April 9, 2015
Madame Jeanne d’Arc Byaje, Deputy Permanent Representative of the Republic of Rwanda to the United Nations spoke at Delaware State University on the topic, “Twenty-one Years of Progress in Rwanda following the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsis”. Nearly 250 students gathered at the lecture given by Madame Byaje as part of the ongoing partnership between the Humpty Dumpty Institute and the Thurgood Marshall College Fund to bring more international programming to HBCUs. Her lecture looked at several characteristics of Rwanda prior to the colonial rule, as well as the economic, social, and developmental progress and recovery Rwanda has experienced following the 1994 Genocide. She also addressed Rwanda’s current education and health developments. Madame Byaje remarked that the burden of recovery that Rwanda has successfully triumphed over now serves as a model of development for all other post-conflict African nations.
Madame Byaje stated that prior to the colonial rule, there existed 18 different clans in Rwanda. Even with this diverse ethnic population, no ethnic war had ever occurred before the colonial period. When the European nations descended on the African coast, agricultural wealth was often used as a factor that determined the ethnic groups. As an example, Madame Byaje stated that the Belgians classified all persons who owed more than 10 cattle as Tutsi. The classification of these clans and the systematic ethnic cleansing of the Tutsis plunged Rwanda into darkness.
Madame Byaje then outlined the many roads to recovery Rwanda has experienced. By 2005 under the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals, more than half of population of Rwanda was lifted from poverty. By year 2020 Rwanda is slated to become a Middle Income Country (MIC). According to the World Bank, a Middle Income Country is a nation with a per- capita gross national income between $1,036 and $12,615. Rwanda has also achieved universal healthcare. Education has been the focus of development with a 98% enrollment rate in the elementary schools. Additionally the shift to green energy has given Rwanda the right to be called a plastic-free country. Madame Byaje pointed out that upon the entry into the country, customs agents search for and seize any plastic items. There has also been a change on the social landscape of Rwanda. Because the vast majority of persons killed during the genocide were men, the increase in the number of women has created greater gender equality. Currently, 64% of the seats in Parliament are held by women.
Madame Byaje concluded her visit to Delaware State University by visiting a global society class where she took part in a round table discussion. She emphasized that the success in development and recovery is attributed to everyday Rwandans who took charge within their own communities, and sought progress for themselves and their country.
Madame Jeanne d’Arc Byaje has worked as a French Instructor and freelance translator for several organizations including the United Nations, as well as a curriculum builder and a French Teacher for the Toronto Catholic District School Board. She also volunteered her time to numerous activities involving community capacity building, leadership development, Youth development programs, advocacy for women empowerment, environment & equity issues, etc. She conveys her teaching message through educational skits, poetry and drama. Besides, she served as a Board Member for several organizations including The Canadian Centre for the Victims of Torture (CCVT). She was granted the Ambassador for Peace Award by the Universal Peace Federation and the Women’s Federation for World Peace for her invaluable work on women empowerment.