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Honorable guests,

My fellow Rwandans, Friends of Rwanda,

It is with great pleasure and honor that I am standing in front of you today. On my behalf and as the coordinator of the Organization for Peace Justice and Development in Rwanda (OPJDR), I would like to congratulate you and to thank you very much for your response to the invitation to attend this meeting.

First of all I would like to thank all nations around the World in general and the United States in particular for welcoming Rwandan refugees and providing them with warm hospitality, security, and economical assistance.

From that perspective, I also would like to thank the State of North Carolina and the town of Raleigh for their welcome. Rwandans living in this town have provided their time and their resources to make this meeting possible. Please join me to thank them. The OPJDR is grateful.

My fellow Rwandans, 

Dear Friends, 

Ten years ago, a tragedy of unimaginable proportions struck Rwanda and all Rwandans, from all ethnic, social, and economical background. Children as well as adults, women and men, Rwandans from Southern, Northern, Central, Eastern and Western Rwanda, even people without Rwanda were affected.  Nowadays, the tragedy continues to reach unprecedented proportions.

The Rwandan tragedy has entered in a vicious circle, without an end in the foreseeable future. The Rwandan tragedy ignored borders. As a matter of facts, the Rwandan tragedy has now blazed the entire Great Lakes Region of Africa, creating one of, if not the most, horrific catastrophes on the Earth in the 20 th Century.

Six years ago, in 1994, we thought that the tragedy had reached its peak and that the times to come would only be better.
It is within this climate of optimism that the Organization for Peace, Justice, and Development was created by some of the first Rwandan Refugees to enter the United States after October 1990, including myself.

No one could have foreseen the magnitude of this human and ecological catastrophe that was going to follow. The scale of massacres, diseases, wars, displacements, human rights abuses, war crimes, and destruction of the ecosystem overshadow even the most pessimistic forecasts. 

The Organization for Peace, Justice, and Development was created in 1995 and incorporated in the State of Delaware on  November 10, 1995.  I am happy to find that most of the forefront founders are still active. Some of them were still students. The majority was Refugees. I can't thank enough all those Rwandans who gave their energy and resources to make OPJDR become a reality. I am especially glad to see that the four individuals who started with the idea are here today. My friends, brothers and sisters, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.
When we created the OPJDR, we decided to face the challenge of promoting the respect of human Rights and cultural, educational, and economic development in Rwanda and the Great Lakes Region. Little did we know that our dear motherland and our beloved region was going to suffer at unlimited proportions. 

We promised ourselves to work together as Rwandans and friends of Rwanda, when Rwandans were tearing each other apart. We agreed to do whatever it takes to achieve our goals.  Today, after almost five years, I can proudly say that we have discovered, within OPJDR, the benefits of working together, and the discipline, selflessness, and joy of working for the common good of the Rwandan and Great Lakes Region people.

The results may be found in the hope we have given to Rwandan people both inside and in the Diaspora and the actions we have undertaken in favor of some of them.   However, all has not been that rosy. The OPJDR has been active only in very few of the five years of its existence. The reasons are multiple, but we learned many lessons. This year has been the most productive in OPJDR's short life. The years to come will be even more productive, because of you.

The OPJDR has made friends, has opened some doors for Rwandans, and has started to educate the World about the tragedy in Rwanda and the Great Lakes Region of Africa. Thus, the OPJDR has sought and obtained aid for some Rwandan Organizations, has participated in and led debates in International media and Organizations, and has been in close contact with various Non-Governments Organizations, etc. Now the OPJDR has extended its activities from the USA to around the World. This was accomplished with limited resources, but with determination and focus. The Organization for Peace, Justice, and Development in Rwanda (OPJDR) is an apolitical and non-profit organization. It has neither a political affiliation nor a political motive or agenda. The mission of OPJDR is to inform, educate, and mobilize Rwandans, and friends of  Rwanda to work together towards sustainable peace and justice in order to  build a better Rwanda and the Great Lakes Region of Africa, especially during this tragedy that the Rwandan Nation and the People in the Great Lakes Region of Africa have experienced since October 1990.  The OPJDR focuses on the social, humanitarian, and economical situation prevailing  inside Rwanda,  the Great Lakes Region of Africa, and among the Rwandan communities around the World. 

The OPJDR does not discriminate. It accepts anyone who shares its vision regardless of the gender, color, race, ethnic background, national origin, or any other criteria. The OPJDR is open to any Rwandan or friend of Rwanda. Anyone who  share its ideals of peace and justice for sustainable  development in Rwanda is invited to join the OPJDR.

Since its creation, the OPJDR has rejected regionalism, sexism, and ethnic discrimination. Thus, since its creation the OPJDR has included Rwandans from all regions, ethnic groups, and gender and friends of Rwanda. 

The OPJDR foundation is the reconciliation and unity among Rwandans at all costs. Without that the mission of OPJDR would be impossible.
The OPJDR is convinced that people of the Great Lakes Region of Africa can reconcile, that all ethnic groups, tribes, clans and regions may build common nations, be good neighbors or partners and live together harmoniously. From that perspective the OPJDR urge all Rwandans and friends of Rwanda to work together to bring peace and Justice in Rwanda and the Great Lakes Region of Africa.To bring justice in Rwanda, the following necessary steps must be taken:

  • The Rwandan Patriotic Front has no moral authority to bring justice. Most of the 200,000 Hutu prisoners in Rwanda jails are political prisoners. They should be released. Those responsible for crimes under the ICTR mandate should only be tried by the ICTR. Those criminals may include people across the board including those from the RPF and the former Rwandan Government.
  • Concentration camps in Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, and Eastern Congo must be abolished and repression against the Hutu populations especially in the Northern Rwanda, Burundi, and Eastern Congo must be put to an end.
  • Properties and assents must be restituted to rightful owners.
  • Light must be made concerning the assassinations of Presidents Habyalimana and Ntaryamira. 
  • Conclusive and impartial investigation of the killings of refugees and displaced people by RPF  in  Kibeho, Kanama, Gabiro and in the Democratic Republic of the Congo  (including Ex-Zaire) must be conducted.- Freedom of political parties and private media must be protected.



These steps toward justice need to be conjoint or followed by political initiatives. The political initiatives would focus on the following points:-

  • The Great Lakes Region of Africa, especially Rwanda, Uganda, and Burundi  are ruled by dictators that are so cruel and barbarian not only with their own people, but also with their neighbors. These dictatorships are unfortunately supported by some Western Democracies. It is very important that these Western Administrations realize how serious the situation in that region is and take the firm decision to do everything possible to stop it. For that these Western Administrations need to stop any financial, economic, and military aid and support to these dictatorships and put adequate pressure to bring the dictators and tyrants to the negotiation table.
  • The Ugandan Army, the Burundian Army, and the Rwandan Patriotic Army must withdraw from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
  • Organization of national peace talks based upon Arusha Agreement. The talks to be attended by all Rwandan political forces and representatives of civil and military society should lead to:- An agreement on real power sharing and establishment of transitional institutions including the government of national unity and reconciliation and national army, etc.
  • Return of all refugees with guarantees for their security and safety;
  • confirmation of multi-party system;
  • provisions and duration of the transition;
  •  establishment of mechanisms for mutual guarantee of security.
    The Organization for Peace, Justice, and Development in Rwanda (OPJDR) is ready to work with Rwandans and friends of Rwanda in exploring and implementing this approach.


The OPJDR has taken note of the existence of multiple political parties working to create a united country, one and indivisible, independent and sovereign, to bring back the rule of law. The OPJDR will work with these political parties as long as they want to promote peace, justice, and development. However, the OPJDR will always reject any form of dependence to or cooptation by political parties.

The OPJDR rejects violence as way of reaching or maintaining power. However, the OPJDR recognizes that the People, persecuted, oppressed, or enslaved by ruthless leaders, has the right to defend itself by all available means, as long as the result is the institution of a state of law where fundamental, universal, and cultural human rights are respected. 

Dear friends,

Fellow Rwandans,

This meeting is a turning point. Today, the tragedy in the Great Lakes Region of Africa continues unabated. Refugees and internally displaced people are on the move every day. Waves of new refugees and internally displaced people are being generated. The majority of these are women, children, and elderly.  Caritative organizations, and International Organizations supposed to care for refugees have abandoned them. People from the Great Lakes Region of Africa are desperate. 

Recent reliable statistics show that the Rwandan social structure has completely changed with women representing more that 70% of the population, way up from about 50% in 1990, and a large proportion of  Rwandan families lead by teenage orphans or widow mothers. After seeing their husband, brothers, and sons assassinated, murdered, jailed or sent to serve as canon fodder, Women have now the burden to care for the families alone. The future of Rwanda and the Great Lakes Region of Africa will unfortunately rest mostly on women shoulders.   Dear Sisters, you have a very big responsibility. And OPJDR has to put your concerns, your ideas, the actions in favor of women high on its agenda.

Along with women issues come youth aspirations. Young people are the future and the future has already started. I see many young people here today. The OPJDR will rely on your ideas, energy, and motivations to formulate, design, and execute actions that will promote a better future for all Rwandans, especially the Youth. 

Despite the desperation and feeling of overwhelming challenges, and especially because of these challenges, the OPJDR has to continue its mission. That is why we are here today. To discuss ways to address some of the problems, challenges, pain, and tragedy affecting our beloved people from the Great Lakes Region of Africa. 

During this General Assembly we will learn about our past experience. But most importantly we will decide on the future course of actions.


Dear friends,Fellow Rwandans,

During the five years of its existence, the OPJDR has always sought the unity among Rwandan. It is within this context that we have approached other Rwandan Organizations to unite our forces, in order to better meet the challenges ahead. Today, I am happy to announce that our efforts have started to pay off. 

Please join me to welcome the new OPJDR members who have decided to integrate their organizations within OPJDR. Let us also take this opportunity to welcome the members who joined during this year. Together we will be stronger, more productive, and definitely better. With these new members, we will redefine the future of OPJDR.

Among the questions we should answer are: 

  • How to assist millions of Refugees in the Great Lakes Region- How to assist Rwandan communities in the Diaspora.
  • How to work with other Rwandans, Africans, friends of Rwanda or Africa to improve the welfare of the people from Great Lakes Region of Africa.
  • What is the best approach to bringing security, peace and Justice in the Great Lakes Region- How to address issues and challenges faced by women and the Youth. 

All suggestions to improve the way OPJDR works, its structure, organization, or mission are welcome. The OPJDR believes in and is strongly attached to the free flow of ideas, information, and constructive criticism and the diversity of its components.    

Dear friends,

Fellow Rwandans,

Time is running out. Everyday, people are dying in the Great Lakes Region of Africa. From endless and unjustifiable wars, massacres, assassinations, hunger, malnutrition, lack of shelters, disease, such as AIDS, or just despair. Most of these ills and deaths are due to bad governance, ruthless and corrupt leaders, and criminal regimes. 

The OPJDR has no miracle pill but can help alleviate the suffering. This is our challenge. To help alleviate the suffering of the people of the Great Lakes Region that has endured and continues to endure the most horrific tragedy of the 20th Century.

This is the challenge we need to keep in mind as we are ready to redesign our strategy and methods. I would like to conclude my speech by wishing you a very productive assembly and a very wonderful stay in North Carolina. 

I thank you very much.


Felicien Kanyamibwa, Ph.D.

Coordinator, Organization for Peace, Justice, and Development in Rwanda, Inc.

 Raleigh, North Carolina, September 3, 2000

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