Picture 1: Dr. Chantal Ingabire, Senior Researcher in CBS and APN grantee 2017
On Thursday, 18th January 2018, at Umubano Marasa Hotel, Community-Based Sociotherapy (CBS), a Rwandan Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) that aims at promoting interpersonal healing and grassroots reconciliation processes, organized a one-day symposium on “Youth, Violence and Reconciliation in Multigenerational Perspective: challenges and opportunities in post genocide Rwanda”, in which representatives from (non-) government institutions, universities, embassies and other multilateral organizations were present.
The symposium featured a research conducted by CBS with financial support received from the African Peacebuilding Network (APN) of the Social Science Research Council (SSRC). The research aimed at understanding reconciliation processes among Rwandan youth, the contributions of various actors to reconciliation among youth and based on findings informing policy and practice. The premise of this research was that true reconciliation is a lengthy and complex process that requires long-term engagement of individuals at all levels of society, including the generation that did not go through genocide. The research was conducted in August 2017 in Rubavu district, Western province of Rwanda. Respondents included youth identified through a number of civil society organizations (CSOs) and government initiatives that work in the field of peacebuilding at mainly secondary school level and those that do not take part in any club or association focusing on peacebuilding.
Picture 2: Prof. Annemiek Richters, Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research, The Netherlands
The findings of the research suggested that youth respondents recognized a number of efforts undertaken by the government of Rwanda following the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi to provide justice to the victims, initiate the process of psychological healing, restore social relationships and foster unity and reconciliation. It was however reported that a divergence between public and family narratives on reconciliation is still observed, which may hinder reconciliation processes and fueling the occurrence of genocide ideology (divisionism and negationism).
In addition, respondents in the research who are also members of various clubs/groups operating at mainly secondary school level aiming at fighting against genocide ideology and promoting unity and reconciliation evaluated them as important in terms of bringing together youth of different backgrounds and potentially with different conceptualizations of the past, increasing their cohesion and raising awareness on the 1994 genocide, while enabling attitudinal and behavioral changes within respective families and communities. However, they highlighted an insufficient mentorship in terms of trainings or regular follow-up visits as well as the need of educational materials. Furthermore, the clubs were found mainly operating at school level with limited grassroots platforms (i.e. cell or village level) in which reconciliation messages can be discussed for youth out of schools.
Picture3: Distinguished guests and representatives of UNDP, CCM-UR, IRDP, NURC, CBS (left to right)
The present research therefore highlighted the importance of the living environment when it comes to reconciliation among youth as well as the need for mentorship and scale up of youth reconciliation initiatives that aim at effective interventions targeting different levels of society with the ultimate aim of sustainable peace.
The presentation on research findings was framed by other presentations that theorized the notion of intergenerational (dis)continuity (how parental involvement in a particular behavior influences the likelihood that their child will also be involved in that same behavior at the same developmental stage); provided a broader understanding of the cycle of violence in the Great Lakes region; contributed to understanding the importance of examining peacebuilding through a trauma lens and outlined the policy perspective with regard to youth and reconciliation. See a full symposium concept note and agenda here.
Picture 4: His Grace Archbishop Onesphore Rwaje, Chair of CBS Board of Directors and Bishop John Rucyahana, the chair of the National Unity and Reconciliation Commission (NURC)
Closing the symposium, the chair of the National Unity and Reconciliation Commission (NURC), Bishop John Rucyahana, commended efforts deployed by CBS both in research and interventions when it comes to healing, but also highlighted that challenges are still there “We inherited pain and guilt from the past and we should approach the future with knowledge and facts.”