This blog was originally published by Thomson Reuters Foundation. In rural Rwanda, as in most developing countries, owning and controlling land determines whether you are rich or poor. In a country where some 57% of the population live below the poverty line, land is a prime resource. Having right to own land not only allows you to feed your family, but to be able to secure your wellbeing and have a place in society. While secure land rights may not be a silver bullet for eradicating poverty, they do lay the foundation for access to education, healthcare, sanitation, microfinance and more.
In Rwanda we support the peaceful reintegration and reconciliation of genocide survivors, perpetrators and ex-combatants.
We bring together the groups most affected by the 1994 genocide and its consequences: survivors, ex-prisoners, ex-combatants and young people, to build trust and understanding between them. Dialogue clubs, trauma counselling and micro-finance schemes enable them to identify common ground for cooperation and coexistence, and to learn how to resolve conflicts peacefully. We also promote spaces for dialogue between citizens and authorities on land reform and rural development, to ensure this leads to equitable growth and a reduction in the risk of conflicts.
Our work is important because resilience at both the individual and societal level is crucial to building sustainable peace in Rwanda.
We have been working in Rwanda since 1996.
Rwanda has come a long way since the 1994 genocide. More than three million refugees have returned to the country, sixty thousand combatants have been demobilised and thousands of former genocide prisoners have returned to their communities. Internal security has improved, infrastructure has been rebuilt, the economy is improving and more women are taking part in political and economic life.
However, the country still faces a number of risks and challenges to peace. Economic development and land usage reform are taking place against a backdrop of unresolved trauma. Below the surface, communities across the country are still deeply divided and fragmented as a result of their experiences during and since the genocide. Without greater healing and reconciliation, there is a real danger that these tensions between communities could spiral into violence again in the future.
Rwanda also faces external instability in neighbouring eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), which since 2012 has witnessed an escalation of violence by the M23 rebel group. This has led to tense relations between the two countries, especially after a UN report accused Rwanda of helping to destabilise eastern DRC – an accusation which Rwanda strongly denies.
The government and the people of Rwanda have made remarkable progress in re-establishing normality after the chaos and trauma of the genocide, with the support of the international community. It is important to continue to consolidate this progress and to ensure that peace is lasting and sustainable in the country.