Civil Peace Service / Special Initiative on displacement: Relationship-building between host communities and refugees, and psychosocial support
Title: Civil Peace Service / Special Initiative on Displacement: Psychosocial support for refugees, improvement of the relationship between local population and refugees, peace education measures
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Overall term: 2014 to 2021
Rwanda has been a destination for refugees, especially from the Democratic Republic of Congo, for several decades now. The current crisis in Burundi has created an unexpected new influx of refugees into the country, doubling their total number. Most of the refugees, almost 60 per cent of whom are under 18, live in one of six camps run by the UN Refugee Agency UNHCR.
The large number of refugees is having a major impact on social development in Rwanda, particularly by increasing conflicts over land and resources. Violent confrontations often occur between young people inside and outside the camps. Although the refugees’ basic needs such as food, primary health care and access to (school) education are being met, they receive inadequate psychological care. Post-traumatic stress disorders make those affected less able to cope and impair their quality of life. The refugees are often viewed with mistrust by locals. Displaced women and girls are a particularly vulnerable group, and are frequently subjected to sexual violence.
Many young male refugees feel frustrated at the lack of economic opportunities open to them. It is not uncommon for this to find expression in acts of aggression.
Young refugees from the camps and youths from nearby villages are able to dismantle their negative stereotypes of each other through constructive dialogue. This promotes a culture of mutual support and empathy and reduces violent confrontations. Over the long term, sustainable measures reduce structural causes of displacement such as social inequality.
Psychosocial support boosts the mental health and resilience of women and girls who have suffered traumatic violence.
The project is part of the special initiative ‘Tackling the root causes of displacement, reintegrating refugees’ launched by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). It supports refugees and host communities in equal measure.
In cooperation with its partners UNHCR, Vision Jeunesse Nouvelle (VJN), Ejo Youth Echo (EYE), Community-Based Sociotherapy (CBS) and Eglise Evangélique des Amis au Rwanda (EEAR), the Civil Peace Service (CPS) supports violence prevention in and around the Kigeme, Mahama and Mugombwa refugee camps.
Dialogue processes with the parties involved help reveal the other side’s problems and fears and open up possible courses of action. Teams offer young people psychosocial support and trauma work, especially for women and girls.
A radio programme established by the project partners aims to enable local and refugee youths to understand each other’s views and behavioural differences.
At the peace clubs set up in conjunction with the project partners, young people learn to deal with conflict without resorting to violence.
After receiving training in conflict-sensitive journalism, young people in and around the Kigeme and Mugombwa refugee camps have so far produced four editions of the camp newspaper ‘Kigeme Iwacu’, which is distributed in all the surrounding camps.
More than 1,000 young people from the camps and surrounding communities have taken part in peace-related events, such as theatre performances, joint sports activities, cinema screenings and discussion meetings. Young people subsequently launched initiatives to support individuals in need and drug-takers in their age group.
Around 80 young refugees have been granted a one-year scholarship for vocational training. A quarter of them have now completed their training, and ten per cent have already found employment.
Administrative staff, religious authorities, single mothers and people with disabilities have received training in conflict resolution methods. They now act as mediators in conflict situations, draw attention to common conflict issues or train others as multipliers.
Every month, peace dialogues are organised to resolve disputes between refugees and the host communities in a spirit of friendship. A monthly dialogue also takes place between the police, the Rwandan Ministry of Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs (MIDIMAR) and young people susceptible to taking drugs. These meetings build trust, improve cooperation and help deal with drug abuse in the camp.
In addition, nearly 50 service providers in the camps have undergone awareness-raising and training to identify potential for conflict between host communities and refugees and to take preventive action through their work. Relations are now better as a result. Training courses on trauma care and active listening for social workers have improved the provision of psychosocial support.