Healing Fractured Lives: Reconciliation and reintegration in Rwanda

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Aurélien Tobie with François Masabo

September 2012

Executive summary This paper focuses on the lessons learned and current situation in terms of reconciliation and reintegration efforts in Rwanda. Taking the Fostering Reconciliation and Socio-Economic Reintegration in Rwanda project implemented by International Alert and its partners as its starting point, it describes and analyses the main features of reconciliation and reintegration efforts in Rwanda. The target groups it considers are genocide survivors, former combatants, ex-prisoners and youth. While each of these groups has had different experiences of the genocide period and its aftermath, all have been affected by the violence psychologically, socially and economically.

The rebuilding of Rwandan society after the 1994 genocide against the Tutsis has demanded, and indeed still demands, considerable effort. The Rwandan state, the international community, civil society, the private sector, and others have all invested a great deal into finding ways for the country to recover from this unprecedented tragedy. Eighteen years after the genocide, it is time to learn the lessons of implemented programmes, and to try and envisage a way forward for those agencies currently involved in reconciliation and reintegration activities.

This paper describes six main characteristics and question points around reintegration efforts in Rwanda. It investigates the benefits and challenges of a multidisciplinary approach in reconciliation and reintegration programming. Such holistic approaches are now widely accepted as being extremely beneficial to affected populations and are increasingly used. However, they are challenging to implement, especially with regard to pooling necessary expertise and securing sustainable funding.

A second point explored by the research team was the possibility of designing programmes which target an inclusive group, made up of all affected populations, even former “adversaries”, instead of separate programming for each group. This paper argues that, while some initial separation of groups might be necessary and even desirable, it is recommended to aim towards an inclusive group of beneficiaries. Early results of inclusive approaches to the participation of target groups show that these approaches have direct benefits for social cohesion and are more in line with the goal of a unified Rwandan society.

The third research question concerned the challenges of responding to the enormous demands of reintegration, and whether coordination was effective at the national level to meet all the needs of the Rwandan population. While there is considerable attention to reintegration as a policy priority, a rather top-down approach and confusion about the goals of some programmes may have reduced effectiveness on the ground. The study thus recommends that a national platform for coordination on reintegration be created and that agencies investigate the possibility of including a strategic “multiplier effect” in their programmes.

A major obstacle to reintegration faced by all agencies and affected populations in Rwanda is the thorny issue of justice and reconciliation. With formal support to the Gacaca process having ended in June 2012, the implementation of Gacaca decisions and remaining needs for justice pose a potential trigger for conflict in Rwanda.1 The study identifies key areas for research and proposes ways to better understand the connection of these important themes of reintegration, reconciliation and justice.