Civil Peace Service: Inclusive dialogue, psychosocial support and conflict transformation in Rwanda and the Great Lakes Region
Title: Civil Peace Service (CPS) programme: Building peace in Rwanda and the Great Lakes region by empowering people to live together in constructive harmony
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Overall term: 2001 to 2018
Some 20 years after the Genocide against the Tutsi, Rwanda is still marked by that violent experience. The experience of trauma is a defining social topic and poses a challenge for Rwandan society and the Great Lakes region.How to deal with that violent experience is a question of relevance not only for those who were directly affected, but also for the following generations. The traumatisation is passed on from one generation to the next, and is also related to domestic violence and sexual violence today. The country’s young people, who comprise half of Rwanda’s population, are often trapped between the official political narrative of the past, their own perceptions and those of their parents.
The various actors in Rwandan society overcome the dividing factors – also in their regional dimension – and create and shape a communal life which respects and values the opportunities for personal development of each person.
Since 2001 the Civil Peace Service (CPS) has been supporting civil society organisations in Rwanda and neighbouring regions in their efforts to secure peace and reconciliation. The partner organisations are Ejo Youth Echo (youth media organisation), Never Again Rwanda (human rights and youth organisation), AEGIS Trust (preventing crimes against humanity), Vision Jeunesse Nouvelle (supporting young people), Eglise Evangélique des Amis au Rwanda (church-led peace work), the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Iriba Center for Multimedia Heritage (using the media to promote critical dialogue on Rwanda’s history) and ARCT Ruhuka (association of trauma counsellors).CPS experts provide advice and support, while strengthening existing potentials; they accompany processes and build the partners’ capacities to recognise conflicts at an early stage, to resolve conflicts peacefully and to promote comprehensive social inclusion. CPS carries out cross-border activities in the Great Lakes region in close collaboration with AGEH – the Association for Development Cooperation – and as part of a network with other international actors. These activities address the following areas:
- Psychosocial support for refugees and other vulnerable groups.
- Dealing with the past. CPS identifies and strengthens peace building approaches, and it connects various elements to support reconciliation efforts in the country.
- Dialogue. Given spaces for dialogue and cultural projects, different actors in Rwandan society, especially the youth, develop and present their own views and opinions with respect to constructive conflict resolution and a tolerant and inclusive society in Rwanda and the wider region. The project supports this change of perspective and the dismantling of negative stereotypes, at village level as well as regionally.
- Journalism for peace. Young people produce radio programmes and in so doing practise conflict-sensitive journalism. Based on dialogue and inclusion, these programmes are also broadcast by Voice of America, reaching around 700,000 listeners across the region. Broadcasts produced jointly with youth projects in Burundi and northern Congo transcend borders and promote understanding. Media clubs in schools promote the benefits of shared experiences.
- Conflict transformation. CPS experts are supporting the partner organisations as they shift their focus toward violence-free means of dealing with old and new conflicts.
- Adapted mechanisms of psychosocial support and prevention have allowed the consequences of traumatisation to be addressed in villages and refugee camps. This opens up prospects of a comprehensive way of life and of social participation for affected individuals.
- An integrated culture of commemoration and dealing with the past has been introduced, which considers not only the victims of the genocide but also the consequences for perpetrators and the perpetrators’ group. This helps prevent new violence.
- Social inclusion and pluralism of opinions have become integral parts of daily life within the region. The people are equipped with a repertoire of non-violent behaviour.
- Spaces for exchange and dialogue have been established, for example through participatory radio shows for the youth, reciprocal project visits and dialogue groups involving perpetrators and victims in villages. These enable the polarised groups to change their perspective; they get to know each other, discover things they have in common and thus overcome hostile prejudices.
- Through the conflict-sensitive media work, discussion rounds and public speaking competitions, young people have begun to develop independent thinking. They are able to reflect on their own and others’ perspectives. They can now recognise possible instances of instrumentalisation and calls to violence, and reflect on them critically.
- Conflicts at the local level and among young people are increasingly being solved without violence and using the existing social resources.