My answer, as an American academic and a great friend of the Rwandan people, is not yet.
Uneducated adult Rwandans can easily fall prey to the kind of rhetoric that swayed Rwandans 16 years ago to murder their friends, neighbors, and countrymen.
At worst, current Rwandan governmental policies can be accused of paternalism. However, the leader of that government, Paul Kagame, is both hopeful about Rwandans’ potential and working hard to ensure that there is peace. Does this peace come at too great a cost?
None of us who haven’t lived through genocide have a right to answer that question.
Instead of casting judgment, we should strive to understand the complexities of Rwanda’s post-genocide culture. That includes acknowledgment that some residual causes of genocide remain in Rwanda, even now. The most worrisome is lack of critical thinking skills.
When I speak with my friends in Rwanda who are university educated and I ask them what could have possibly happened in a person’s mind to have caused him or her to commit genocide, they all refer to some higher power: the bad government persuaded them to kill, or even some version of the “Devil made them do it.”
Scott Straus’s research published in The Order of Genocide: Race, Power, and War in Rwanda explains in detail many of the reasons why the Genocide against the Tutsis spread through every village there in 1994 so quickly and pervasively. Many other studies have examined the hate rhetoric that spewed from radio and newspapers for decades preceding 1994.
It comes to this: in 1994, ordinary Rwandans succumbed to a “mob mentality.” They didn’t think; they reacted. They did what they were told to do. They believed without thinking.
How does a culture recover?
Commemorations, gacacas, and ingando all work toward reconciliation and re-socialization, but the best way to assure a peaceful Rwanda is through education.
Currently, approximately 98% of Rwandan children attend school for six years, and educational reforms are expanding universal secondary education. But this will take time. Right now, there are not enough school buildings or teachers to educate all secondary-age children. Nor is there sufficient money to run the schools and provide educational resources.
Critics of the Rwandan government should refocus their energies on this lack of access to education. Education is the best way to instill critical thinking skills within a population and with these skills, Rwandans can deconstruct any rhetoric that comes their way and make well-considered decisions.
Not enough Rwandans can do that yet. Yet.