Fourth Annual Children's Summit addresses the lingering effects of genocide in Rwanda

KIGALI, Rwanda, 13 November 2008 - At the Fourth Annual Children's Summit, attended by the nation's highest leadership, the children of Rwanda re-emphasized to their leaders the importance of eradicating a lingering ideology of genocide in the country.

"We need to stop perpetuating anything other than peace," said Batunghe Jean Claude, a child participant at the summit. "We need to work in partnership with our leaders and sensitize other children about peace."

A landmark event

The Children's Summit, organized by the Government of Rwanda with support from UNICEF, has been a landmark event for children in the country. Held first in 2004, on the 10th anniversary of the 1994 genocide, the children's summits have been able to integrate young people's recommendations into Rwanda's Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy and the work of the Unity and Reconciliation Commission.

"We believe in building a nation where rights are respected. We also believe in children's rights to participation as key to influence all decisions regarding their well-being," said Minister Jeanne d'Arc Mujawamariya, who is in charge of Gender and Family Promotion in the Prime Minister's Office. "Rwanda's children have a voice, and their views are valued and incorporated in all government strategies," she added.

Discussing progress and impact

Attending this year's summit were 416 delegates, aged 10 through 16, from each sector of Rwanda. Elected by their peers, they converged on the capital for three days to discuss the progress that they feel has been achieved for children since 2004; the consequences of genocide in the country; and how this impacts on their lives.

"We make up 52 per cent of the population," said a statement from a delegation of children at the summit. "So our views matter. We would like to create anti-crime and anti-genocide clubs, both within and outside of our schools. We would like those children who want to learn about the events of 1994 to visit memorial sites and, most importantly, we would like your help in helping us create tools to build a culture of peace."

Building 'a world fit for children'

UNICEF Representative in Rwanda Joseph Foumbi has attended this event twice. He said he was impressed by the thought and diligence with which children suggest courses of action.

"I learn something every time I attend this summit, and it is a good practice for those of us in leadership positions to take children's views into account," said Mr. Foumbi. "After all, we cannot build a world fit for children, unless we integrate their concerns."