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CSVR calls on SA to honour Rwanda Genocide victims through a commitment to peacebuilding
PRESS STATEMENT | APRIL 7, 2017
The Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation (CSVR) calls on South Africans to commemorate the 23rd Anniversary of the Rwandan Genocide with a renewed commitment to peaceful political engagement, as well as a commitment to the human rights of all who live in South Africa.
CSVR’s work on transitional justice and trauma intervention has long identified the devastating and long-term consequences of political conflict, mass violence and state repression on post conflict societies. The experience of Rwanda reverberates with South Africans because of the commonalities in the challenges faced in reconstructing a country after mass violations, and the emergence of peace in the same historic year of 1994.
The 1994 Rwanda genocide left hundreds of thousands dead and many others in exile in neighbouring countries. In three months - from April to July 1994 - nearly a million Tutsis and sympathetic Hutus were massacred. Systematic rape was also used as a tool of genocide by the state. We must honour the memory of those who died and the survivors of these atrocities by learning from these events. We must be mindful of not walking the same path. We must also learn from the challenges faced by such a nation when dealing with this legacy.
In our intervention work and research with survivors of torture and state repression, CSVR has heard first-hand reports of the trauma of the Rwandan genocide. These stories affect us very directly as South Africans. We urge South Africans to recognise that we too must come to terms with our past and acknowledge the very stark legacy of our apartheid history and also recognise the hidden impact of suppressed trauma from our centuries of conflict and exploitation. Not addressing these directly will only feed the unresolved anger and mistrust that fuels our violent interpersonal and political conflicts.
We must ensure that those who were victims of violence are able to speak out, have their pain recognised and their healing supported. We must also ensure that the underlying causes of these conflicts are seriously and urgently addressed, and not left to fuel continued cycles of violence.
Last week, CSVR brought together leading local, continental and international experts working on innovations in peacebuilding to discuss new strategies for working in deeply divided societies. A key lesson we learned is that while international human rights norms have been incorporated into the South African legal and policy framework, effective solutions are only found when local activists are able to draw strength from these new tools to craft interventions, policies and initiatives that directly address their communities’ immediate livelihood needs. South Africa provides many inspiring examples of such innovation, and these present a critical safeguard against future violence and repression.
It is critical that we now place this acknowledgement of our legacy, its unresolved roots and emotional scars, and the recognition of the role played by local peacebuilding innovation in healing and protecting our society on the national agenda.