Rebuilding after Rwanda genocide

Posted: February 1, 2011 in Evidence Material
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It’s ten years since the genocide in Rwanda when one million people were massacred. Since then, Irish aid agency Trocaire has been helping Rwandans rebuild their lives.  

Julian Fowler has just returned from Rwanda. In his first report for BBC News Online he hears from those who survived the massacres.  

Therese Mukandori survived the genocide. It would be easy to say she was one of the lucky ones. But many of those who lived have been left to cope alone. 

When Therese returned to her family home, she found a mass grave containing the bodies of her family – a sight that left her traumatised. 

“During the genocide I lost my parents, relatives, husband – I didn’t have any more hope,” she said. 

“After the war I thought how I could live life again in the future. I thought life was useless. I didn’t love anybody. I didn’t want anybody to approach me. 

“I hated each and everybody. I felt like I didn’t have any more future. I didn’t know where my life was going.” 

Two Irish psychologists who visited Rwanda with Trocaire in the aftermath of the killings established a team of local trauma counsellors. They are based in schools and hospitals throughout the country. 

Ariete Mukanyonga provides counselling for survivors like Therese in Ruhengeri in the north of Rwanda. 

A 19-year-old student at the time of the genocide, she is also a survivor and has found that helping others has helped her to cope with her own memories. 

She told me how her uncle was murdered and his body cut up. 

“Sometimes when people tell me their story, I also get affected. Sometimes I have to go for further counselling as well, which means it’s not easy,” she said. 

Through her work, Ariete also meets prisoners who have admitted killing people during the genocide. 

“Problems like poverty are inevitable, but what I know is I have hope my children will grow in a better Rwanda.” 

 

Therese, to tell the truth, she says they must overcome the fear and shame of what they did. 

“The prisoners feel it is the right of the survivors to feel the pain,” she said. 

Ariete feels that as well as helping her and those she talks to, counselling will build peace and reconciliation in Rwanda, allowing people to come to terms with how they and others feel. 

“I like counselling very much because of the way it has helped me. At this moment, I think it is the only way to solve the problems of Rwandan society,” she said. 

Accounts of the well-planned and ruthlessly executed genocide are extremely harrowing. 

But the trauma councillors are helping people like Therese not only to come to terms with the past, but to face the difficulties of life in one of the poorest countries in the world, and even to look to the future with hope. 

Therese said: “I have hope for my future. Problems like poverty are inevitable, but what I know is I have hope my children will grow in a better Rwanda.” 

Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/uk_news/northern_ireland/3521559.stm 

 

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