Two decades after the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, Rwanda has made substantial progress in the social, economic and political realms. The country has developed a viable multiparty system, while the determined efforts of numerous state and civil society initiatives have gradually led the country towards peaceful coexistence between individuals and diverse groups. Despite these impressive gains, however, several challenges to sustainable peace remain, most of them stemming from both before and after the Genocide.
Interpeace and Never Again Rwanda (NAR), a Rwandan peacebuilding and human rights organization, are currently implementing a joint programme entitled the Societal Healing and Participatory Governance for Sustainable Peace in Rwanda. The programme aims to contribute to the consolidation of a peaceful and inclusive Rwandan society, that is, a society that is able to peacefully manage conflicts, embrace diversity, and enact policies that are responsive to citizen priorities. The programme will empower citizens to use new and existing ways to communicate with decision-makers at local, district and national levels.
The societal healing and reconciliation aspect of the programme facilitates dialogue spaces in which community members can openly discuss sensitive topics, identify solutions and reach consensus on priorities for peace. The dialogue gives community members of diverse backgrounds an opportunity to regularly convene. The programme places a specific emphasis on the youth, reaching out to them through activities that promote dialogue; learning and critical thinking; collaborative reflection; and expression through arts, sports, media and other forms of public outreach.
The participatory governance aspect of the programme helps citizen groups to bring their priorities to the attention of policy- and decision-makers at the local, district and national levels. This makes it possible for decision-makers to consider citizen voices and priorities at critical stages of policy, public programme development and assessment. Interpeace and Never Again Rwanda also work with constructive media, mostly through the use of community radio programmes. This helps facilitate communication between citizens and local decision-makers and serves as a bridge between these groups through objective reporting and dedicated space for dialogue.
The programme has adopted the “Outcome Mapping” approach which focuses on the transformation of actors and partners in terms of changing their attitudes or behaviour.
As the theme of social cohesion is still a pivotal issue within Rwandan society, providing spaces of dialogue is a core element of the programme. Participatory Action Research (PAR) is a key approach in the Societal Healing and Participatory Governance for Sustainable Peace programme, since it allows participants to be engaged as the drivers of the peacebuilding process, rather than merely as partners. The recommendations provided through this approach shall be channeled for further use in engagements with the national authorities and civil society organizations.