Louise Mushikiwabo, minister of foreign affairs and cooperation for the Republic of Rwanda and a 1988 University of Delaware alumna, discusses her country's future.

Rwanda overcomes tragedy

Rwandan minister, a UD alumna, discusses nation's move forward


8:35 a.m., Oct. 14, 2014--For Louise Mushikiwabo, minister of foreign affairs and cooperation for the Republic of Rwanda and a 1988 University of Delaware alumna, an Oct. 1 return to campus was “a homecoming for me.”

Mushikiwabo, who was accompanied on her campus visit by Mathilde Mukantabana, Rwandan ambassador to the U.S., spoke on social cohesion, resilience, reconciliation and the movement forward in Rwanda.

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Twenty years since Rwandan genocide, the country has taken great strides politically and socially to rebuild, Mushikiwabo said, adding that learning to live together as human beings has been the best approach to conflict.

“I am very proud of my country. The people of Rwanda have made serious sacrifices so we can get back together as a people and a country,” said Mushikiwabo. 

Rwanda, which is slightly smaller that the state of Maryland, is a land-locked country in East Africa whose main exports include coffee and tea. It has begun investing in infrastructure and energy. 

“We are working to provide economic opportunity mixed with our own home-grown solutions based out of our own communities,” said Mushikiwabo.

Rwanda has a collaborative tourist zone with Kenya and Uganda, and plans to be a middle-income country in the year 2020 through its Vision 2020 plan.

Sixty-four percent of Rwandan parliamentarians are women, the highest proportion of any parliament in the world, and the country is a part of the United Nations Security Council. 

“We want to contribute to a peaceful world in a meaningful way,” said Mushikiwabo. “Social cohesion is key.”

Mushikiwabo says that a combination of parliamentary and modern law have contributed to a reconciled nation. In the month of December, an annual meeting is an opportunity for the government and the people to talk to each other, figure out where they stand as a nation, and allow people, not just politicians, to become a part of the discussion. 

“One way to keep people with a sense of belonging is to give an opportunity to everyone in the same way,” said Mushikiwabo. 

Creating a culture of efficiency and openness, government reforms, social cohesion and an appreciation of cultural values have helped transform and rebuild Rwanda since the 1990s.

A sense of community has been restored throughout the country, which has created opportunities and contributed to the successful transformation of Rwanda.

Mushikiwabo, UD alumna

Mushikiwabo came to the United States in 1986. Two years later, she received a master of arts degree in languages and interpretation, with a focus in French, from UD.

Theodore Braun, professor emeritus of French and comparative literature, said Mushikiwabo was an excellent student. 

“It was a rich experience knowing her, and having her in class was wonderful,” said Braun.

Braun was aware of how Mushikiwabo was personally affected by the genocide, which is mentioned in the socio-historical memoir, Rwanda Means the Universe, she co-authored in 2006.

“I was absolutely amazed by her talk -- she never once spoke of the horrible things that happened in her own family. She was personally affected but you wouldn’t know it,” said Braun, who attended the Oct. 1 presentation. “It is one thing to talk about getting along with people and other thing to live it. She is an inspiration.”

Braun spoke fondly of Mushikiwabo as a student and with utmost respect as a senior official in her country. 

“She has the remarkable ability to see a final goal and know where to put the building blocks. Imagination and intelligence -- that is rare,” said Braun.

Article by Elizabeth Adams

Photos by Kathy F. Atkinson

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