Ten Rwandan researchers working under the tutelage Aegis Trust’s Research, Policy and Higher Education (RPHE) programme, have come up with research findings on post-Genocide challenges in Rwanda.
They presented their preliminary findings during a one-day conference themed, “Rwandans Researching Rwanda: Social Science Perspectives on Post-Genocide Challenges,” in Kigali on Wednesday.
The findings highlighted the impact of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi and associated social challenges in society.
The ten presentations highlighted the main findings of the researchers’ projects and allowed them to gather final feedback before they submit their work to peer-reviewed journals.
“Some children have gone an extra mile of changing their family names, to distance themselves from the dark past of their parents,” said Theoneste Rutayisire of University of Amsterdam.
It is the first time local researchers come together in a big number to conduct such studies.
Dr Richard M. Benda, whose study is titled “Youth Connekt Dialogue (YCD: Unwanted Legacies, Responsibility and Nation-building in Rwanda” said dialogue had acted at an identity-based and reconstruction-oriented public event, which seeks to bring a new paradigm for truth and reconciliation that shifts the focus from reaction to change.
Based on his findings—after attending a series of youth events that took place in fifteen of Rwanda’s thirty districts between May-June 2013—Benda says that Youth Connekt Dialogue has had a significant impact on the Nd’ Umunyarwanda concept as a crucial transitional point which acted both as a testing forum and a validation process.
The research papers included, among others; ‘Living under the shadow of guilt and shame: A qualitative study of the tainted lives of descendants of génocidaires in Rwanda’ by Theoneste Rutayisire (University of Amsterdam) and Annemiek Richters (Leiden University), and ‘Youth Connekt Dialogues: unwanted legacies, responsibility and nation building’ by Richard Benda, from Luther King House, Manchester.
Other papers were; ‘Rwandans Negotiating Shared Identities after Genocide: The case of Orchestre Impala’ by Rafiki Ubaldo, a journalist and photographer and Helen Hintjens (University of Erasmus Rotterdam), and “Am I Twa or HMP?” Examining the “Historically Marginalised Peoples” Label and its Acculturative Effects on the Twa of Rwanda’ by Richard Ntakirutimana from African Initiative for Mankind Progress Organisation) and Bennett Collins (University of St. Andrew’s).
Alice Karekezi, an author and lecturer at the Centre for Conflict Management, University of Rwanda, told The New Times that “It is one thing to live in a place and know everything about it, but it is also another to know the details of the realities on the ground. These research findings give a local perspective of issues on the ground, and these studies will definitely help policy makers and legislators implement policies that are fact-based”.
Freddy Mutanguha, Aegis Trust’s Regional Director, said the researchers, who over the last 18 months have taken part in the RPHE programme, showcase the fact that the country has competent researchers who can bring to bear competent and reliable information that can influence domestic policymaking.
“Most of the research carried out after the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, were done by non-Rwandans. We thought, as Aegis Trust, that if we empower our local researchers—who have personally experienced the Genocide—their voices could be heard more than anyone else’s,” said Mutanguha.
This was the first group of authors to work with Aegis Trust, and the organisation aims at having at least 170 researchers in subsequent openings. A second group is currently working on a different set of projects, with findings expected to be released at a similar conference in 2017.
The research programme was funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID), with each researcher getting a minimal grant of about Rwf2.5 million.
Jean Pierre Dusingizemungu, the president of Ibuka, the umbrella organisation of Genocide survivors’ associations, said: “This is a good step forward, especially the study that talks about lives of descendants of Genocide perpetrators - who seek to rebuild their lives. This is an indication that we are heading in the right direction of healing on both the survivors’ side as well as those associated with the Genocide.
“However, in such research papers, we need to understand what the descendants of Genocide perpetrators are doing alongside the survivors as we seek to foster sustainable peace-building processes.”
MP Edouard Bamporiki, welcomed the new initiative, urging that such research findings could be vital in policy formulation.
‘‘Their conclusion is important, even if some findings may challenge us as government, and lawmakers, but they help us in making policies that are evidence-based,” Bamporiki noted.