Embassy of Sweden in Kigali
added 5 photos.
at Mar 11, 2014 1:52:35 PM
Sweden is supporting the Rwanda Peace Education Programme (RPEP) since July 2013 and last week, Aegis Trust and their partners Institute for Research and Dialogue for Peace (IRDP), La Benevolencija and Shoa Foundation finalized the second community visit in which 3,986 people participated.
The Swedish Embassy visited the last day in Nyanza and got the opportunity to listen and discuss with Ms. Rose, a genocide survivor and Mr. Dominique, a former genocide perpetrator. In a room where Rose and Dominique sat with a RPEP facilitator, in front of 40 curiously listening students hanged a note that read ‘Kora ndebe biruta vuga numve’ freely translated as ‘actions are better than words’. The seemingly frank testimonies that focused on the experiences (as guided by the facilitator) of how both Rose and Dominique were able to move from extreme grief, anger, hate and despair following the Genocide to more positive change, advocacy, living by example. Rose explains that there was a time she did not tolerate to see a Hutu in front of her. She remembers how one genocide convict freed by presidential pardon had no remorse to say that ‘Umwana w’inkoko ntaturana n’uw’agaca’ (‘a chicken can’t leave with an eagle)’. Rose also tells us how she harbored grief without someone to tell, not even ‘penitence to otherwise trusted catholic priests because they were simply Hutus’. On a more positive note, Rose ends her testimony saying; ‘now we are no longer enemies like chic and kite and mediators but we are partners in conflict resolution, peace and security’.
Students’ questions and comments during the testimonies ranged from innocent and curious questions to more sensitive ones. Answering some of the questions, Dominique said that he teaches his children only good things unlike his father who taught him hatred. Dominique regrets that some of his friends still harbor genocide ideology but he hopes this would finally change.
Following the testimonies, students visited a guided tour of the exhibition showing Rwanda’s horrible journey to Genocide and hope through reconciliation stories on bill boards. Right at the beginning of the board is written that:
“This exhibition is about the current stories taking place at our home, in Rwanda; those stories are about people striving to build peace in their community. However, there are still sad stories that need to be told; these stories help in the understanding of the current situation. Current stories are closely linked with those from the past. Stories that will be told in the future are in our hands.”
In an Interview with one of the students during the tour; Mr. Gad, 16 years in senior two told the Embassy that he learned that forgiveness and reconciliation is possible.
The visit was rounded off with the closing ceremony including performances with drama, dancing, songs and poems. Lessons learnt were shared by teachers and participants. Students expressed the need to reach out to their parents. Teachers also appreciated the participatory training and promised to play their key role in peace building. One participant said:
‘Teachers are not only opinion leaders but also those whose actions are emulated.’
Mr. Aimable, the representative of partner organizations thanked Sweden for its funding. He was impressed that participants could openly discuss ethnicity and encouraged partners not to be passive but preach and practice peace.
In her closing remarks, Ms. Malin Eriksson, the programme coordinator at the Swedish Embassy said that:
‘Based on knowledge and information sharing we will better understand each other and when we can understand we can also make reconciliation possible. It is not easy, it is a process that takes time and requires a lot of courage, as we saw this morning during the testimonies between a survivor and a former perpetrator, but it is possible. The creative and inspiring people here in Nyanza have shown us today that reconciliation is absolutely possible. ‘
The event was officially closed Mr. John KAYIJUKA, the Executive Secretary of Nyanza district, who was the guest of honor. He thanked Sweden for supporting the programme and pushed on the importance of reconciliation and sustainable peace and security.