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Kigali Debate League

Changemaker: Jean Michael

With the motto of “Tolerance, Knowledge, Diversity” this started as a two week debating Camp in Rwanda.

Idebate Rwanda is nowa Non Governmental Organization that is using debate to change the lives of young Rwandans and East Africans. Idebate Rwanda gives students the tools to change their own world by teaching them how to think critically, how to solve problems creatively and how to impact their own society.“The only place where conflict is good thing is in a debate round, because as ideas clash new and fresh ideas come out of it.” - Beth Skinner

Rwanda has always been known for one thing and one thing alone and that’s conflict. For the longest period of time, Rwandans have always had to answer this simple question “ is everything ok in your country”. Though some of those questions could come from people who are ignorant about Rwanda and Africa in general, who think that Africans are known for just two things wars and famines, this does not take away the fact that when people think about Rwanda they think of the genocide of the Tutsis in 1994. In the spring of 1994, one million people were killed in a gruesome genocide that happened just over a 100 days. One million poor souls were taken for the sole fact of being born different. The government of Rwanda at that time used its power to crash and kill a section of its population simply because they wanted to conceal their power. The genocide has had a great impact of the people of Rwanda, and anyone who has been to Rwanda can testify to that. However, a few questions remain,” how can the youth of Rwanda work to reverse the curse that their parents left? How can the youth of Rwanda restore the dignity lost by their parents? Most of all how is it possible to create an environment where young people are able to express themselves freely and share their opinions and ideas without the fear of being discriminated against? And finally how can we build a culture of tolerance, where difference is seen as something to celebrate and not to fear.

We decided to take this challenge by creating the “Kigali Debate League”. The Kigali debate league is a project to promote the art of debate and argumentation amongst young people. Debate is a formal discussion on a particular topic in a public meeting or legislative assembly, in which opposing arguments are put forward. Many people have seen debates on televisions, in classrooms, in stadiums etc… but we want to do more than just debate, through this project we are aiming at transforming debate in Rwanda from a purely academic game that aims at enhancing public speaking skills to a progressive platform that promotes research and critical thinking that are aimed at creating agents of change.

This will be done in many ways. The first part of this project consists of debate trainings that are going to be carried out for secondary students. Currently, through this project we have already trained up to 150 students in the art of debate.

The second part of this project consists of a debate league that is to start in January. This league would be like any other league, students will debate about the topic of economic development and provide their inputs on the way in which Rwanda can develop.

The impact that this project is going to have or is having is immense. Young people are taking charge of their lives and understanding that a difference of idea does not mean hatred nor threat from your neighbor but rather an opportunity to engage and learn from one another.


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