Dialogue Clubs success stories
The evaluation brought to light that IRDP, through the clubs of dialogue, managed to show that Rwandans are capable of going together through the processes of healing and national identity reconstruction.
That is what majority of the respondents revealed when they said that visiting, inviting and sharing with others is a characteristic of their clubs of dialogue. They stated that supporting each other, visiting, inviting and sharing are values that have existed in the Rwandan culture time immemorial. Therefore, club members do not find any difficulty to decide on providing services to people in need for free, with no ethnic bias or influence at all. One participant in a club of dialogue in Ngororero district shared the following experience:
There is one experience I’d like to share with you. In our cell, we have one old widower who did not have means to construct her house. Last year, we decided that we should help her to build a house. We then organized ourselves into community work and built the house, today the woman lives in it. That action increased our good reputation among our neighbours who started considering club members as special citizens on whom they can rely.
Indeed, during the focus group discussion participants showed maturity as far as mutual understanding and interpersonal relations are concerned. One old woman, survivor of genocide in Ruhango district said something very important in peace and conflict studies and in terms of social cohesion in the post genocide Rwanda. She said:
IRDP helped us progress in the way we conduct our discussions. At the beginning it was very difficult for one member to talk about the misdeeds of the other member. In some ways, this could create a climate of tension between some people. However, we progressively managed to understand that the essence of the Rwandan conflict lies not on the Hutu, Tutsi, and Twa identities stigmatized by colonizers and enforced by pre-genocides governments. We managed to come to the conclusion that we all share the same identity, the Rwandan identity. After that, we started having common grounds for the Rwandan conflict, which helped us to move forward in our discussions. Later on, members got capable to understand that disagreeing on some points should not lead to violent conflicts and that as human beings disagreements are normal and part of our daily lives. Today, we have gone beyond that phase of “gacaca” within the club; now we only have disagreements that are “healthy” (constructive).
Participants stated that the dialogue sessions helped them to build trust among club members. A club member in Rubavu District had the following to mention regarding trust building:
When I came from Congo, I was brought to live here, I was afraid of the Hutu because of what they did. Sometimes, I could not even sleep. I thought I was brought to be slaughtered. There was mistrust. When IRDP came, we were brought together: those who came from Congo, the genocide survivors and Ex-Far. Through dialogue, we managed to overcome our fear. Today, we visit each other. At that time, I totally felt I could not be safe near the Hutu; today I have even accepted my own daughter to marry a Hutu. IRDP dialogues helped us a lot; we gained a lot from the dialogues.
This quotation similar to the words of the majority respondents indicate that dialogue groups have improved on trust amongst members thereby strengthening social cohesion and peace building processes in the post-genocide Rwanda.
The following extract from focus group discussions in Huye illustrate how club members felt they could not be trusted to solve other people’s conflicts when their own houses are burning.
There were conflicts based on ethnic identities, particularly among genocide survivors and former perpetrators who pleaded guilty and got released. But the dialogue initiated by IRDP, things are going better now, we are one. For example: my parents are among the people who pillaged properties of Tutsi neighbours during the genocide. Although my parents are dead, I have taken time to reconcile with the survivors, and also have paid them back their properties without any influence from the administration. Because of the dialogue, I understood that I had to do so in order to be at peace with myself and with my neighbours. We also teach the people who have participated in genocide to reconcile with the genocide survivors.