Rwanda: Govt Moves to Harmonise Community Healing, Social Cohesion Interventions

By Moise M. Bahati

As Rwanda marks 30 years of transformation since the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, which claimed more than one million lives, the government and its partners have launched guidelines for interventions of community healing and social cohesion to promote national unity and resilience.

The guidelines and programmes aim at addressing the wounds caused by the Genocide, promote reconciliation, ensure the successful reintegration of individuals and communities affected by the atrocities, and foster social cohesion, according to the Ministry of National Unity and Civic Engagement (MINUBUMWE).

Launched on Thursday, January 25, the guidelines were developed by MINUBUMWE, and the non-governmental organisations International Alert and Interpeace, and are a result of consultations between government officials, religious leaders as well as representatives of civil society organisations.

Some of the approaches that have proved crucial in healing include Mvura Nkuvure socio-therapy approach, narrative therapy and other inclusive methods that put the people at the centre of interventions.

Although the programmes are mainly focused on addressing the impacts of the Genocide, other societal issues, such as drug addiction, delinquency, teenage pregnancy, have been equally considered, according to officials.

The guidelines are based on three pillars of intervention, namely community healing, social reintegration and social cohesion.

The Executive Director in charge of National Unity and Community Resilience at MINUBUMWE, Julienne Uwacu, said the guidelines will improve the quality of interventions and their impact.

“We have a lot of stakeholders who are engaged in community healing, social cohesion and reintegration interventions, which have a lot in common. Through our engagements with them, we agreed that we need to draw up principles that guide our approaches, programmes and teachings because we all serve Rwandans,” Uwacu said.

She said the guidelines do not recommend one way of doing things but are meant to harmonise the different approaches to community healing, and social cohesion and resilience.

Community healing focuses on the interventions that address challenges that result from traumatic experiences. In the Rwandan context, community healing focuses on specifically addressing the impact of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. One of these is trauma and mental health disorders, which affect all categories of the society, albeit in different degrees.

The civil society and religious leaders said having guidelines is important for the interventions in post-conflict communities.

“Due to the magnitude of the impacts of the Genocide against the Tutsi on the Rwandan society, we understand that healing and recovering from them requires us to sit together and deliberate the best approaches need,” said Father Emmanuel Nsengiyumva, the director of the Centre for Research and Integral Reconciliation of the Catholic Archdiocese of Kigali.

“We thank the government for involving faith leaders in that endeavour and making the community healing and social cohesion a priority. It is necessary for us faith leaders to understand the importance of reintegrating those who committed crimes to different degrees back into the community. If someone committed that crime of genocide is released from prison, the person and the community both should be on the journey of healing and work towards that reintegration,” he said.

Social cohesion is about seeing how the community in general becomes resilient and does not go back to the frustration and anger and conflict that may have arisen in the past, explained Ariane Inkesha, country director of International Alert Rwanda.

“Every organisation that is here was already doing a lot of these interventions that we are talking about but maybe they will find a component that they did not integrate in their approach. For example, we say we need to integrate economic initiatives in these approaches because someone who is hungry does not listen, can even be more prone to commit crimes, or be in conflict,” she said.

Social reintegration focuses on the interventions that target members of the society who have had challenges or disadvantages such as former convicts, those with mental health issues, former delinquents, drug addicts, teen mothers, among others.

The guidelines also recommend that different actors carry out needs assessments in the community before their interventions. Another important aspect of the guidelines is a focus on methods of tracking the progress and impact of the community and personal healing interventions.

They also detail interventions for specific groups such as community, family, schools and workplaces.