An article of Theophile Sewimfura, Duhumurizanye Iwacu Rwanda with a focus on the CBSP-conviviality meeting in Gitoki sector, Gatsibo district, where sociotherapy participants were gathered.
Starting on 20 January 2015 events celebrating the impact of sociotherapy - commonly called conviviality meetings are being organized by Duhumurizanye Iwacu Rwanda (DIR) in the various sectors of the districts of Gatsibo and Bugesera in which sociotherapy is implemented. This article focuses on the conviviality meeting in Gitoki sector, Gatsibo district, where sociotherapy participants from the villages Cyabusheshe, Bukomane and Mpondwa who had completed fifteen socio-sessions were gathered.
Socio-group graduate quoting her children:
"Other trauma healing programs I went through told me why and what were my difficulties. Sociotherapy showed me how to deal with them and enabled me to swim and survive in the river of effects of my dark past."
Early morning of the 20th of January our team of DIR staff members on the way to Gitoki saw a group of three people whom we recognized as socio-group participants.
We stopped and asked them: ‘Where are you going?’ One of the three responded: ‘We have a ceremony at Gitoki sector. We are going to meet with our colleagues and celebrate together what Mvura Nkuvure did in our lives, families and villages.
’ As soon as we had invited them to continue their way together with us in the car they started to sing about sociotherapy. Once we had arrived at Gitoki sector where the conviviality meeting was going to take place, other participants arrived in small groups coming from their respective villages. They were all smartly dressed while happiness was shining on the face of everyone.
The conviviality event started with a short introduction by Virginie, DIR District manager in Gatsibo. After that, the event continued with songs, testimonies and formal talks by participants interspersed with informal talks among them. The event started at 10.00 am and lasted until around 1.00 pm. Three of the testimonies presented by participants and the speeches by two local leaders are summarized below.
“In 1994 my family was massacred in Murambi under Gatete Bourgumestre’s order. I survived with one child. After the genocide, I was traumatized like many other Tutsi survivors. I was not feeling safe in Murambi. I feared everyone and was feeling alone. During Gacaca, my situation became worse; I was persecuted in different ways by some of my neighbors (families of genocidaires) who considered me as a threat, being afraid I would testify against one of their family members. They often threw stones on my roof. A few of them were identified and arrested. I remember in particular that the Gacaca president refused to become a godfather of my son when he was baptized. This forced me to come back here in Gitoki, where I was born, thinking that I would find peace here. However, I was feeling alone and like a refugee in my homeland. I never shared my painful stories with anyone.
My agonizing journey was to end only in sociotherapy. In sociotherapy I said what I could not say in Gacaca and I got healed. This happened because I was felt safe and was cared for and respected by group members. Sociotherapy has made me understand that the way people behave can often be explained by what we all went through as Rwandans. I now understand the trauma of released prisoners differently and I also understand that some of the family members of prisoners live in shame caused by what their father or husband did during the genocide. I forgave them from my heart.”
“My story is too long to tell. It is longer than can be told in any book. But Stephanie (sociotherapist) knows everything. And the members of my socio-group also know that I’m no longer the one I was before joining sociotherapy. They understand that I was sick and dying. During Gacaca, at the moment I wanted to say something, I was falling down, waking up later in the hospital. My life was characterized by never sleeping, not wishing anybody talk close to me, heart problem, stomachache, etc. I left my church. My children and leaders who are here, I cannot explain to you what sociotherapy did in terms of the medicine it gave me. Only I know that through sociotherapy I have become a normal human person. Today I sleep deep. After our weekly socio-meetings, reaching home I slept like a baby, something I did not experience for over 50 years. Sociotherapy live and remain vital forever!
“In 1990 my husband (a Tutsi) and three of my children were killed in Kibungo. Later, in 1994, during the genocide, Tutsi were again killed. Being Hutu, I survived, with my only child. I was requested to kill my son and get married to Hutu so that I should have proper children, children from the seeds of Hutus and not of snakes (Tutsis). I refused. The only thing I wanted from already 1990 onwards was to die. This life of sorrow continued until last year when I was invited to join sociotherapy. When Mama Fiona (sociotherapist) told me about sociotherapy, I decided to come with the expectation to receive money or a cow, because I knew that my vulnerability was obvious to all inhabitants of my village. I was convinced that nothing, including sociotherapy, could solve my problems. I used to say that these problems were my own curse. At the third socio-session it dawned in my mind that this program was sent from heaven to heal my heart. All discussions about safety, trust and care were about me! I was amazed, I was helped by ladies who listened to me and recognized my pain. I now have peace and hope. The orphans I raise always ask me: ‘Where did you get strength? Before, you were always sick and weak.’ My answer is: ‘sociotherapy’. ‘Do you pray there?’ ‘No’, I respond. ‘However, our group is like a church, but an extraordinary one.’ Other trauma healing programs I went through told me why and what my difficulties were. Sociotherapy showed how to deal with them and enabled me to swim and survive in the river of effects of my dark past.”
The Gitoki executive secretary said during his opening and welcoming remarks: “This morning in my car coming to my office I got confused. I saw ladies wearing Imishanana (wedding dresses Rwandan women wear) on the road and found others here. Then I asked myself why these people came today. I soon found out that they are sociotherapy participants.” The executive secretary reminded the audience of the Rwandan proverb: Akuzuye umutima gasesekara ku munwa (what fulfills the heart, is externally visible). “There is no doubt that sociotherapy is cleaning and healing wounds of people and reconciles them.”
Another local leader said after listening to some of the testimonies:
“I followed the process of sociotherapy since the start. One problem I have is that the program is for only two more years while many people may need sociotherapy. Today it is helping in particular parents and old people. What about the younger generation? This is my concern. When I see how those who have completed the first round fifteen weeks are socializing in our villages, my recommendation is to extend sociotherapy to all villages in Rwanda. To me, sociotherapy is all in one: Gacaca, healing and reconciliation, and Ndi Umunyarwanda. When people are free to express themselves in terms of how they were feeling in relation to their Hutu or Tutsi background dating back from our dark history leading up to the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi, the truth they speak out will lead to reconciliation and therefore to the feeling that each one of us has the same Rwandan identity and not the false ethnic identity of Hutu and Tutsi that our history has left us with. This is made possible in sociotherapy - I see and recognize it.
Community based-sociotherapy intervention has been implemented in Gatsibo by Duhumurizanye Iwacu Rwanda up to December 2014 under the facilitation of 30 trained sociotherapists (advanced level). These sociotherapists have facilitated two rounds of 15 sessions. Their capacity in terms of how to run sociotherapy, based on learning by doing, has gradually increased. It can be expected that many more people will be accompanied effectively during the next rounds of sociotherapy that are scheduled to follow during the next two years.
Nyamata, 25 January 2015
Duhumurizanye Iwacu Rwanda (DIR)-Eastern Province of Rwanda
Field Coordinator, community-based sociotherapy program