Buhoro, buhoro: Aegis Trust and Peacebuilding in Rwanda By Alexandra LaRosa, Fletcher MALD Candidate 2018

by tuftsigl
Aug 08

When friends and family ask how I’m enjoying my time in Rwanda, I automatically default to saying that Rwanda is beautiful. If I say this to Rwandan’s who ask how I find their country, however, they often become dismayed. “What about it is beautiful,” some will respond, prompting me to come up with a more original review. Clearly, I’m not the first muzungu (foreigner) to be struck by this nation’s lustrous hills, constant sunshine, and welcoming attitudes. And sure, sometimes a lady will casually sit on me on the bus when we’re squeezed for room. Though I do prefer a handshake, I try to understand this gesture as simply a chummy way of saying, “welcome to our country!”

Twenty-three years ago, a portrait of this country would have revealed a far less rosy image than the one I just conveyed. Rwanda has undoubtedly made extraordinary strides in rebuilding its infrastructure, security, and social fabric since the 1994 Genocide Against the Tusti. Through my internship with Aegis Trust’s Research, Policy & Higher Education (RPHE) Department, I’ve had the opportunity to engage with this horrific past and the ways in which Rwanda has worked to rebuild the peace.

Established in 2000, Aegis Trust is a UK-based NGO focused on genocide prevention and peacebuilding in Rwanda through education and advocacy. In 2004, the organization was asked to help build the Kigali Genocide Memorial (KGM) which it now manages along with a number of outreach programs and social enterprises including a museum café, the Discover Rwanda Youth Hostels, and a gift shop. Working in RPHE, I’ve had the fortunate opportunity to learn alongside incredibly motivated staff who all possess an innate and unwavering commitment to the values of peace education, critical thinking, and the importance of memory.

Working in tandem with Rwandan researchers, policymakers, and practitioners, RPHE is adepartment within Aegis Trust that aims to inform policy and practice on peacebuilding and genocide prevention in Rwanda with quality evidence and support for the Rwandan research community. As part of the RPHE team’s efforts to consolidate and present local researchers’ work to policymakers and the broader community, they have created Research for Policy Seminar on the Rwanda Governance Scorecard the Genocide Research Hub – an online portal for publication of local research materials on genocide prevention and peacebuilding. Throughout these past two months, I have helped with designing and populating content for this Hub.

Along with the Hub, I’ve had the opportunity to participate in design, monitoring and evaluation planning and published a report on a research for policy seminar hosted by RPHE with the Rwanda Governance Board. This seminar allowed for policymakers, practitioners, and researchers to come together and discuss the methodologies employed in the Rwanda Governance Scorecard – a yearly publication that measures the state of governance in Rwanda to drive evidence-based policy reforms and objective self-assessment.

Supported by Aegis Trust, I also visited other national memorials throughout the country. Contrary to the KGM, these memorials serve as sites of memory, or rather, locations where atrocities took place. Among the sites I visited were memorials in Nyamata, Ntarama, and Murambi. As my academic interests focus on memory and narrative, it was both extremely moving and important for me to experience the process of memorialization throughout the country. Visiting these graphic sites also bolstered my dedication to the importance of preserving the memory of atrocities for future generations. “Buhoro, buhoro” is one of the few Kinyarwanda phrases that I have not forgotten immediately after learning. It translates to “slowly, slowly,” and it is especially well-known to anyone riding motos around Kigali. Through my conversations with survivors and my work with Aegis Trust, I have learned that the process of healing and rebuilding has been an arduous one. Nevertheless – buhoro, buhoro – Rwanda is sowing the seeds of peace and prosperity.