Rwanda

Peace-building in Rwanda goes mobile

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15 May 2013 – From this week, the Aegis Trust’s peace-building education programme in Rwanda will no longer be limited to the Kigali Genocide Memorial; it’s going mobile – starting in Rubavu, Rwanda’s Western Province, where it is being hosted by Vision Jeunesse Nouvelle (VGN), with support from GIZ (the German Society for International Cooperation), 13 May – 3 June.

Profiled by the London Guardian in March, the programme is changing attitudes and behaviour not only among participating students, but also among their peers.

The temporary exhibition providing the framework for the mobile version of the programme was viewed by President Kagame during the national commemoration on 7 April this year at the Kigali Genocide Memorial, where some 250,000 victims of the 1994 genocide lie buried. It tells the stories of Rwandans who as children in 1994 had to make impossible choices.

An example is Grace; aged ten, she was with her family fleeing to the DR Congo when she saw a crying baby clinging to her fatally injured mother by the roadside. The mother implored her to save the baby, but her grandmother ordered her to leave it. Grace took the baby in her arms and said, “If I have to die for this baby, I will.” Naming the baby Vanessa, she carried her to Goma and protected her despite threats from genocidaires. Today, Grace is still a mother to Vanessa, now 19.

“Grace’s actions demonstrate to pupils on the peacebuilding education programme that she had the ability to think for herself and see beyond the language of dehumanisation and hatred,” says Jean Baptiste Habyarimana, Executive Secretary of the National Unity and Reconciliation Commission. “She recognised in that baby another human being like herself, in need, and she acted on it. Stories like these hold vital lessons for participating students, and that’s why we’re thrilled to be working with Aegis to bring the programme to Rubavu on its very first stop outside Kigali.”

Habyarimana was joined at Monday’s opening of the exhibition in Rubavu by fellow dignitaries Mitali Protais, Minister of Culture; Celestin Kabahizi, Governor of the Western Province, and the Mayor of Rubavu District, Hassan Bahame.

In the past four years, Aegis’ peace-building education has reached over 11,000 children at the Kigali Genocide Memorial, bringing together children of survivors and perpetrators and developing the kind of thinking that should ensure genocide is never repeated again. However, 11,000 represents less than 1% of Rwanda’s young people. It is a huge need, but also a major opportunity.

“Enabling students across Rwanda to have this learning opportunity is vital for the future of our country,” says Freddy Mutanguha, Country Director for Aegis in Rwanda. “Applying lessons from the past to prevent division and violence in the future is perhaps the most important way in which to honour the memory of the communities and loved ones we so tragically lost.”

“Peace-building education inspires young people to promote unity in their schools and communities,” says Dr James Smith, Chief Executive of the Aegis Trust. “In time, we hope the experience of peace education here will offer a model from which other countries too can benefit.”

The peace-building education programme was developed by Aegis in partnership with Rwanda’s Ministry of Education and supported by VSO, the UK’s Department for International Development and the Canadian International Development Agency. A new national programme has been developed with a number of national and international partners - USC Shoah Foundation and Cummings Foundation among them - supported by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency.