A two-year comparative research seeking to reinforce memorial culture in Rwanda, Germany, South Africa and Uganda has been launched.
This was announced at a workshop bringing together researchers, professors from academia, civil society, and public institutions concerned with post-conflict management in Kigali this week.
The seminar was organised by Institute of Research and Dialogue for Peace (IRDP).
The researchers said, without a sound memorial culture, reconstruction after genocide could be forgotten and lead to destruction again.
The project is funded by the German Academic Exchange Service, which is a support organisation in the field of international academic co-operation.
Dr Eric Ndushabandi, the director of IRDP, said the comparative research aims at transforming usual commemoration into memorial culture while fostering community healing in post-genocide and conflict societies as well as identifying potential threats to memorial culture such as denial.
“Researchers are offering comparative perspective with three opportunities, to help understand experiences in this memorialisation process. It helps to understand other context but having a right understanding of each country’s own context. We can take some lessons from this comparative perspective, understand challenges of others to understand your own challenges by looking at what happened in both societies,” he said.
Rwanda and Germany share a history of genocide and Ndushabandi noted that two variables are being looked at from both countries.
“One variable is how time is influencing memorialisation process and the second variable is identity question, how both are transforming memorial culture. It means looking at how society is being reconstructed, healed and reconciliated after a dramatic event such as genocide,” he said.
The preliminary framework for comparative research presented by Professor Rainer Schmidt shows specificity of Rwanda and that of Germany in terms of genocide.
The paper, for example, compares the two genocides and shows that there happened deportation and denial in Germany after the Holocaust.
Prof. Rainer Schmidt showed that a new generation in Germany emerged to demand revolution and reveal the truth of what happened in Germany.
On the contrary, the comparative researchers said, specificity in Rwanda is observed on how the Genocide was dramatic by using all materials, neighbourhood genocide or genocide of proximity.
But after, following reconciliation, the perpetrators live together with survivors, trusting one another to rebuild the nation.
“As researchers, we understand that the memorialisation process requires commitment for building memorial culture by how governments operate after genocide,” said Ndushabandi.
Dr Venuste Karambizi, a participant, said there is need for more civil society and private sector participation in commemoration process.
Florida Tuyisenge, a representative from National Unity and Reconciliation Commission, highlighted the role of the new generation in building society through keeping the memory alive. She said denial must be uprooted through civic and political education.
It is expected that after comparative research in four countries, a publication will be issued so as to help guide policy-makers.