By Immy Mulekatete
In 2002, three young students at the former University of Rwanda in Huye bore an idea that would eventually turn into a major peace building influence.
At that time the university was marred by tensions, as hate words were scribbled on the walls of the campus buildings. The three students refused to be bystanders and initiated a platform that would help them act as peace ambassadors.
Since 2011 NAR has hosted more than 150 youth and young professionals who are passionate about ‘Peacebuilding’ from Africa, Europe, Asia, USA and South America
As young people they had witnessed and learned of how the youth had been manipulated into committing violent acts, which led to the 1994 Genocide Against the Tutsis. They felt the urge to change the status quo. As they deliberated, wishing that the manipulations should never happen again, a small but would be influential organization that would later be known as ‘Never Again Rwanda (NAR)’ was born.
In 2004 the same students organized an essay writing competition to reach out to the Rwandan youth and the turnout was tremendous. Participants wrote essays, songs and poems about “what youth can do to make the notion of ‘Never Again’ a reality. This sparked the formation of clubs in schools and associations for non-schooling youth of which they continued to organize initiatives to build sustainable peace.
For about two years although NAR had built an influential ‘Peacebulding’ movement it operated on little funds that the young founders had invested. In 2004 their work caught the attention of Care International, which bankrolled their first funding to boost more of their engagement efforts.
“As the years went by, we realized that not only youth need to be empowered to become active citizens but the Rwandan population at large hence expanding our horizon to include adults without excluding decision makers/influential leaders, media, academicians and researchers,” said Eric Mahoro, the Program Director,
“We realized that ‘Peacebuilding’ requires a collective effort and that the entire society has a vital role to play, in addition to providing citizens with a platform to discuss hindrances to peace action needed to be taken at different levels hence inclusion of local leaders and decision makers,” he adds.
Today ‘Never Again Rwanda’ is a major influential ‘Peacebuilding’ institution. It commissions researches, converges various conferences, attracting international dignitaries and even engaging the wounded in different tactical ways. Partnering with Interpeace NAR established referred to as ‘Spaces for Peace’ where the wounded are provided with safe spaces to share and discuss about their wounds, thus starting a process for societal healing.
The recipe for healing in NAR’s perspective started from carrying out a study to determine the number of people struggling with post-conflict trauma, to convening victims and perpetrators to talk about their pain. Imagine, meeting someone who you witnessed murdering your entire family or who you were told killed your relatives. It wasn’t easy but has been worth it.
With over 69 affiliated youth clubs and associations across Rwanda NAR has been built on credibility as one of its strongest values. It collaborates with top global and local researchers and academicians who specialize in the discipline of ‘societal healing’. Currently the organization has grown to attract more than 1,000 beneficiaries.
“Our activities are spread countrywide to an extent that some institutions consider NAR as an exemplary organization mostly due to our evidence based research and target population. Our Great Lakes program has largely contributed to our presence in the region in addition to the Peacebuilding Institute,” says Mahoro.
Through its ‘Peacebuilding Institute’ NAR provides selected global youth with a platform to discuss some of the challenges and strategies used by Rwanda to extricate itself from the consequences of the genocide. This prevents future genocides from recurring in conflict prone societies. Since 2011 NAR has hosted more than 150 youth (and young professionals) from Africa, Europe, Asia, USA and South America, who are passionate about Peacebuilding
Today NAR is also a member of the Global Coalition for Conflict Transformation and a partner of many international organizations that are relentlessly working to promote ‘societal healing’ and sustainable peace in the world.
Peacebuilding is an intervention that is designed to prevent the start or resumption of violent conflict by creating a sustainable peace. Peacebuilding activities address the root causes or potential causes of violence, create a societal expectation for peaceful conflict resolution and stabilize society politically and socioeconomically. Successful Peacebuilding activities create an environment supportive of self-sustaining and durable peace. They also reconcile opponents and prevent conflict from restarting and address underlying structural and societal issues.