IR students undertake comprehensive field study tour of Rwanda and Uganda

Students posing outside the Rwandan Senate with Amb. Rugema Michel, Rwandese Senator and Chairperson of the Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs,Cooperation and Security on March 7, 2019. PHOTO: COURTESY OF DAN ODABA

By Dan Odaba and Dan Muchai

Forty-eight International Relations majors representing 9 nationalities (Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, the Netherlands, Somalia, Ethiopia and Sweden) successfully concluded the Spring Semester Field Study trip to the Republics of Rwanda and Uganda respectively.

During the trip, which commenced on March 1-10, the students visited the Kenyan Embassy in Rwanda where they were addressed by Amb. John Mwangemi on Kenya`s Mission operations and implementation of Kenya`s foreign policy.

A trip to the Kigali Genocide Memorial - which honors the memory of the more than one million Rwandans killed in 1994 through education and peace-building - was an important site for the students to learn about Peacebuilding initiatives and the history of activities that took place prior to the 1994 genocide.

The students’ trip to the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) was especially crucial to the students specializing in Development Studies, since the RDB`s vision is to transform Rwanda into a dynamic global hub for business, investment, and innovation.

At the Never Again Rwanda (NAR) - a peace building and social justice organization that arose in response to the 1994 genocide perpetrated against Tutsis – the students were exposed to the the organization’s vision of a nation where citizens are agents of positive change and work together towards sustainable peace and development. The NAR aims to empower Rwandans with opportunities to become active citizens through peacebuilding and development, while placing a particular emphasis on the youth as the future of a peaceful society.

Next on the list was the National Unity and Reconciliation Commission (NURC) where the students learnt of how the idea of establishing a commission for national unity and reconciliation was first thought of by the Arusha Peace Accord signed in 1993, to assist the government of national unity - then anticipated - to foster unity and reconciliation among the people of Rwanda who had experienced long periods of bad governance characterized by divisions, discriminations, human rights abuse and acts of violence. After the tragic genocide of 1994, the establishment of the National Unity and Reconciliation Commission was made even more necessary, culminating in its inclusion in the national Constitution adopted in 2003. This visit to the NURC thus provided insights to the students on Rwandese reconciliation initiatives and healing process after the 1994 genocide.

Diplomacy and Foreign Affairs students as well as the rest of the students had an opportunity to understand Rwanda`s Foreign Policy implementation strategies at the Rwandan Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MINAFFET) Headquarters.

At the Senate (Upper Chamber) of Rwanda, the students were delighted to learn and discuss the increasing number of women in parliament and experiencing parliament operations. They were addressed by Amb. Rugema Michel, who is a Senator and Chairperson of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Cooperation and Security.

At the African Leadership University, the students explored strategies used by the university to empower students to take ownership of their own learning.

The trip also included a visit to the Kabaka’s Palace at Mengo, near the capital city of Kampala in neighbouring Uganda. The subnational Kingdom of the Ganda people, is the largest of the traditional kingdoms in present-day Uganda.

Built in 1922, the Palace has remained empty since 1966 when Kabaka Mutesa II, then president of Uganda, was ousted and forced into exile. Though the building’s interior is closed to visitors, the students toured the notorious prison beneath the palace, which was especially active during the regime of Ugandan dictator Idi Amin, learning how Uganda went through the period successfully, before returning to Nairobi.

The class is taught by International Relations Lecturer, Dan Odaba, who was accompanied by School of Humanities and Social Sciences Administrator Ms. Fenny W. Muthusi.

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