Cultural Diplomacy in Rwanda

The Ministry of Youth, Culture and Sports in Rwanda is mandated to promote the country’s cultural values, institutions and expressions, heritage and arts. Their mission is officially ‘to develop and support implementation of policies and strategies that promote Youth, Sports and Cultural development initiatives that lead to the economic and social transformation as well as to a productive and patriotic generation‛. This is extremely important as many of Rwanda’s historic social organisations were eliminated either by colonial rule, the collapse of the monarchy or as an effect of the civil war of 1994.

The government firmly believes that culture promotes a sense of togetherness and inventiveness that will result in the creation of an enabling environment for sustainable development.

The Ministry therefore works to ensure this by building and strengthening institutions that promote Rwandan culture, such as the Institute of National Museums of Rwanda (IMNR), the National Commission of Fight against Genocide (CNLG) and the Rwandan Academy of Language and Culture (ARLC) to name a few.

The Ministry also promotes culture by including culture activities in civic education programmes.
Additionally, cultural festivals are held every year where Rwandan cultural dances, drama and traditions are often showcased. The country’s efforts to develop and implement strategies that promote cooperation between national, regional and international organisations show their commitment towards cultural diplomacy. The Ministry has even set up an evaluation system that helps measure the progress made in this area.

Cultural Diplomacy in the Public Sector
The Rwandan constitution states that the government is committed to protect sound traditional and cultural practices based on Rwandan philosophy and culture in general.

And since so many young Rwandans do not know much about their rich cultural heritage due to the events in 1994, it is imperative to the government to educate this segment of the population so that the country’s rich history and traditions are not forgotten.

ITORERO is an informal education system that aims to mentor and cultivate Rwandans on issues like good governance, national unity, reconciliation, justice, economic development and other social problems that affect the country. It is a way to inform Rwandans about government policies and programmes which strengthens the population’s ownership of these policies and their implementation in society.

The purpose of re-establishing this traditional culture school is to build national unity and sustainable peace. It was originally initiated to help people deal with and heal from the civil war in 1994 through the promotion of culture, fighting genocide ideology and fostering the reconciliation process.

The ITORERO is also a way to pool resources by making people forget their differences and work together towards a common good for the country’s development.

By re-introducing ITORERO, the Rwandan government has facilitated a medium where cultural diplomacy can be practiced. The ITORERO provides the environment where Rwandans are able to come together and be reintroduced to their cultural heritage. Positive values are promoted and streamlined in such a way that young citizens grow a deeper understanding and attachment to their culture.

Cultural Diplomacy in the Private Sector
Rwanda has undergone considerable and impressive reforms, creating a business-friendly environment for the country’s private sector. The hope is that by freeing the economy, the country will attract investments from around the world as well as increase the country’s economic activity. By expanding exports, improving services, and building infrastructure, Rwanda is well on its way towards a high economic growth rate.

Cultural Diplomacy in Civil Society
Civil society first emerged in Rwanda as a reaction to the immense political change in Europe after the fall of the Berlin Wall. The Rwandan civil society of the early 1990’s focused on advocating the return of the Rwandans who had fled to neighboring countries since the 1959 peasant uprising. This social movement was not universally popular across Rwanda, and many of those involved lost their lives.

Fortunately, the post-genocide period in Rwanda came with an influx of civil society organisations. Although most were mainly international NGOs there was a slow emergence of local associations, and most of these focused on women. The government has acknowledged these women’s associations’ efforts, and the Ministry for Gender and Family Promotion has particularly given them strong support.

Rwandan civil society recently organised itself in the Rwandan Civil Society Platform in order to decentralise civil society structures to match administrative decentralized entities. This way of organising civil society will, in the long run, facilitate advocacy, lobbying as well as monitoring government actions.

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