Video Maker and Photographer Marco Barbieri is the Edge of Humanity Magazine contributor of this documentary photography. From the project ‘A Song From Rwanda’. To see Marco’s body of work, click on any image.
Rwanda, due to its territorial conformation, is called the “country of a thousand hills”.
It is one of the smallest countries on Africa, with just over 25,000 square kilometers, but has one of the highest population densities on the continent.
25 years have passed since April 6th 1994, the day of the attack on the plane carrying the president of Rwanda, Juvenal Habyarimana, and the president of Burundi, Cyprien Ntaryamira.
From that moment and for 100 days the terrible Genocide of the Tutsi was consumed,
supported by the paramilitary groups of Hutu, Interahamwe (Kinyarwanda means those who work together) and Impuzamugambi (those who have the same goal), equipped with firearms, machetes and studded sticks.
The violence spread rapidly throughout the nation, coordinated by Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines, which called for crushing cockroaches and suggesting the places where they had been hiding.
The militias killed about 800,000 people between moderate Tutsis and Hutus.
In July, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (FPR) supported by the Tutsi of Ugandan diaspora and led by Paul Kagame, the current president of the country, took control of the nation.
The Rwandan crisis cost millions of lives, about 70% of the Tutsi ethnic group and 20% of the total population and caused two million refugees outside Rwanda and about 1.5 million people displaced in the same country.
A first serious post-genocide emergency was the situation of the thousands of accused still awaiting trial, the Rwandan government has restored the traditional Gacaca trial system, based on community juries.
During the trials the courts were indulgent in case the accused asked his community for forgiveness, also giving the possibility to the victims to learn the truth about the death of their family members.
This situation fully represents the uniqueness of the Rwandan case, a new coexistence between victim and perpetrator based on forgiveness and national identity and no longer ethnic and on reconciliation.
The leadership of President Paul Kagame, in charge since 2000, has fostered this process, promulgating a new constitution based on equal rights and the rejection of the ideology on which the Hutu Power movement was founded.
On the other hand, however, the Kagame government has suffered much criticism for the lack of freedom of speech left to opponents and the rigidity of the democratic system (in 2017 he won the elections with 98% of preferences changing the constitution to be re-elected for the third consecutive time).
Rwanda remains a fragile country, despite the economy growing, since the early 2000s, on average 8% a year, (despite a small decline in the years 2016/17).
Most of the population, especially in rural areas, still lives below the poverty line.
The challenge of the Government of Kigali, promoter of the Vision2020 project is to transform the production system, founded on agriculture, into an economy based on technical knowledge and built to provide services, to become a middle-income country by 2020.
A further pressing emergency is refugees situation. Returning from the diaspora of the last century or fleeing the conflicts of the confined countries, the refugees are received in camps or villages built by the Government in uncultivated or unproductive lands. In the Nyagatare district, where many shelters were built, in 2002 the population was 8,500 inhabitants, while in 2012 the number rose to 52,000.
Today the perception we have of Rwanda is that of a stable and secure country. The Government has also implemented an important cut to the bureaucracy and improvement of the administration, proving to be very hard towards the phenomenon of corruption. This helps business and investment from abroad.
Rwanda is defined as the Switzerland of Africa, especially after hosting the World Economic Forum in Africa in 2016, exactly as in Davos.
All images and text © Marco Barbieri
By Marco Barbieri
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