors at a community level and in their families, as a path to positive change. In the creation of all this, its main purpose was to help citizens become familiar and reconnect with national identity by cultivating patriotism through the recognition of traditional cultural values and practices and Rwanda’s positive achievements. Nowadays, they have brought these teachings in different secondary schools, where students take a day and learn traditional values and practices. It involves intergenerational learning, due to traditional values or practices being learnt from generation to generation. In addition, it involves active citizenship in a way that citizens become active in the society through being counselors of their community as well as of their families.
Gacaca court was also created to provide justice for the victims, to hold responsible the individuals who participated, and create a reconciliation environment. It is an informal justice system which is based only on voluntary participation of the community. It helps in speeding up of the prosecution of Genocide suspects, in easing the reintegration into the community and in encouraging communities to confront their own involvement in the Genocide.
In addition, the citizens took a part in building peace where they created different organizations like Never Again Rwanda (NAR). NAR is a peace building and social justice Non-Governmental organization, which was founded in 2002 in response to Genocide. They do not push anyone to join, it is done voluntarily. This is done through enabling diverse groups of community members and youth in particular to openly discuss their sensitive past and current or emerging issues. Their differences are settled through dialogue and cooperation in implementing activities. NAR works with various peace actors to empower citizens towards positive change. Therefore, in creating those groups and organizations, we can see how active citizenship connected with intergenerational learning was used to build peace, justice and strong institutions.
The creation of all these groups have made a significant change. It is evident that citizens have freedom and happiness, new business opportunities, political stability, and now Rwanda is better positioned. For example, NAR has contributed so much wherein it’s 18 years of experience have thousands of separators on number 4500, 100000. Today, PLP which is another peace building consists of over 2000 members spread throughout Rwanda, Burundi, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, India, USA, Canada, Malaysia and China. Also, Gacaca’s success is seen in a way that between June 2002 and June 2012, the Gacaca trials have tried more than 1.9 million cases, with only 25% of cases resulting in acquittal of suspected perpetrators (Musoni, 2012, June 18). This has impacted Rwanda wherein 2019, the 25th year of commemoration since the Rwandan Genocide, Rwanda recording the fifth-largest improvement in peace where it is the 79th most Peaceful on Global Peace index. The promotion of peace, justice and strong institutions led to the improvements of other sectors like Gender Equality, human rights, etc. Rwanda is one of the global leaders in gender equality progress wherein 2017, it was ranked the 4th by the World Economic Forum (WEF). Therefore, I strongly believe that Rwanda is in a good position in terms of Peace, justice and strong institutions.
In conclusion, peace, justice and strong institutions are the key factors to deal with different shocks that engulfs the world in everyday life. It is up to the citizens to commit first because the impact is so significant when there is active citizenship and learning from generation to generation to keep the positivity (the so -called intergenerational learning). The journey of going back to normal and healing the scars is still going on but there is a significant improvement.