Rwanda’s horrific past, her recovery process and cross-cultural exchange is the main focus of the Peacebuilding Institute under the theme “what can Rwanda teach the world”. During the 1994 genocide perpetrated against the Tutsis youth were manipulated into committing crimes against humanity by taking part in the extermination of innocent lives. Today youth are considered as the largest population across the globe and are key contributors of social change.
The Peacebuilding Institute (PBI) was established by Never Again Rwanda as a bi-annual platform that brings together Rwandan, regional, international university students and young professionals to study Genocide and examine the reconstruction efforts in the post-genocide Rwanda. The Scope of this Institute stretches to analyze genocide as a subject, its causes, history and legacy and the realities that characterize the post genocide period to avoid future genocides, nurture behavior change as well as promote sustainable peace and development.
“I learned that Peacebuilding is a process that starts from within, and forgiveness is a remedy that can heal nations, I hope that the world learns from Rwanda what I have learned” said a female participant from Sudan.
“I realized that everyone is concerned with Peacebuilding. I plan to educate people about Rwanda’s history and homegrown solutions and to critically analyze the decisions of our leaders” said a male participant from USA.
These are sample experiences shared by participants for the summer and regional Peacebuilding Institute; both quotes highlight a call for action based on Rwanda’s experience. The Summer PBI brings together Rwandan and international university students and young professionals whereas the regional PBI brings together youth from across the region mainly; Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, Burundi, DRC, Tanzania, South Sudan and Somalia.
During the program participants are engaged in a number of activities that that promote critical thinking, self-reflection, and cross-cultural dialogue. For instance lectures/presentations from experts experienced in the fields of Genocide History and Prevention, transitional justice governance and development; site visits to various institutions, films and group discussions. Each of these activities presents a wide range of learning and sharing experiences.
“One of the things Rwanda can teach the world is unity and forgiveness” said a male participant from Tanzania
“It might not be possible to integrate the Gacaca court system in other post conflict countries, but we can learn and understand the importance of unity, local and restorative justice” said a female participant from Burundi.
“The interactive and cross-cultural exposure has instilled a strong character in me to overcome any challenge I come across” said a Rwandan male participant.
“Before participating in PBI I had negative thoughts about perpetrators I perceived them to be inhuman because of what they did, but the model on perpetrator behavior made me think otherwise and realize that people can change” said a Rwandan female participant.
As reflected above through the Peacebuilding Institute participants learn from Rwanda’s experience and where possible borrow and implement some of Rwanda’s initiatives in their respective countries whereas others develop individual growth and behavior change.
Since its inception in 2011 the Peacebuilding Institute has engaged around 170 youth and young professionals from Europe, South America, Asia, USA, Canada, Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania, Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, Kenya, South Sudan, Sudan and Somalia.
The writer the coordinator of PBI at Never Again Rwanda