Rwanda: Involving the diaspora in the dialogue process
October 14, 2013
A team from Interpeace’s partner in Rwanda, the Institute or Research and Development for Peace (IRDP), recently travelled to Belgium and Switzerland to engage the Rwandan diaspora in a constructive dialogue process for peace. The aim of IRDP’s mission to Europe was to replicate the successful platforms for dialogue it has set up throughout Rwanda with members of the sizeable Rwandan population abroad, whose involvement is indispensable in order to achieve lasting and inclusive peace. Meetings were also organized for the presentation and discussion of the research on “Pillars and challenges to peace 17 years after the Genocide as viewed by Rwandans”, as well as of other ongoing research.
A key segment of the population
Nearly two decades after the Genocide of the Tutsi, the Rwandan society has made impressive progress in repairing the social tissue but some challenges still remain. This is particularly the case among the diaspora, a population so important it is sometimes considered to be the country’s ‘sixth province,’ the majority of which fled Rwanda due to the Genocide or its aftermath. Rebuilding trust among members of this relatively fragmented group as well as towards their fellow citizens in Rwanda is an essential part of the peace process.
Ideas to improve governance
The consultations with members of the diaspora enabled the team to gather valuable input on several key areas of Rwandan politics pertaining to peace. “Participants were very happy to see that open debates are taking place in Rwanda on matters of governance,” shared Prof. Pierre Rwanyindo, Director of IRDP. Most people agreed that the decentralization process is a positive development for the country. However, the need to improve interactions between the citizens and authorities was highlighted by several participants.
Ideas put forward to address this issue included providing better information to the population about state institutions and opening more channels for consultation and dialogue between the population and the authorities. Some participants also underlined the fact that most political parties and civil society organizations are not assuming their important responsibility as educators and ideological leaders enough.
Setting up permanent dialogue clubs
There was however no clear consensus on how the issue of ethnicity should be handled by the state. For some participants, it should be widely and openly discussed and recognized as a part of society rather than denied. But for others, the state should be responsible for curtailing the prominence of the issue. For others still, economic development is the main priority for Rwanda, and the question of ethnicity would automatically lose its relevance once the population’s economic situation has improved.
The aim of IRDP’s project with the Rwandan diaspora is to set up permanent dialogue forums abroad that will hold meetings on a regular basis. These meetings will be facilitated by a team specially selected for their contacts in the different communities that make up the diaspora and for their capacity to mobilize. The involvement of the diaspora is hoped to be one of the final major building blocks in the Rwandan reconciliation process.