Yannick speaks at harmony launch
THE TALL lean 20-year-old from Rwanda laughed and joked with his sponsor’s president, the Hervey Bay RSL’s Phil Cannane – but permanent tears gathered behind the smile.
Yannick Tona, Youth Ambassador for the Fraser Coast’s Harmony Day, was the guest speaker at the event launch at the Neighbourhood Centre on Saturday night.
He came for a month because Argentinean-born local artist Jorge Pujol met Yannick in Rwanda last year and was determined to bring him to the Fraser Coast for Harmony Day on March 21.
“This community project, helped by the RSL and others, acknowledges the final year of the United Nation’s International Decade for Peace and non Violence against Children,” Mr Pujol said.
“I was a Tutsi,” Yannick told the Neighbourhood Centre audience.
“The Belgians created three class distinctions in Rwanda in 1932. Tutsi if you had more than 10 cows, 14 per cent of us; Hutu for the next level down, 84 per cent and the Twa, or Batwa, the pygmy people at 1 per cent.
“Then in the Independence the Belgians gave us in 1962, they also gave the power to the Hutus.
“I was five when the genocide began in April 1994. I lost many members of my family, including my younger brother whose body they fed to the dogs.”
Yannick spoke of returning from the Congo to Rwanda, where the United Nations had stood by helpless and watched the terrible massacre of up to one millions people.
In Rwanda, Yannick is the international programs’ officer for AEGIS Students Rwanda, part of the international youth movement against genocide.
“One day I hope to become my country’s president and a strong man in the world so that this never happens again whether the UN wants it or not.”
Yannick will spend today at Aldridge State High School and later in the month will visit Fraser Island Butchulla people and other schools in the region. On April 1 he will host the International Youth Conference at the Brolga.