The Rwandan government is working to transform its blood-soaked image from the genocide of 1994 into that of an educated and productive leader in central Africa, a top official said. "We are telling people some of the challenges we are meeting in rebuilding our country after the genocide and some of the successes we have made in particular in building a stable government," Romain Murenzi, Rwanda's minister of education, science, technology and research, said in an interview Thursday with The Associated Press.
On a six-city U.S. tour, Murenzi hopes to replace images of the 1994 genocide with those of a well-educated work force that has renewed its respect for human life and hope for the future.
Murenzi said Rwanda has doubled its elementary school enrollment, and high school enrollment is five times what it was in 1994.
The government's goal is to create a knowledge-based economy by 2020 where people are trained in the sciences, specifically information technology, the AP informs.
Rwandans who saw their families killed in 1994 remain traumatized, he said, but "in the next decade we will have seen more and more reconciliation."
Juliette Murekeyisoni was 21 when the killing began in 1994.
Hutus, who historically had been relegated to secondary status by the nation's colonial rulers, attacked the more privileged Tutsis and those who sided with them.
Murekeyisoni, 32, was born in Burundi after her parents fled an earlier episode of genocide in Rwanda, but she returned in 1994 because she felt compelled to help.
A Tutsi, she said she knew it was dangerous, but she was driven by her desire to help.
"I think God just guided me," she said.
Her last memories of Rwanda were corpses scattered on the ground.
In 1997, she moved to Connecticut, where she earned a bachelor's degree, and later obtained her master's degree in diplomacy and international relations from Seton Hall in 2004.
She arrived in Iowa on Dec. 13, 2004, to work with Lutheran Services, helping refugees from Somalia, Sudan, Liberia and Cuba, and currently is considering job offers from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and Good Works International in New York.
She also serves as president of the nonprofit League for Rwandan Children and Youth, which delivered $10,000 (Ђ8,244) in donations to a Rwandan orphanage in August.
"When I left Rwanda, it was a mess. When I went back, I was lost, just how the country had improved," she said.
The new Rwandan constitution, approved in 2003, created a power sharing mechanism. The president and prime minister, for example, must be from different parties. Rwanda currently has eight political parties that participate in government.
Women must be equally represented in parliament. Currently, 49 percent of elected representatives are women, Murenzi said.
While in the United States, Murenzi is visiting universities and research centers that can help train Rwandans in science and technology.