PORTLAND — The Rwandan ambassador to the United States told members of a Portland-based group Friday night that they are helping his region of Africa address three of its most pressing issues: reconciliation, education and income generation.

At the annual banquet of Central Africa Vision, a group dedicated to improving conditions in Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ambassador James Kimonyo said, “Once we deal with those, everything else will take care of itself.”

Central Africa Vision was formed in response to the genocide in Rwanda in 1994. More than 1 million people were killed in 100 days, according to the group’s Web site.

The group was established as a missionary organization in 1997 to aid the people of Rwanda and work on reconciliation between various tribes in that country and in Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Through a loan fund in central Africa, the group also provides money to a group of widows through community banks. The small amounts of capital allow the women to begin businesses that will help them feed their children and then educate them.

The group serves 2,100 women, who feed more than 10,000 children, according to Central Africa Vision’s Web site.

About 200 people attended Friday’s banquet at the Italian Heritage Center to hear Kimonyo speak about the genocide and the country’s efforts to rebuild its government and economy.

For most of history, the Tutsis and Hutus lived in peace, he said.

He traced the most recent conflict to colonial rule in the 1930s that drew distinctions between the tribes, and to a failure to reunite them after Rwanda became independent.

Multiple conflicts led to the 1994 massacre, he said. The country is pursuing both reconciliation and justice, but must address poverty, he said.

Rwanda is following an economic plan that seems to be working, the ambassador said. In 2008, the country’s gross domestic product grew by 11 percent. The tourism sector is doing well, he said, and the country aims to have a middle-income economy.

 

Staff Writer Matt Wickenheiser can be contacted at 791-6316 or at:

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