"Bringing together Rwanda genocide survivors"
IBUKA is the peak, or ‘umbrella’, organization for genocide survivors’ associations in Rwanda. IBUKA is independent, non-profit, and is legally recognized by the government of Rwanda. The word ‘Ibuka’ means "remember". IBUKA was created by survivors one year after the genocide in Rwanda, and represents survivors across the country. By remembering the past, we can help the survivors. And we can also help the generations to come so that they may live in peace.
IBUKA’s work focuses on four main themes:
· Supporting genocide survivors
Each of these four themes is as important as the other, and all each one relies on the others. For example, it is not enough to offer help to those who have survived the genocide if we do not also support them in their efforts to seek justice. It is also not enough to simply remember what has happened in the past; we need to actively engage in peace-building to make sure such events can never happen again.
To provide advocacy for the survivors of the genocide in Rwanda, assist in the activities of genocide survivors’ organizations, and raise international awareness so that our people will heal from events of the past, and that genocide will never happen again.
To be a leading national and international organization for issues of genocide prevention, preservation and honoring of genocide memory, and preventing genocidal ideology.
IBUKA also has representatives in Belgium, France, Switzerland, the USA, and Canada, to ensure that the Rwandan genocide will not be forgotten by the international community, and to continue to make links with organizations and individuals around the world who would like to support us and work with us.
After the 1994 genocide perpetrated against Tutsi people in Rwanda, many lives had been lost; families, villages, and towns decimated; and much of the economy, social services, and infrastructure was in ruins.
Out of this physical and emotional rubble, survivors joined each other to offer help: family to family, village to village, and organization to organization. In this context, IBUKA was formed as the peak genocide survivors’ organization, with a mission to provide advocacy for the survivors of the genocide in Rwanda, assist in the activities of genocide survivors’ organizations, and raise international awareness so that our people will heal from events of the past, and that genocide will never happen again
Since IBUKA’s foundation, many local survivors’ organizations are now working side by side. The government of Rwanda, and overseas organizations and individuals, have made generous offers of time, resources, and financial help to assist this work. With their assistance, as well as the daily untiring efforts of local Rwandans, we have made a lot of achievements, but there is still a long journey to go. Given the scale of the genocide and its ongoing effects, a large number of people still need help.
Responding to genocide survivors…
The kinds of problems people face after genocide don’t just get resolved quickly. From rebuilding schools, to supporting families to recover, to raising international awareness, there is much to be done for our country. There is much to still be done in many areas of survivors’ everyday lives.
The scope of this work, and the range of effects the genocide had, are big challenges for IBUKA, but we face them every day with resolve, with passion, and with hope.
Just some of the issues we assist in include:
· Ensuring ongoing security;
· Justice issues, such as in Gacaca Courts;
· Resisting genocide denial – both here and internationally;
· Welfare issues – not just the physical issues of housing, clothing, and so on, but also the much-needed responses to personal and social suffering;
· Assisting in the rebuilding of locally-relevant infrastructure;
· Ensuring education for young survivors.
As the peak body for genocide survivors’ organizations, we possibly hear the most stories about the ongoing work to be done. But we’re also in a unique position to help: what has one organization learnt that another can use straight away? How can hard-won skills of recovery, rebuilding, and reclamation be taught to workers across the country? How can the successes in one geographical area, or on one issue, be implemented elsewhere?
And, given that we have member associations, representative cells, and individuals across the country, this means we can respond quickly to local issues, as well as come together to respond to the larger challenges.
Celebrating our successes…
At times, these challenges and the sheer scale of the work yet to do can be overwhelming. But each year, we achieve more. Each year, we remember the past as a way to honor those who suffered, and as a way to resist genocide. And each year, we take solid steps to build a future for our children based on peace.
When we began, we had no funding, no building, no resources to draw on except those of local people who wanted to help: doctors, lawyers, teachers, community workers, and people willing to volunteer to do whatever was needed. All of us had been touched by the genocide in some way. Most of us had lost family members. But we now had another obstacle: how to do so much with so little?
Over time, we have received some government support, some organizational funding, and some individual donations. While financial independence is our ultimate goal, we rely on this support to achieve all that we do. Throughout this time, we’ve learnt how to do a lot with limited resources and a small but dedicated team of personnel. This has taught us how to achieve much with little, but also how to use what financial support we do get in the most effective way.
Fifteen years on, we now have an official head office, at Nyanza-Kicukiro, at the site of that area’s genocide memorial. From this headquarters, we are able to respond to individuals and families, help coordinate the activities of local associations at village and town level, and work with major organizations and government departments in the cities.
‘Keep alive the memory of our people’