Following the civil war and genocide in 1994, which left Rwandans physically and psychologically traumatised, community organisations continue to heal the wounds of the past. The Rwanda Mental Health Survey from 2018 revealed high prevalence of mental health disorders countrywide, particularly among the survivors of genocide. For instance, more than 50% of the survivors reported suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and severe anxiety. However, reconciliation between perpetrators and victims, and between different ethnic groups is still in its infancy. Feelings of retribution persist and forgiveness for past atrocities is generally lacking, especially among older generations. The importance of societal healing and reconciliation becomes even more pertinent now, as the country prepares to release over 20,000 prisoners in the next few years amidst the prevailing trauma among survivors.

SeeD's efforts in Rwanda date back to 2018, where we helped Never Again Rwanda (NAR), a Kigali-based organisation, to design, monitor and evaluate its reconciliation intervention. NAR projects focussed on building trust and forgiveness, and was flexible to the needs of each of the groups which participated. For example, the specific content of the project was adapted for youth, survivors of the genocide, couples in mixed marriages, and women who survived sexual abuse. Each of these groups experience specific challenges within their community and thus need their own specific healing journeys supported by tailored interventions. To support this effort, we designed questionnaires to assess the levels of key indicators among the participants before and after the year-long cycle of project activities. These indicators included levels of forgiveness and revenge, civic engagement, and an array of screening tests for PTSD, depression, anxiety and somatic illnesses. The findings were used to guide decisions for allocating resources for psychological and counselling services. The research showed that NAR’s work increased psychological health and decreased vengefulness, and we have used these lessons to inform our work on constructive citizenship.

In October 2020, Interpeace with the technical support of SeeD, and EU funding, have launched a novel and holistic healing programme titled “Reinforcing community capacity for social cohesion through societal trauma healing" in close partnership with the Prison Fellowship Rwanda (PFR) and the National Unity and Reconciliation Commission (NURC).

The programme aims to address the individual and community trauma 26 years after the Genocide Against the Tutsi, while also investing in livelihood initiatives that can enhance economic resilience, and help the country reach its high level strategic goal of becoming a middle income country by 2030. It aims to reinforce social cohesion and sustainable peace through scaling up community-based healing initiatives that address the invisible, yet deeply rooted wounds of Rwandans. Highlighting the intricate relationship between mental health, reconciliation and economic wellbeing, Fidèle Ndayisaba, the Executive Secretary of NURC, noted that“this programme which proposes innovative and holistic approaches that simultaneously promote mental health, social cohesion and support sustainable livelihoods is a new contribution to our reconciliation journey” .

The programme will be piloted in Bugesera District, one of the districts hardest hit by the genocide, with the ambition to scale up to all 30 districts of Rwanda inby 2025. For more information, please click here.