Reconciliation in Rwanda; Continued

After the release of ‘Mana, kiza u Rwanda!’ (Lord, heal Rwanda!), we wanted to widen the impact of the songs across the nation, and there followed a two location concert tour in 2001, to Ruhengeri in the north and Butare in the south of Rwanda. Chip Bailey (percussion) and Russ Sargeant (bass guitar) travelled out with me for this.

By 2002, Joseph, Anastase, Rhiannon and myself realised the impact had indeed been significant and began discussing how to follow up with a new reconciliation CD. Our thinking began to focus on the children who had grown up during the aftermath of the genocide. These had endured a particularly disjointed and traumatised childhood and we heard many disturbing stories of what they had been through. The eventual result of this was a new CD with songs written specifically for children aged between 8 yrs and 14 yrs old. Once again, this involved several trips to Rwanda; a song-writing seminar week, a recording week with 60 Rwandan children drawn from a variety of tribal and church backgrounds, and the eventual concert launches of the new CD, ‘Rabagirana Rwanda!’(Arise, Shine Rwanda!), which took place in January 2003. There were some notable differences with the first project. Mike Burn (Family Worship) travelled out with me for the song-writing seminar, and we were also able to widen the partnering leadership network by including Mary Kamanzi (YWAM-Rwanda’s childrens co-ordinator). It was a particular pleasure for me to be able to take my son Joel (then aged 15 yrs) to Rwanda in August 2002. This was his first time in Africa, and he excelled in his role as recording engineer, working with some of the portable equipment we took with us. For the concerts, Nick Ruddle (percussion) and Steve Bassett (bass guitar) travelled out with me as backing band.

In the summer of 2004, AEE planned to hold a major thanksgiving event, and Antoine Rutayisire approached me with a new CD project in mind. The making of ‘Hahirw’ishyanga…’ (Blessed is the nation) took a similar path as before, with a song-writing workshop, a recording week and concert launches. It was a pleasure to be able to welcome several new Rwandan songwriters, who were keen to be a part of the new CD, and once again Joel joined me for the recording, which took place in Feb 2004. The actual concerts were quite different, as they were now a part of a much larger mission event involving many foreign visitors and African church leaders from other countries. There were two stadium events, and a concert for VIP’s planned at the Mille Collines hotel. Dave Silber, Steve Walker, and Rich Hall from Nexus Christian Music Academy travelled out with me to act as backing band for the singers. The very last day was most memorable. At the last minute, we heard that President Kagame himself would attend the prayer breakfast at the Mille Collines. The choir and band performed several songs for him there, and after his address to the delegates he was personally presented with a CD copy of all three reconciliation CD’s by Michael Cassidy, the founder of AEE.

Later, we again performed in the Amahoro Stadium in front of a crowd of some 8,000 people. At the very end, the band of the Rwandan national guard appeared in full uniform, and to the great joy of everyone present, marched across the centre of the ground playing several famous hymns of peace and forgiveness. The significance of this was not lost on anyone present, as the stadium was in 1994 the focal point of some particularly brutal genocide events, in which the military played a significant part.