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26 years after Genocide, Rwanda now faces COVID-19

12 April 2020

This month, 26 years ago, Rwanda faced its darkest hour. Trócaire has been there since the Genocide, working with millions of people to help transform and heal the country. Now Rwanda faces a new challenge as COVID hits the country.

Today, Frida and Jean Baptiste are fully reconciled. They consider themselves friends and help each other on their farms. Trócaire has worked over 26 years on reconciliation and transformation following the Rwandan genocide. Photo : Elena Hermosa.

As we commemorated the 26th anniversary of the Rwandan Genocide against the Tutsi on 7th April 2020, the capital city of Kigali in Rwanda was quiet.  This year, the moment of reflection of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi was happening amidst the Covid-19 pandemic that has engulfed the world. 

The government of Rwanda has implemented a lockdown and social distancing measures just like most governments across the world in order to contain the pandemic. Communities have had to rely on radio and television to reflect on the Genocide against the Tutsi and share lessons for a better future.

These are strange times in the world and with social distancing measures in place, communities in Rwanda are denied an opportunity to be close to each other, and reflect with others on love, peace and harmony. 

Transforming Rwanda

Trócaire has been a key part of the fabric of Rwanda for over 25 years now, having established an office just after the Genocide in the Gikongoro Diocese.  When other agencies left soon after the reconstruction period, Trócaire remained.

With the challenge of inter-generational trauma, the need for peace and conflict transformation remains important today as it was just after the genocide in 1994.

Today, Trócaire in Rwanda stands tall, working to alleviate poverty with the most vulnerable in communities, such as poor farmers. The majority of these farmers practice subsistence agriculture on very small pieces of land, where the average land holding is 0.4 hectares.

Trócaire also works towards empowering women to have voice and influence both within the household and in the wider community. To be empowered economically and be free from gender-based violence. We also strengthening the capacity of communities to withstand shocks and disasters. 

At the heart of Trócaire’s journey are the local partners we work with. Organisations established by Trócaire after the genocide such as ARCT Ruhuka have focused on peace, reconciliation and conflict transformation. They remain a pivotal part of the community.

Some of the Trócaire staff from 1994 remain with Trócaire today, a true mark of resilience and commitment to transformation and societal healing. 

To mark the 25th Anniversary, Trócaire Rwanda has produced a handbook of the remarkable story of hope, peace and reconciliation over the years.

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A life transformed – Clarisse’s story

In January, I met 25 year old Mukeshimana Clarisse. I heard her story about how her life has been transformed by our projects. Clarisse is a participant in a project of our local partner CIU (Center Igiti cy’ Ubugingo). 

Having had a pregnancy 3 years ago, Clarisse’s education journey was interrupted and she had to take a break from University studies to take care of her baby.  However, CIU supported Clarisse and she received 25,000 Rwandan Francs (the equivalent of €25) which helped her buy some goats.

Her goats have multiplied over time, and with the money she got from selling some of the goats she managed to buy a pig.  She has been generous to others, giving some of the offspring of the goats to her neighbours. 

Mukeshimana Clarisse from Nyaruguru district in Rwanda feeding her small livestock. Photo : Center Igiti cy’ Ubugingo (CIU)

Having saved money through selling some of the goats, Clarisse today has the equivalent of €300 in a bank account. She has since diversified her livelihoods activities to include buying and selling, and she is now a proud owner of a shop in the local market. 

“I want now to buy a cow as I am now financially stable and able to buy one” said Clarisse with confidence as she talked about the future. Her vision is not just to buy a cow and continue with her entrepreneurship’s activities.  Clarisse is still determined to deal with unfinished life goals.  “Once my daughter grows up, I want to go back to University” said Clarisse with a voice full of hope.

Challenging the spread of COVID-19

In 2019 alone, Trócaire reached directly more than 38,000 programme participants in Rwanda. This is in addition to more than 3 million participants that the programme has reached over the past 26 years in Rwanda. 

This was made possible through the generous support of the people of Ireland, Irish Aid and other donors we partner with such as the Bank of Ireland, USAID and the European Delegation in Rwanda.

Currently, despite confinement measures imposed by the government to control the spread of COVID-19, Trócaire is working with local partners in order to continue providing support to communities to deal with the impact of the pandemic and to protect themselves and others.

Trócaire will continue to provide hope even in the most difficult of times.

COVID-19 knows no borders and neither does your compassion. We know not everyone is in a position to support this work right now, but if you can, please consider supporting our Lent appeal. Your support means we can support communities affected by COVID-19 in places like Rwanda, Gaza and Somalia.

You can donate online or by phoning:
1850 408 408 (Republic of Ireland)
0800 912 1200 (Northern Ireland).

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