23 January 2014

'Genocide archives being tailor-made to benefit youth, ‘Never Again’ spirit' 

To ensure that the events of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi continue to serve as a lesson to Rwandans and the world, Aegis Trust, a UK-based public charity registered in Rwanda, was tasked to collect and archive remains of Genocide victims.

ID-card in Ntarama Memorial Site

Aegis subsequently brought on board other partners with experience and expertise in similar projects elsewhere in the world, including the Second World War.

USC Shoah Foundation from California, NIOD (Institute of War Holocaust and Genocide Studies in Netherlands) and the University of Texas, Austin, are among the institutions that have been brought in for their expertise.

Freddy Mutanguha, Aegis country director, says to have archives that create impact, they needed to partner with organisations that are knowledgeable in the area.

“The archives we are creating are bigger than our capacity, so we brought in partners who are experts in this area. NIOD was created right after the second world war, it has experience in collection management and is also building capacity of our local staff, while USC Shoah Foundation from California have expertise in testimony collection and preservation and worked with Holocaust survivors. They are also assisting in making the archives accessible,” Mutanguha said.

“The University of Texas is assisting in physical policies and methodology. All these partners are connected to CNLG (National Commission for the Fight against Genocide) and we believe they are the right people for the job.”

He said working and cooperating with other partners has brought forth benefits.

“We have benefited by learning how to organise and manage collections. We have also learnt how to create feasible physical and digital archives. There is now a good understanding of the methodology,” Mutanguha said.

“We have so far been able to create a physical and digital archive at the Kigali Memorial which so far is growing everyday in terms of quality and quantity.” he added.

Educating the youth

Mutanguha said they are now building education initiatives around the archives to reach out to the youth and the future generations.

One of those education initiatives is IWitness designed by the USC Shoah Foundation.

The programme uses testimonies of survivors and perpetrators in an attempt to promote positive values and critical thinking among Rwandan students.

He said: “We are using the collections we have as education tools to promote positive values among students in the country.”

In December, last year, a similar programme–Rwanda Peace Education Programme–was launched by the Minister for Education, Dr Vincent Biruta, in partnership with stakeholders on Genocide issues like USC Shoah Foundation and Aegis Trust.

The programme, targeting the youth, was designed to promote social cohesion through different approaches such as mobile exhibitions, radio programming, art events, debates and performances as well as education and training workshops.

Fighting genocide

At the launch of the programme, Dr Biruta said genocide, being a product of constant messages of hate, could be fought by teaching the youth the opposite. 

“The Genocide in Rwanda was a result of consistent messages of hate and ethnic divisions that were transmitted to the population, and the youth, in particular, in schools and communities where they lived,” he said.

“This programme is of interest to the government as it seeks to address the challenges the country has faced by seeking to use past experiences as a lesson for the future,” Dr Biruta added.

Before the programme was launched,  19 year-old Ernest Ntagungira,  who experienced it at the pilot phase, said the programme had not only given him insights about the Genocide, but also left him itching to play a role to ensure the Never Again efforts etch indelible marks in the country.

“A large part of the current youth was too young or not born before the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. It is from such programmes that they draw lessons on the importance of cohesion, the importance of peace. It is through such programmes that some of us understand the past and have the urge to preach peace,” Ntagungira said.

The archives collection process also considers the events before and after the Genocide to have a broader lesson.

Yves Kamuronsi, the deputy director of Aegis Trust, says the archives they are putting together will not only contain materials on the 1994 Genocide, but also pre-genocide and post-genocide, documenting the country’s recovery journey through peace building initiatives, and the healing process.

“Since the archives are meant to also serve those beyond the country, they will be in such a way that from them one can learn the causes of Genocide and the healing and recovery process after the Genocide, which is also an important part of the collection. For the events pre-genocide, we are using testimonies from those who were in the country during and before the events of the 1950s,” he said.

Kamuronsi said they also reach out to other organisations and institutions with smaller collection to offer expertise and work together to ensure sustainable collections.

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