Gacaca courts played a major role in reducing Post-traumatic stress disorder, and depression and therefore triggered greater openness to reconciliation as well as ensuring less risk perception of genocide recurrence among Rwandans, research findings have indicated.
The study was started in 2014 by Dr Serge Caparos, Prof Isabelle Blanchette, Prof Eugène Rutembesa and Prof Emmanuel Habimana.
According to Prof Blanchette, participation in Gacaca had a positive impact on mental health and attitudes towards reconciliation.
She explained that the project asked 600 respondents composed of both Genocide survivors and non-survivors who were 10 years old when the Genocide happened.
“We assessed the impact of respondents’ trauma and depression due to the severity of experiences during the Genocide and participation in Gacaca courts on unity and reconciliation,” she explained.
Prof Rutembesa said the first results showed that prevalence of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is at 21 per cent of all respondents who experienced the Genocide against the Tutsi while those with depression stood at 25 per cent.
“We realised that it may not be easy for those with high percentage of trauma and depression to embrace reconciliation while it is easy for those with low percentage of depression to reconcile with others,” he said.
Talking about Gacaca courts impacted on the mental health and reconciliation, he said, adding that people who participated in Gacaca courts are the ones who easily reconcile with others while it is difficult for those who did not.
The study recommends investing in mental health services and conducting more research on the psychological health of the entire population.
Dr Jean-Damascene Gasanabo, the Director General of the National Research and Documentation Centre on Genocide at CNLG, said the research results were important since they reveal the impact of Gacaca courts on social and mental health among Rwandans.
“Researchers focused on both Genocide survivors and non survivors. We as CNLG (National Commission for the Fight Against Genocide), are about to focus on research on trauma only among survivors,” he said.
The research findings were made public on Wednesday in Kigali. Gacaca tried up to 1.9 million cases.