Jamaican scholar embraced in Rwanda
Patrina Pink, Gleaner Writer
Known as the 'Land of a Thousand Hills', Rwanda is a central African country of immense beauty.
That beauty, however, has been drowned by the negative images associated with its notoriously bloody civil war.
But 16 years since closing that bitter chapter of its life, Rwanda is eager to rebrand and re-energise its youthful population, and one Jamaican is encouraging Jamaicans to be a part of that process.
Craig Dixon, 22, who recently completed his media and communications degree at the University of the West Indies Mona's Caribbean Institute of Media and Communication, was selected out of hundreds of applications across the Commonwealth to participate in the Royal Commonwealth Society's N'kabom programme.
N'kabom, which means 'together' in Twi, a language of Ghanaian origin, is a suitable name for a programme which hopes to connect young people across the former British colonies.
Workshops and tutorials
From September 5-15, Dixon and 37 other young leaders received practical tutorials in peace building as well as leadership training. The group also participated in special workshops geared towards creating a fuller understanding of Rwanda and its people, and had rigorous peer-led exchanges with Rwandan youth leaders.
There have been previous N'kabom projects in Malaysia, Ghana, the United Kingdom and Cyprus.
Dixon, who hails from Pell River, Hanover, says the Rwandan experience has helped to shape him into a stronger global citizen. He said that he had found several similarities between Jamaica and Rwanda, one of which is turmoil.
"Rwanda has a history of political turmoil and so does Jamaica, but 16 years after the 1994 genocide, Rwanda has emerged as the true pride of Africa," he told The Gleaner.
The 1994 clash between two ethnic groups - the Hutu and the Tutsi - resulted in the death of almost one million Rwandan citizens.
Rwanda has since made headway - the small and largely agriculturally based economy boasts a four per cent gross domestic product growth rate, despite a gruelling financial recession.
Dixon said he was warmly received by Rwandans.
"The local people cheered and clapped whenever I uttered the name of my country, even those who only spoke French or the native language, Kinyarwanda. They wanted to hear me speak and sing, and I thought: if only we (Jamaicans) knew who we are, how powerful we are."
Rwandans, like other Africans, found inspiration in reggae music as they struggled to wrested independence from their European enemies.
Dixon is on a Caribbean internship programme and is working with Grenada's Ministry of Social Development's Roving Caregiver's Programme. He hopes to pursue a postgraduate degree in anthropology, as well as devote his life to fighting injustice.
He is poetic as he describes what motivates him: "I will only be complete when the children in Half-Way Tree are off the streets and in schools fulfilling their potential; when justice is swift and accessible to all Jamaicans; and when the sons of our troubled communities understand that they, too, have a right to dream."