Master of Advanced Studies in

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Peace Building in Rwanda - CS EN


The author analyses the post-genocide situation in Rwanda and proposes a profile of an intercultural competent peacebuilding to intervene.


I am neither experienced in post-violent conflict nor am I part of a humanitarian organisation. However, for a long time now, I have been very interested in an organisation called the Humanitarian Dialogue Centre1. I would like to seize the opportunity of this subject to define the type of competencies and skills needed in peace communication as this kind of question could very well arise during an interview for such an organisation. Given my experience in project management, although not in the humanitarian field, I am also well aware of the challenges of stakeholder communication and management and the very often the differing political implications and interests. In addition, I have recently read the trilogy by Jean Hatzfeld2 on Rwanda which, combined with the film3 shown during the MIC module 11, provides me with a post-violent conflict context. The subject of Rwanda and the complexity of the reconciliation and peace-building process 15 years after the genocide has to lead me to reflect on how reconciliation and cohabitation between survivors and perpetrators are even possible after all the bloodshed. This is the challenge many organisations are faced with when operating in countries such as Rwanda. For the purpose of this paper, I have chosen an INGO which is the Danish Institute for Human Rights who are present in Rwanda to help represent the accused and civil parties in genocide cases ensuring both conformity with Rwandan legislation and international human rights norms.


1. Rwanda: the reconciliation process
1.1    History

Disagreements between the majority Hutus and minority Tutsis have always existed but the two ethnic groups are actually very similar as they speak the same language, inhabit the same areas and follow the same traditions. However, the animosity between them grew substantially since the colonial period and, when the Belgian colonists arrived in 1916, they produced identity cards classifying people according to their ethnicity.

The Belgians considered the Tutsis to be superior to the Hutus which enabled the Tutsis to have better jobs and educational opportunities than their Hutu neighbours. Resentment among the Hutus gradually built up and culminated in a series of riots in 1959 where more than 20,000 Tutsis were killed, and much more fled to the neighbouring countries of Burundi, Tanzania and Uganda. When Belgium granted Rwanda independence in 1962, the Hutus took their place and up to the genocide, the Tutsis were the scapegoats for every crisis.

The economic situation worsened and the president at the time, Juvenal Habyarimana, began losing popularity. At the same time, Tutsi refugees in Uganda, supported by some moderate Hutus, were forming the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), led by Mr Kagame. Their aim was to bring down Mr. Habyarimana and secure their right to return to their homeland. Mr. Habyarimana exploited this threat to bring dissident Hutus back to his side, and Tutsis inside Rwanda were accused of being RPF collaborators.

In August 1993, after several attacks and months of negotiation, a peace accord was signed between Mr. Habyarimana and the RPF, but the unrest remained and when Mr. Habyarimana's plane was shot down at the beginning of April 1994 the presidential guard immediately initiated a campaign of reprisal. Leaders of the political opposition were murdered, and almost immediately, the slaughter of Tutsis and moderate Hutus began. Within hours, recruits were dispatched all over the country to carry out a wave of slaughter. Encouraged by the presidential guard and radio propaganda, an unofficial militia group called the Interahamwe (meaning those who attack together) was mobilised. Soldiers and police officers encouraged ordinary citizens to take part and in some cases, Hutu civilians were forced by the military to murder their Tutsi neighbours.

Between April and June 1994, an estimated 800,000 Rwandans were killed in the space of 100 days. Most of the dead were Tutsis - and most of those who perpetrated the violence were Hutus.

The Rwandans were largely left alone by the international community and UN troops withdrew after the murder of 10 soldiers. Finally, in July, when the RPF captured Kigali, the government collapsed and the RPF declared a ceasefire. As soon as it became apparent that the RPF was victorious, an estimated two million Hutus fled to Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo). These refugees include many who have since been implicated in the massacres.


1.2    Post-genocide context

At first, a government was set up, with a Hutu, Pasteur Bizimungu as president and Mr Kagame as his deputy. However, they fell out and Bizimungu was jailed on charges of inciting ethnic violence, while Mr Kagame became president. Although the killing in Rwanda was over, the presence of Hutu militias in DR Congo has led to years of conflict there, causing up to five million deaths.

Rwanda's now Tutsi-led government has twice invaded its much larger neighbour, saying it wants to wipe out the Hutu forces. And a Congolese Tutsi rebel group remains active, refusing to lay down arms, saying otherwise its community would be at risk of genocide.

Fifteen years after the genocide, Rwanda remains a deeply divided society where mistrust and suspicion reign. Tremendous efforts have been made by the government to develop the country and foster reconciliation. The prisons are filled with over 100,000 people accused of participating in the genocide. Judging each one individually would take up to 200 years. To accelerate the process, Rwanda has used a traditional conflict resolution mechanism called "gacaca" or community courts to try those suspected of taking part in the 1994 genocide. Key individuals - particularly those accused of orchestrating the slaughter - appear before an International Criminal Tribunal in northern Tanzania.

Yet, a long-term engagement is still needed to address issues, such as dealing with the past, strengthening the rule of law, and democracy, if Rwanda is to move forward in its socio-economic development and to consolidate peace.


2. The Danish Institute for Human Rights (DIFHR)

“The Danish Institute for Human Rights (DIHR) is an independent, national human rights institution modelled in accordance with the UN Paris Principles…The chief objective of the DIHR is to promote and develop knowledge about human rights on a national, regional and international basis predicated on the belief that human rights are universal, mutually interdependent and interrelated.” (DIFHR web site).

The main objective of the DIHR in Rwanda is to strengthen civil society based legal aid initiatives and coordination in Rwanda. This is done while liaising closely with the Government of Rwanda. A subsidiary aim is to promote the development of a legal aid framework or policy or law in Rwanda encompassing civil society and state initiatives while preserving the richness and diversity of already existing civil society initiatives.

The other main DIHR intervention was aimed at providing legal defence in genocide cases at the ordinary courts, and at building the capacity of the Corps of Judicial Defenders and individual judicial defenders. This project formally ended in February 2006 as the government shifted the ordinary courts to the new jurisdiction of the Gacaca.


3. Stakeholders

Stakeholders refer to “any person, group or organisation that has a direct or indirect stake in an organisation because it can affect or be affected by the organisation's actions, objectives, and policies.” (Online business dictionary). The stakeholders for the DIFHR‟s project in Rwanda are detailed below.

3.1 Stakeholders Web

3.2    Stakeholder details
3.2.1     Genocide Victims

This stakeholder group consists of both genocide victims and vulnerable groups. Victims who fled and hid for weeks to escape the murders and who survived very often lost not only family and friends but land and property. Given their situation, they are also part of the vulnerable groups in the post-genocide period.

Victims, in this case, are all people who during the genocide were injured or lost a member or members of their family. Victims are also moderate Hutus and civilians who were forced under threat to kill.

  • Tutsi survivors in Rwanda (deceased are victims but not considered as stakeholders)
  • Tutsi survivors outside Rwanda (refugees in surrounding countries such as DR Congo)
  • Children and orphans from both sides.
  • Indigent, women who lost husbands either in the genocide or because they are in jail for killing
  • Moderate Hutus who live inside our outside Rwanda


3.2.2     Perpetrators/Accused

Perpetrators are people who killed or that organised the massacres. They can be categorised as follows:

  • Instigators – orchestrated and planned the genocide
  • Interahamwe - militia group
  • Hutu civilians who willingly participated in the killings
  • Hutu civilians who were forced to kill

Also, a differentiation can be made between perpetrators who are in jail waiting to be sentenced and others who are still free or who have been released. Furthermore, as stakeholder impact, a distinction can be made between perpetrators who feel remorse and the ones who don‟t.


3.2.3     Rwandan Population

The new generation born after the genocide and that did not directly experience the slaughters. They are key stakeholders in the peacebuilding process as they will be building the future of their country.


3.2.4     Rwandan Government

This stakeholder group mainly consists of:

  • Ministry of Justice
  • Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  • Mayors
  • Sector Coordinators

Challenge: One of the main challenges is to ensure that the project of the DIFHR is on the agenda of the various Ministries. As an example, the communication between the DIFHR and the Ministry of Justice was almost nonexistent during the revision period of the Rwandan legal system in 2004. They must also ensure that their interests do not conflict with the ones of the government.


3.2.5     Other legal aid providers (civil society actors)

  • The National Bar
  • National University of Rwanda (NUR)
  • Haguruka (Association for the rights of women and children)
  • AJPRODHO (Association created by students of the NUR to promote and protect Human Rights)
  • Avocats sans Frontiers who have completed their genocide justice project working with the Bar and during the project period published 6 compilations of judgments. They are currently still monitoring Gacaca and designing a new „Access to Justice‟ programme with the Bar.
  •  Citizen Network (RCN) are reducing their institutional support to the tribunals and starting to work more with civil society organisations. In 2006 they started a project involving screenings, followed by discussions, of Anne Aighon‟s documentaries about Gacaca.
  • Penal Reform International (PRI) monitor Gacaca and are involved in a project supporting the establishment of an administrative penitential school.
  • Unicef is supporting the establishment of a detention facility for minors.
  • Human Rights Watch, Liprodhor (Ligue Rwandaise pour la Promotion et la défense des droits de l'homme) and Cladho (Collectif des Ligues et Associations de Défense des Doits de l'Homme au Rwanda) are all monitoring Gacaca.

Challenge: The main challenge is that the implementation of the Corps of Judicial Defenders is perceived as a parallel organisation to the National Bar and not be recognised and supported. Also, the DIFHR could be considered as yet another external organisation competing with already existing internal organisations.


3.2.6     Local Institutions, NGOs and GOs

These organisations and institutions are also involved in Rwanda for reasons such as humanitarian, religious, educational, etc. There are over 250 registered in Rwanda and the full list of organisations present in Rwanda can be found under

Some of these institutions are also present under the Stakeholder group called other legal aid providers.

Challenge: The DIFHR can both cooperate with existing organisations in achieving their objective or in getting help for local contacts and networks. However, the main challenge will manage conflicting interests and objectives.


3.2.7     Donors

To carry out its work DIHR requires funding from a variety of national and international donor organisations. Some of the most important Donors include the European Union, the World Bank, the United Nations, regional development banks, national development cooperation agencies. (DIHR website).

Challenge: Reporting project status and issues could not be understood the same way by donors who are external to the country and the situation. Their view is from a western point of view based in the west. Also, the donors are most probably also sponsoring other organisations and initiatives in the country. Project impact and success are essential.


3.2.8     Partners

The partnership concept has always been the cornerstone of DIHR's international program, which aims to capacitate local institutions and NGOs to promote and protect human rights. Partners are defined as institutions with which the DIHR enters into a contractual relationship in order to achieve a strategic goal on a cooperative basis and within a specific time limit. (DIHR website). The DIHR‟s local partners are:

  • National University of Rwanda
  • Legal Aid Forum

Another potentially interesting partner for the DIFHR is the Université Libre de Kigali (ULK) which, besides Kigali, has campuses in Gisenyi and Ruhengeri. This makes it well suited for undertaking training of NGOs and paralegals in the North-west.

  • The Legal Aid Forum

This forum is the main contact and aid vehicle for the DIFHR. It is a slightly separate partner as some Partners and Strategic Alliance members are part of the Forum ie the Bar Association, the Corps of Judicial Defenders and the University‟s legal aid division.


3.2.9     Strategic Alliances

The Institute often applies for grants and tenders in cooperation with other organisations, companies and institutions. Sometimes they enter into a consortium with a large number of other organisations and institutions, sometimes only with one or two. These are their Strategic Alliances. (DIHR website)

  • The Corps of Judicial Defenders
  • Law faculty of National University of Rwanda


4         Intercultural Competencies and Skills

Obviously, the set of competencies and skills required depends on the type of role and responsibility you have in a project. The competencies required for somebody in daily contact with people and government official will not necessarily be the same as for somebody with a more administrative role. However, certain skills are good and important to have even if not used in certain cases.

4.1    Knowledge (hard skills)

Knowledge is any type of information and processing of that information that has been acquired through either education, personal or professional experience and training or reading.

In the case of the peace building and reconciliation in Rwanda it is key to possess:


  • Communication skills which include the capability to adapt communication style and content to an audience. Strong communication skills also help influence they increase transparency and can break down barriers and resistance. They are also very important when talking to internal and external stakeholders and provide techniques to address sensitive issues. This set of skills can also be a soft skill. However, through experience and even formal education, it can be acquired and/or improved. Strong communication skills have to be both oral and written.
  • Coaching and Leadership. This skill enables people to build talented teams and creates commitment. People with the skill will be able to accept mistakes, provide feedback.
  • Planning and Organising which help establish priorities and plan work assignments, juggle competing demands and work under pressure of frequent and tight deadlines. Through project management experience and education, this skill is essential when confronted with deadlines. It is also a skill that can be applied to all situations.
  • Analytical and research skills will help make decisions with sometimes limited information. They will also help sort relevant from irrelevant information and assess the impact on given situations and on the project.


Local & factual knowledge

Local knowledge facilitates the integration and the understanding of issues related to the country or regional specific issues. Understanding possible areas of conflict and being able to anticipate them has an impact on the peacebuilding and reconciliation process. The peace-making process cannot be done in the long term if imposed from the outside. It has to be an internally developed process taking into consideration local culture. Therefore extensive institutional, political and sociological expertise and consideration are essential and are detailed as follows:

  • History
  • Geography
  • Government
  • Population
    • Ethnic groups
    • Local customs, taboos
    • Languages
    • Health and mortality
    • Education
    • Religion
  • Economical - Income per capita, natural resources, major industries
  • Legal. To know the country‟s legal system, laws and regulations is essential to be able to provide tailored aid.
  • Local networks: will help get things done. It consists of either having lived and worked in the country for many years or ensuring that the organisation employs people who are from that country. It is only through years of experience or when you live in a country that you really grasp the way it works, how things are done and especially who can get them done. This element is also very important for marketing purposes and liaising with relevant authorities. In addition, people often prefer to deal with people of their own country and culture and there is a notion of suspicion when having to deal with another culture.


4.2    Character traits and personal qualities (soft skills)

  • Integrity. This skill will ensure that the person is honest and trustworthy and that they align beliefs, words and actions. It also demonstrates the courage to stand up for beliefs and people. This skill needs to be adapted to both the organisation the person is working for but also to the culture of the country the organisation is working in. Sometimes situations can arise where the country culture and the way of doing things go against the principles of the person. An example of this could be bribery.
  • Interpersonal understanding. The outcome when applying this skill is an environment where everyone is treated with dignity, honesty and respect and that inspires trust without using stereotypes and generalisations.
  • Teamwork. Working in a team means that everybody feels comfortable with the role and responsibility he has and that the entire team performs well and in harmony. For this interpersonal skills and leadership skills are also important as the choice (when possible) of team members will affect the team‟s performance.
  • Creativity. This skill is required as things most often do not go according to plan or according to a person‟s principles, assumptions and beliefs. Therefore situations require a good sense of creativity to find alternatives or different approaches.
  • Empathy. A certain degree of empathy is needed and especially the one that consists of caring for other‟s pain. However, empathy in a peace building context must be controlled and not become emotional.
  • Objectivity. It is important for a person to be able to understand situations objectively considering all factors and parties. Things may not always be the way they are perceived at first. This skill combines well with the Analytical skill.
  • Controlled emotion. Without emotion many things would not happen. However, in peace building process, as in many other areas, emotion can be the fuel but should not be in control of the project.
  • Cultural sensitivity with the ability to work in a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic environment with sensitivity and respect for diversity. This skill affects and is important to use in combination with all the skills mentioned above. Each and every skill needs to be adapted to the culture in which the person is working. As an example honesty and the definition of honesty will differ from one culture to another. This does not mean that the person needs to change his sense of honesty but acknowledge and work with the definition that the other culture has.



In any project, it is important to have a set of competencies and skills to complete the job in the best way possible. However, the skill of cultural sensitivity is one of the key elements and is important in all situations. If one considers that potentially each individual person is a culture in itself, possessing this skill will dramatically improve the way people understand, tolerate and communicate with each other. Never assume as things are not always the way we perceive them.





Gacaca, Living Together Again in Rwanda? (2002) by Anne Aghion Hotel Rwanda (2004) Terry George

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