The 1994 genocide in Rwanda left us with a lot to do including handling trauma and the traumatized. We must do everything to assist those in our society who were devastated by this terrible event.
While it is true that all age groups were negatively affected by this disaster, special attention however, must be given to children who unfortunately witnessed the genocide as it caused them a lot of irreparable damages.
The children are the most vulnerable group in any society and ironically, they are the future hopes of our country. The children who survived genocide were either physically handicapped or psychologically traumatized. Trauma is a condition that has always existed. However, trauma that resulted from genocide in Rwanda is of unimaginable magnitude in the lives of the young victims. Trauma is not a disease. It is an individual’s normal reaction to an abnormal situation such as genocide, war, or some other man made or natural disaster such as floods, earthquakes and landslides.
Some of these occurrences that were so traumatizing to the children include; the wiping out of family members, hiding among dead bodies, gunshots, rape, being forced to carry dead bodies, or seriously wounded people and viewing people being buried alive. A child who has been involved in such circumstances needs little provocation to quickly remember what happened in many years ago.
It is not hard to recognize a child or a person who has had a serious traumatizing encounter. The victims will manifest sadness, anger, distrust of others and absent mindedness. They tend to live in isolation and avoid anything that is related to death or violence. Nevertheless, there could be other signs and symptoms of trauma and they may differ depending on the age and character of the victim as well as the frequency or duration of the traumatizing occurrence.
Victims usually try to avoid or mentally suppress events they have lived, though it is not easy to erase such occurrences off their minds because there are many things in their environment that serve as constant reminders. If such children or young adults, as the case is in our country, are not helped they become desperate, lose feelings, become hard and everything becomes meaningless to them including their own their lives.
The first step in assisting trauma victims in our society is to understand them. From the outset, we have to show them sincerity and help them overcome the trauma. It is therefore vital that Rwandans get more information and knowledge on what trauma is, its causes and management. Fortunately, all education institutions have trained trauma counselors and the number should be raised.
Victims must be consoled by being sincerely reassured that genocide will never happen again. Such reassurance has to be realistic; they must be told and shown, where possible, what is being done by fellow Rwandans in general, various local NGOs, aid associations and the government itself to reconcile their society. It is important to avail the survivors with basic needs such as shelter, food, medical care and education. Funds meant for their upkeep have to be properly managed. Most importantly, it is incumbent upon all Rwandans, to ensure that they unreservedly unite in the fight against genocide ideology that caused it all.