History

Soon after the Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda, individuals and organizations were challenged in providing assistance to the huge number of people traumatized by an accumulation of traumatic events. The intimate nature of the genocide resulted in a situation where a substantial part of the population had to deal with their traumas, while living in an environment marked by conflict, mistrust and fear. Individual oriented trauma counseling approaches implemented in response to this situation were not available throughout the country. Where they were offered, their effect seemed to be limited. This observation, presented by Pastor Emmanuel Ngendahayo of the Byumba Diocese to Cora Dekker - a Dutch sociotherapist with years of experience in practicing sociotherapy among traumatized refugees in clinical settings in the Netherlands - raised the question whether sociotherapy might be able to effectively fill in the gap identified. Given the enormous need among the Rwandan population for psychosocial care that the sociotherapy approach might be able to offer, it was decided by the Byumba Diocese and Dekker to give it a try and transform the clinic-based sociotherapy approach into a community-based one, which was to be adapted to the Rwandan context. The underlying idea was that in this way, sociotherapy could meet the needs of as many Rwandans as possible within a relatively short period of time.

 

In 2004 the community-based sociotherapy approach was introduced in Rwanda. In 2005 the Anglican Church, Byumba Diocese, started to implement it in the north of the country. Subsequently, Faith Victory Association started to implement sociotherapy in the southeast in 2008. In both programs technical support was provided by Dekker.

 

The results of the sociotherapy program in the north and the southeast of the country led to the initiation of the nation-wide ‘Community Based Sociotherapy Program (CBSP) in post-Gacaca Rwanda’ (2014-2016). In January 2014, a consortium of three Rwandan organizations, Prison Fellowship Rwanda (PFR), EAR Diocese of Byumba (EAR Byumba) and Duhumurizanye Iwacu Rwanda (DIR) started the implementation of the program in eight districts.

 

Particularly relevant in the rebuilding of Rwandan society was, and still is, the creation of trust and mutual respect within Rwandan communities. As Rwanda has recently entered the post-Gacaca period, this community based sociotherapy program specifically aims at contributing to the consolidation of the achievements of the Gacaca courts and at the same time meeting the community needs in terms of healing, reconciliation and social justice. The program has proven to be able to significantly contribute to the creation of environments in which people were able to regain their dignity and restore relations of trust.