Rwandans need to talk about their experiences, not just an imagined history, but what actually happened to them. That means they have to tell the truth.Rwandan professional, May, 2002
Shortly after the Tutsi-led Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) took power in July, 1994, the Rwandan Ministry of Education (MINEDUC) placed a moratorium on teaching Rwandan history in the country's schools until consensus could be reached on how history should be taught. Almost a decade later, this emergency measure remains in effect. There is much disagreement among government officials, intellectuals, and Rwandan citizens about the significance of the events leading up to and occurring during the war and genocide. So there is little agreement about what historical account to teach. In making their case, government officials pointed to the fact that hundreds of highly educated Rwandans, including doctors, lawyers, teachers, and clergy had directly or indirectly participated in the genocide. According to the government, these professionals had been educated in post-independence schools that had taught a virulent form of ethnic hatred toward Tutsi. “The propagandists,” as Alison Des Forges wrote in her book on the genocide, “built upon the lessons Rwandans had learned in school.”
The difficulty and importance of making decisions about teaching history cannot be overemphasized. Further, the ways in which memory, history, myths, and symbols are used can lead people to develop identities that either promote intergroup conflict or help to draw diverse groups together.