Members of the United States Peace Corps yesterday paid respects to victims of the 1994 Genocide against Tutsis by visiting the Gisozi Genocide Memorial Centre. They expressed their will to work closely to support Genocide survivors.
In an interview with The New Times after touring the memorial centre, the Associate Peace Corps Director, Handley Biba said: “before coming to Rwanda, the whole group had done extensive research about Rwanda but still we are too much shocked with what we have seen and heard.”
The Peace Corps is an organisation founded by former US President John F. Kennedy whose inspiration was for US citizens to serve their country in the cause of peace by living and working in developing countries.
The organisation which was functional in the country before the Genocide has not been operating here since after the 1994 Genocide, only returning to the country this year.
They had an active programme in Rwanda between 1974 and 1994 where a total of 114 people served as Peace Corp Volunteers.
“Part of our mission in Rwanda will be health and community development and it is in this framework that we will work closely with the Genocide survivors”, Biba added.
Currently, the Peace Corps have close to 8,000 volunteers working in different countries across the world and ever since the non-profit making organisation was established in 1961, more than 190,000 Americans have worked in 139 countries across the globe.
According to Biba, before members of the body came to Rwanda, they had left over 60 new applications of volunteers who wished to come and work in Rwanda.
Asked why it took them so long to return to Rwanda, Biba said that they were still waiting for an invitation from the Government of Rwanda.
“In our new mission we are going to undergo an induction programme in which we will be taught basics of the Rwandan culture, language and basic technical training,” Biba stressed.
Peace Corps is partly funded by the President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (PEPFAR) which was initiated by the immediate former US President George Bush.
Asked if the new US President Barack Obama would still take on the initiative, Biba said that Obama has expressed support for PEPFAR.