As the country pauses to remember over a million of its citizens killed during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, we also take time to reflect on how far we have come as a nation and the post-Genocide challenges that we still need to collectively address.
One of these challenges is intergenerational trauma related to the Genocide.
Experts say that intergenerational trauma was always inevitable considering the scale of physiological and psychological effects of the Genocide.
Research has shown that even the youth who were born after the Genocide have shown signs of intergenerational trauma especially after finding out, on their own what their loved ones experienced 24 years ago.
Survivors live in the same places where their loved ones were killed, and near the mass graves where they themselves had been dumped and left for dead.
And, in many cases perpetrators remain their neighbours too. A good number of them have since completed their sentences and are back in their communities.
For most survivors, it’s traumatic.
Thankfully, while some released former convicts may still be unrepentant, a good number of them have gradually been opening up, showing remorse and apologising to survivors.
This is critical in the healing process and it’s our hope that more perpetrators will continue to be courageous enough to come forward, show remorse for their egregious crimes, and genuinely seek to begin a new chapter with the survivors.
This would allow for more survivors to come to terms with this difficult past and gradually open up to their children and grandchildren about the atrocities.
As a society we have a duty to continue comforting and accompanying Genocide survivors on the road to healing. It’s not simple, after all we are talking of a genocide that claimed a million of our people, a genocide where people killed their neighbours, during which pregnant women’s wombs were split open, and women were gang-raped in the presence of their children.
Yet there is no short cut to healing.
We must confront our past with the same resilience and courage that have characterised this country over the last 24 years. We must continue to stand together as we deal with trauma and intergenerational trauma related to the Genocide against the Tutsi.
The Ministry of Health, in particular, needs to prioritise this issue to ensure that we do not bequeath to the next generation a problem that we could have addressed, or at least whose adverse effects we could have lessened.