Celebs, CEOs light candles, invest in Rwanda

Originally posted at Stop Genocide.

Last week marked the 15th anniversary of the beginning of the Rwandan genocide.  Global stars – of film, politics and more – are honoring this anniversary by lighting candles in honor of those killed.

The website www.CandlesforRwanda.org urges you to “join in – light up the world with hope for Rwanda by  Sending a message of hope, Uploading a video of you lighting a candle,” or by “Making a small donation toward widows and young people still affected by genocide.”

For every donation of $10, a candle will be lit in the donor’s name and placed in remembrance at mass graves on the grounds of the Kigali Memorial Centre, where 250,000 victims of the genocide lie buried. The money will go towards education and support, particularly for the widows and orphans of Rwanda in order to ensure that the survivors of the genocide can live, not merely exist.

At Darfur: An Unforgivable Hell on Earth, cooper has an impassioned critique of this campaign:

Honestly, I can barely stand to look at candle lighters. I know the intention is good but I think we like lighting candles, it makes us think we are doing something. We will forever be remembering victims of genocides and unprovoked pre-preemptive wars. It is that path that needs to be changed.

I understand the need for those in Rwanda to light candles and the need for others to show solidarity but it is slightly hypocritical on so many levels. “Ok I’ve lit my candle for this month, now call the limo driver I need to go to the Spa and get a good massage”.

So what’s another option?  You could take action to end and prevent genocide (say, during Genocide Prevention Month).  Business and political leaders are investing heavily in Rwanda, hoping to change the associations with that country from genocide and bloodshed to delicious coffee and high-tech industry.

In a recent Fast Company article, Jeff Chu noted Rwanda’s “new model for economic development”:

Fifteen years after the genocide that killed an eighth of the population, its name still brings to mind death. Nine of every 10 adults are subsistence farmers, and per capita income is less than a dollar a day. Rwanda has no oil and few minerals. But it does have one abundant asset: well-placed friends.

Sinegal [Costco]. Schultz [Starbucks]. Former British prime minister Tony Blair. “Purpose-driven” pastor Rick Warren. RealNetworks founder and CEO Rob Glaser. Google CEO Eric Schmidt. All are part of Rwanda’s ever-expanding network of influential supporters. President Kagame’s goals are ambitious: to boost GDP sevenfold, find paying jobs for half of Rwanda’s subsistence farmers, nearly quadruple per capita income to $900, and turn his country into an African center for technology, all by 2020.

If supporting investment and business prospects appeals to you, consider sponsoring the business and development work of Rwandan women through Women for Women International or Global Grassroots, or purchasing Rwandan products from The Hunger Site (Rwandan baskets at right).

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About Martha Heinemann Bixby

Advocacy. Politics. Life. Martha Heinemann Bixby.
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