Genocide: Rwandans struggle with trauma twenty five years on

According to CNLG, some people who committed Genocide, especially those who are remorseful, are also struggling with trauma because they are being weighed.

Twenty five years since the 1994 genocide against Tutsis, Rwandan citizens continue to struggle with trauma with the latest report by the National Commission for the Fight against Genocide showing that the issue is not exclusive to survivors alone.

The Executive Secretary of CNLG, Jean-Damascene Bizimana, told The New Times in an exclusive interview that a study conducted by his institution and the Ministry of Health in December last year indicates that all Rwandans have a level of trauma but those who survived the genocide are suffering more.

“The survivors have obvious reasons why they are traumatised. They were hunted down, their families were killed, they have to live with both physical and emotional pain so it is understandable that during the commemoration period, trauma cases shoot up,” he said.

Bizimana said that some people who committed genocide, especially those who are remorseful, are also struggling with trauma because they are being weighed

“There are those who served their sentences and are genuinely remorseful because they have to live with the knowledge of their actions and it has caused them trauma.  Their children also face trauma because they have to deal with the fact that one or both their parents is in jail for committing such heinous crimes,” he said. 

Other causes

Bizimana said that poverty, especially among survivors, has also been known to increase the risk of trauma, adding that CNLG was working with other organisations to find sustainable solutions.

“We strive to bring survivors together in cooperatives where they can have income generating activities but also find solace in discussing their issues with people with the same background because loneliness can also cause trauma,” he said.

To achieve this, CNLG is working with Ibuka this year to conduct a survey to find out how much of the vast pieces of land owned by genocide survivors can be used productively so that they can benefit the owners.

Other surveys

Last week, while presenting findings from the Rwanda Mental Health survey conducted from 2017 to December 2018, the Director of the Psychiatric Care Unit at the Rwanda Biomedical Centre, Dr Jean Damascene Iyamuremye said that depression prevalence is at 11.9 per cent in general population and 35.6 per cent among genocide survivors.

This means that one out of three genocide survivors faces trauma. 

The survey, which saw 20,000 respondents interviewed across the country was conducted by the joint team of researchers from Rwanda Biomedical Centre, University of Rwanda, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Local Government and other partners. Some 1,200 of the respondents were genocide survivors

Prevalence of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) stands at 3.6 per cent within the general population and 27.9 percent among genocide survivors.

Dr Iyamuremye called for funds to be injected in this area to support treatment.

“Mental health is still underfunded yet we need to coordinate activities of treatment and prevention, fighting stigma against victims and we need to raise awareness regarding access to treatment,” he said.

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