Overview National Conference 11-10-2016

25 oktober 2016

On 11 October 2016 CBSP hosted its second national conference on community-based sociotherapy at Umubano Hotel Kigali, Rwanda. The theme of this year's conference was "Intergenerational transmission of memories after genocide: Lived experiences and future perspectives in Rwanda”. Different academicians, researchers, practitioners and politicians shared their expertise with the 120 attendees.


The Guests of Honour (the Chair of the National Unity and Reconciliation Commission, the Chair of the CBSP Consortium, the representative of the Ministry of Justice, and the Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands) officially opened the conference by making their remarks on modern Rwanda, the influence of sociotherapy, and the conference theme. After that, Francois Masabo, professor at the Centre for Conflict Management at the University or Rwanda, gave an insight into the scope and intensity of the genocide and its aftermath. Annemiek Richters, emeritus professor affiliated with at the Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research, followed with a presentation on the intergenerational transmission of memories in the context of restorative justice.



To make the transition from the larger academic framework to the lived experiences in contemporary Rwanda, a documentary made by Kivuto Production was screened. It addressed the struggles at personal, family and community level that Rwanda continues to face, and how CBSP aims to ease them. The problems include amongst others destroyed social relationships, stigma against former Gacaca-judges, unwillingness or incomprehension of (relatives of) genocide perpetrators to pay reparation fees, and the transmission of trauma and memories from the first generation (those that consciously witnessed the genocide) to the second generation (people born just before, during or after the genocide).


As to the latter subject, the research team of CBSP presented its preliminary research findings on intergenerational dynamics. In general, there seems to exist a lack of communication between parents and children, especially regarding the parents’ genocide-related experiences. The children instead feel the need to know about their family’s history. In addition the CBSP research team found that some children often aim to counter their parents’ past behavior. They like to see themselves as agents of change, and define themselves as “Rwandans” rather than in terms of ethnicity. Simultaneously however, this can lead to ambiguity: someone may define him/herself as Rwandan, but at the same time may feel like the child of a genocide survivor/perpetrator.



The CBSP National Consortium Manager and CBSP Program manager elaborated on the achievements and challenges of the sociotherapy program during the implementation phase of 2013-2016. CBSP seems to contribute significantly to the general well-being (mental as well as physical) of the sociotherapy participants and their communities. This contributes in time to interpersonal reconciliation between community members and engagement in civic duties. Also, many of the socio-groups continue to meet after they have finished their fifteen weeks of sociotherapy. Some host group discussions, whereas others engage in joint income generating activities. The biggest challenges regarding CBSP related to research (levels of trust vis-à-vis the researchers), implementation (managing expectations and working with community volunteers) and context (connecting with partners and gender conservative perceptions and attitudes).


The Chair of the CBSP Consortium closed the conference by thanking the consortium for all its efforts of the last three years. He emphasized that the program is still much needed, as new glaring issues continue to be discovered. Bishop John Rucyahana (Chair of NURC) closed the day by stating that "sociotherapy contributes to unity and reconciliation as it rebuilds the relationships between community members."