Rwanda has shown ingenuity in conflict transformation thanks to the policy of National Unity and Reconciliation, as well as to the participatory and innovative justice system known as Gacaca.
By Never Again Rwanda
Building sustainable peace in Rwanda requires strategies that respond to those factors that consistently impede or undermine peace. The strategies should be based on conflict resolution, the emergence of citizenship, responsible and democratic governance, and sustainable socio-economic development. With regard to each of these, the Rwandan population has generated a lot of opportunities which can be traced back to the Government’s action and leadership, as well as to the action and attitudes of the population itself.
First and foremost, sustainable peace is a matter of leadership and good governance. After the 1994 genocide, which shocked both Africa and the world, Rwanda showed ingenuity in conflict transformation and resolution thanks to the policy of National Unity and Reconciliation, as well as to the participatory and innovative justice system known as Gacaca. It is maybe difficult to assess the contribution of the Gacaca system to justice and reconciliation, especially for some westerners who often tend to undermine their outcomes, but Rwandans can testify as to what they yielded in terms of justice and reconciliation compared to the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). Rwanda gave honor and pride to Africa when it was acknowledged for good governance in 2002. That same year, the international leadership prize was awarded to Rwanda’s president and, through him, to Rwandan leadership.
All the strategies for tackling the consequences of genocide and building peace have benefited from, and taken advantage of, attitudes firmly-rooted in Rwandan culture. For example, one may mention Gacaca jurisdictions whose judges of integrity (inyangamugayo) work on a voluntary basis. Moreover, genocide survivors are ready to forgive, despite their deep suffering and the lack of preconditions for reconciliation. One can also refer to different elections which were held at the local and national levels, in which individual and collective contributions from Rwandans laid the foundations for the peaceful end of the transition period immediately following the genocide.
Moreover, Rwanda has also established numerous mechanisms for conflict transformation and peacebuilding. It is worth mentioning three of them in particular – Vision 2020, the New Constitution and the National Unity and Reconciliation Commission
Conflict transformation in Never Again Rwanda’s work
Never Again Rwanda (NAR) has been very active in conflict transformation projects since its establishment in 2002. Through debates, public speaking competitions, youth discussion forums, trainings, workshops and radio programs, NAR has been instilling skills and empowering youth towards genocide prevention, restorative justice and unity and reconciliation.
These initiatives were organized both within Rwanda and across its borders. With the support of the German Civil Peace Service, NAR has been bringing together youth from Rwanda and Goma in DRC. Recently, these young peace messengers met in public speaking competitions in March 2012 to present on civil courage during war and genocide. The goal of the event was to encourage youth to consider alternative peaceful ways during conflicts and to introduce stories of rescuers into Rwanda’s commemoration discourse. Next year, this project will bring together youth from DRC (Goma), Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi to discuss the peacebuilding process in the Great Lakes Region.
Furthermore, NAR is currently organizing its third Peacebuilding Institute which brings national and international university students together to learn about the 1994 genocide and its consequences, the transitional justice process since, as well as good governance, democracy and development. The two-week institute analyzes the definition of genocide, its root causes and consequences, the transformation process, and what can be learned from these.
In addition, NAR has since 2004 organized the Football for Peace tournament in the Western Province of Rwanda. This trains young people how to solve conflicts in a peaceful way and fosters gender equality. Strategies to combat genocide ideology are discussed in the after-match meetings. Sport can be utilized as a peacebuilding activity, as sport fosters “solidarity, fairness and mutual respect, teamwork, strength and friendship beyond the simple enjoyment of play.” Encouraged by different officials, sport provided youth with a platform for them to get to know one another and to live with others in harmony, whether at school or in their communities.
NAR also organized youth sessions to analyze current conflict situations and their desired future. Peace needs were assessed and strategic ways to satisfy them designed. This was done through Youth Discussion Forums and essay writing competitions.
In order to engage youth in dealing constructively with the past, NAR has conducted trainings, workshops, conferences and dialogues on reconciliation, as well as commemoration policy and practice in Rwanda, in order to generate a platform for Rwandans to participate in an inclusive commemoration. This complements other efforts – such as organizing visits to genocide memorial sites – to help young people to learn about what happened during the 1994 genocide.
All NAR initiatives aim to spur societal change through developing youth perceptions and fostering attitude changes. NAR has been encouraging youth to become agents of positive change since its establishment in 2002. With these efforts, NAR contributes to transforming Rwandan conflicts, the reconciliation process, and the creation of sustainable peace in our communities.