Rwanda will commemorate the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi for the 25th time this April. MOSES K GAHIGI talked to Never Again Rwanda senior researcher Reverien Interayamahanga about the journey so far.
What were the key findings of your recent research on civil society organisations?
First, we noticed that civil society organisation’s are mostly involved in service delivery. We also noticed that only a few organisations focus on being a voice of the voiceless or shaping public policies, yet these are among their core roles.
One of the major reason for this is that some CSOs fear being labelled confrontational towards authorities. We also found out that many CSO programmes do not address the issue of gender.
Why should policymakers take note of these findings?
Good governance is one of the country’s pillars for post-genocide reconstruction and development. CSO’s directly work with citizens so policymakers need to engage them on policy dialogue and to find out the real needs of the people at the grass roots.
One of the key recommendations from this research is to have constant dialogue at the district and national level to ensure that citizens’ needs are at the core of decision making.
This year marks 25 years since the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. Where are we as a country?
We have made great progress in promoting peaceful coexistence. The period after 1994 was marked by high levels of suspicion, fear, mistrust and psychological wounds. The government in collaboration with key partners like CSO’s, media, international community and the private sector has been able to ensure security and promote cohesion.
A lot of the progress can be attributed to the pro-poor programmes implemented after the genocide, which aim to pull citizens out of poverty. The establishment of agencies like the National Unity and Reconciliation Commission, CNLG, Farge, Gacaca, among others have also helped navigate the complex realities that existed in the aftermath of the genocide.
However, there is still a long way to go because of persistent genocide ideology especially from Rwandans living outside the country. Poverty and youth unemployment also need to be dealt with.
What are the major challenges for policymakers in post-genocide Rwanda?
The key challenges are poverty, genocide ideology and investing in quality education.
What do you think needs to be done to help perpetrators, given that many are finishing their jail sentences and integrating back into the community?
There is a need to take into consideration the needs of perpetrators. In terms of trauma they are also affected. There is a need to include their needs into the overall healing and development policy as a whole.
They need to be prepared psychologically about the world they are coming back to as they get out of prison, the challenges they might face and how to cope, but the community also needs to be prepared to receive them.
Thousands of children were born out of genocidal rape, yet they are not entitled to support meant for survivors. But, they are victims of the genocide, have you thought about this group?
I confess that as an organisation we have not worked with this group of people. I think the government needs to take a clear stand on this issue and come up with a legal provision to help them.
They should be considered as survivors and get due assistance, sadly many of them have not benefited from the education policy. As they turn 24 it will be the last chance to help them.