By Minnie Karanja
The National Commission for the Fight against Genocide (CNLG) was established in 2007 as a National, independent and permanent public institution. It has a legal status and administrative and financial autonomy. The Commission collaborates with public and private institutions in efforts of fighting against genocide and genocide ideology in Rwanda.
The core mission of CNLG is to prevent and fight against genocide, its ideology and overcoming its consequences.
For the past 100 days, from 7 April to 3 July, Rwandans have been in a commemoration period; remembering those who lost their lives in the 1994 genocide against the Tutsis and showing support to the genocide survivors. Walks to remember, public talks with testimonies of survivors and vigils throughout the country are some of the activities that took place within the 100 days.
Today on Liberation Day, Rwandans and friends of Rwanda the world over remember the triumphant day when the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) put an end to the cycle of genocidal massacres from 1959.
As Rwandans look on to the future, CNLG is at the forefront of preventing genocide – ensuring that Rwanda’s dark past never repeats itself.
GENOCIDE SURVIVORS ADVOCACY UNIT
Genocide survivors are among the vulnerable people in the society as many lack the resources to meet basic needs for their families and face unique challenges resulting from the horrors they endured during genocide.
The advocacy and genocide survivors unit is involved in advocacy efforts for genocide survivors in education, shelter, justice, health and identity.
CNLG has been advocating for genocide survivors to receive scholarships for higher learning since 2008. Survivors – including those orphaned as a result of the genocide- are assisted to access higher education through scholarships. CNLG mobilizes public and private institutions and organizations as well as local and international Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) to offer scholarships to genocide survivors as part of their social responsibility. The scholarships are given to those who fail to receive government scholarships or financial support from Genocide Survivors Assistance Fund (FARG).
In collaboration with the government, CNLG advocates for homeless survivors to get shelter. Advocacy especially during the genocide commemoration period has resulted in many public and private institutions and organizations constructing houses for genocide survivors including orphans and incike (old women whose relatives were wiped out during the genocide)
The one dollar project campaign by Rwandan Diaspora Community provides shelter to hundreds of homeless youth. CNLG was involved in identification process of vulnerable youth survivors who would be housed in the one dollar campaign complex that is located in Kinyinya, Gasabo District.
CNLG is involved in various justice-related interventions for genocide survivors.
After the genocide, many people discovered that their property had been stolen. CNLG intervenes in assisting genocide survivors to recover stolen property for cases that have been ruled by the Gacaca courts.
During the annual Legal aid week, CNLG conducts awareness campaigns throughout the country. Legal aid week is organized by the Ministry of Justice in collaboration with other Justice sector Institutions, Development partners and Civil Society Organizations. During the legal aid week, vulnerable people including genocide survivors, receive free legal representation in courts.
Through a Memorandum of Understanding between CNLG and Kigali Bar Association, vulnerable genocide survivors are given free legal representation in courts for other cases they are involved in
Health and trauma counseling
22 years after the genocide, many genocide survivors are still suffering from psychological trauma caused by the events of the genocide. CNLG assists survivors to obtain documentation necessary for them to obtain healthcare services.
In special cases where survivors need immediate psychological attention, CNLG intervenes by transferring them to Ndera hospital where they receive medical care. FARG covers the cost of treatment for the patients.
CNLG has 2 professional clinical psychologists who give assistance to patients who need immediate assistance but whose cases are not critical to be forwarded to Ndera Hospital.
Over the years, the number of people who have been approaching CNLG for assistance to identify their parents and relative have been on the rise. Many people who were young when the genocide occurred and had to grow up in children orphanages after being separated from their immediate families and relatives, are now mature and at the point of discovering their identity. They believe having the connection will give them their identity. They desire to know their parents and relatives and connect with them.
There are also special cases where parents approach CNLG to help them look for their children. Many parents were separated from their children during the genocide and to date some have not been reconciled with their children. They remain in limbo not knowing whether their children are alive or dead.
CNLG also intervenes in conflict resolution between mothers and their children born of rape during the genocide. Rape was used as a weapon of war during the genocide and many women who were raped and conceived decided to keep the pregnancy. The children are many times looked down upon in their communities and mothers suffer psychological torture when they are unable to accept the children. CNLG works in collaboration with Kanyarwanda and Savota NGOs to offer the women psychosocial support to help them cope with the situation.
MEMORY AND PREVENTION OF GENOCIDE
Keeping the memory of the genocide is important for all Rwandans to foster unity and fight against genocide ideology. The unit for memory and prevention of genocide ideology is involved in genocide commemoration, rehabilitation and preservation of genocide memorial sites and sensitization for prevention of genocide and genocide ideology.
Keeping the memory
of the genocide
The unit is responsible for preparing communication materials that are used during discussions in public talks during the annual genocide commemoration week from 7th to 13th April. The public talks take place at Cell, District and National levels.
CNLG is directly in charge of maintenance of 7 genocide memorial sites at the national level including Nyamata, Ntarama, Nyarubuye, Murambi and Bisesero. It also supervises Gisozi and Nyanza genocide memorial sites and provides advise to Districts on preservation of memorial sites at the District level. The unit has a civil engineer in charge of construction and rehabilitation of the memorial sites.
The unit also collaborates with stakeholders in organizing walks to remember during the commemoration period and organize decent burial ceremonies for victims of the genocide.
In genocide prevention, the unit carries out sensitization talks in schools, prisons and reaches out to other specific people including women groups. During the sensitization talks, participants interact with each other and discuss documentaries on genocide and other material distributed by CNLG. They discuss topics on the genocide such as genocide ideology and denial and how to deal with it in the society, the consequences of genocide and the role of commemoration in preventing genocide.
Sensitization talks in prisons gives genocide perpetrators an opportunity to accept their role in the genocide and seek forgiveness from the survivors and helps in identification of location where remains of the genocide victims are buried.
Over the years, more and more public and private institutions and organizations are taking part in commemoration activities. Commemoration the Cell and District level has also seen more people willing to share their testimonies of what happened to them during the genocide.
However, there is need for people to understand the significance and importance of commemoration and their role in social cohesion. A link should be created between commemoration and reconstruction of the society.
Embracing the NdiMunyarwanda philosophy is a response to the problem of genocide ideology among Rwandans. Genocide commemoration leaves no room for divisionism or genocide ideology when it is accepted and done by all people.
Rwanda has applied for the UNESCO world Heritage competition to include Nyamata, Murambi, Kigali and Bisesero Genocide memorial sites as sites of UNESCO world heritage. The unit is currently undertaking research on the four sites which will be submitted to UNESCO in 2018.
RESEARCH AND DOCUMENTATION CENTRE ON GENOCIDE
Created in 2011, the research and documentation centre at CNLG is involved in researching on the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi and preserving evidence of the genocide through documentation.
The centre is also responsible for digitalization of Gacaca Court documents which include 63 million pages and 8,000 CDs of trial recordings.
The centre conducts research in the following genocide related areas:
Although the United Nations Security Council resolution 2150 (2014) recognizes the 1994 genocide against the Tutsis and resolution 955 which established the International Tribunal for the prosecution of those responsible for the genocide, within Rwanda and outside, there are many people who deny the genocide or have the genocide ideology.
Through research, the centre documents evidence that the genocide took place and publishes information about it to the general public.
The consequences of the genocide are plain for all to see: from traumatized people, disabled people, orphans to women living with HIV/AIDS as a result of rape during the genocide. The centre researches on the psychosocial status of the various affected people in the society and shares with the general public. In June 2013, the centre published a report on the psychosocial status of youth survivors.
The centre has identified education as the most effective tool for the prevention of genocide. It has partnered with Ministry of Education and works with the Rwanda Education Board (REB) to share information about its research with students. CNLG through the centre contributed in the development of the new curriculum by including genocide studies. Genocide studies is now taught in all schools from P6 –S6 as a cross cutting subject.
The centre also organizes international and national conferences where participants discourse on various topics about genocide. Every year, an international conference is organized on the 9th of December which is the anniversary of the United Nations Convention for the prevention and punishment of the crime of genocide which was adopted in 1948. Participants of the conference come from different countries including United States of America, Uganda, Kenya and Chad. Following the first international conference in 2012, the centre published a book titled: Confronting Genocide in Rwanda: Dehumanization, Denial, and strategies for prevention.
The centre also organizes for students in schools and universities to form “never again” clubs where they have debates and lectures on genocide prevention, genocide denial and genocide ideology among other topics related to the genocide.
History and Society
As part of addressing the rising issue of genocide ideology within Rwanda and outside, the centre has dedicated itself to educating Rwandans and the world on the history and society of Rwanda in the pre-colonial, colonial and genocide period.
Research into the history of Rwanda focuses on the unity that existed among the Rwandan population and how it was achieved in order to inform reconciliation efforts in Rwanda.
Interdisciplinary and comparative research on genocide
The centre in addition to researching on genocide in Rwanda, also researches on genocide that has taken place in other countries including Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Holocaust.
Research on these other genocides are shared with the general public to not only inform them of the genocides but help them understand that it can happen in any part of the world noting that there are certain themes that are similar to all genocides that have taken place in the past. By identifying the themes such as hate speeches, the population is warned of the consequences of tolerating or encouraging them.
The centre has published two books from 2 major research projects conducted.
Planning and execution of the genocide perpetrated against Tutsi in Gisenyi former- Prefecture
State of genocide ideology in Rwanda: 1994-2015
The centre has also published articles on genocide studies in international journals such as journal of oriental and African studies in Athens, Greece, Journal of education and research, journal of engineering research and technology and Maastricht school of management journal.
The centre also has a library located in the CNLG building which has books on genocide studies.
On Liberation Day this year, CNLG congratulates all Rwandans on the path of unity and reconciliation travelled thus far. Through its various units CNLG is committed to support genocide survivors and engage in all efforts of unity and reconciliation.
CNLG will continue to preserve the memory and evidence of the genocide and fight against genocide ideology within Rwanda and outside through sensitization campaigns on different platforms.