Rwanda is a small, landlocked country, densely populated and highly cultivated.
Centre Ubuntu is based at Bwira in western Rwanda and aims at fostering mutually supportive relationships through a skills exchange scheme and collective projects, in order to facilitate communication between members and to help them meet their basic needs.
Bwira is a remote village and also the name of a nearby steep mountain. The soil is poor and compost is easily leached away, especially during the heavy rain season.
As the population grows, less arable space is available. The number of children also increases but not the number of teachers, which means that children can only spend half days at school, to keep the class size to an “acceptable” level. There are 9 teachers for 300 children. When they are not at school, children help in the fields, fetch water or look for food.
The project “Ubuntu” set up a program of sponsoring children to increase their chances of going to and remaining at school. In the last 7 years, no child has progressed beyond primary school in Bwira.
Centre Ubuntu works closely with the women from Abihuje and supports their basket-making craftwork through purchasing the products at a fair price.
We also introduced a system of exchange base on the local trading schemes that already exist in Western countries (exchanging services and products without handling money but by attributing a social value to the exchanged commodity).
The re-introduction of organic farming is planned at Bwira.
Electricity has recently been installed at the centre. The new electric network will initially allow the lighting of a common room and will also facilitate the use of computers and internet access.
Anti-erosion barriers made of reeds and small stones have been erected, to help retain water during heavy rains. They have been tested since a big storm broke shortly after their installations, but they held up!
Seed data (protein-rich vegetables) by were distributed by the Association Kokopelli and six gardening support groups have been established and some gardening tools provided.
Centre Ubuntu has started a program of social tourism with the French organisation Echanges Solidaires et Equitables (“fair and reciprocal exchange”) who is already experienced in organising such programs in Romania, Liban and Burkina Faso.
This will give opportunities to people from the West to discover different facets of life in Rwanda, by spending time with the community of Bwira.
In post-genocide Rwanda, more than ever, it is vital to go beyond differences, to be and to do together.
The notorious 1994 Rwandan Genocide has profoundly affected the whole population and has left long-lasting effects.
Over the course of approximately 100 days, over 500,000 people were killed, according to a Human Rights Watch estimate. In total, an estimated 800,000 people were murdered.
In 1990, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), a rebel group composed mostly of Tutsi refugees, invaded northern Rwanda from Uganda in an attempt to defeat the Hutu-led government. They began the Rwandan Civil War, fought between the Hutu regime, with support from Francophone Africa and France, and the RPF, with support from Uganda. This exacerbated existing ethnic tensions in the country.
The assassination of President Habyarimana in April 1994 set off a violent reaction, during which Hutu groups conducted mass killings of Tutsis. This genocide had been planned by members of the Hutu power group known as the Akazu, many of whom occupied positions at top levels of the national government.
It is estimated that about 300,000 Tutsi survived the genocide. Thousands of widows, many of whom were subjected to rape, are now HIV-positive. There were about 400,000 orphans and nearly 85,000 of them were forced to become heads of families.
In 1998, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda made the landmark decisions that war rape in Rwanda was an element of the crime of genocide.
In his 1996 report on Rwanda, the UN Special Rapporteur Rene Degni-Segui stated, "Rape was the rule and its absence the exception." He noted, "Rape was systematic and was used as a weapon" by the perpetrators of the massacres. This conclusion was based on the number and nature of the victims as well as from the forms of rape. Estimates were that between 250,000 and 500,000 Rwandese women and girls had been raped. A 2000 report prepared by the Organization of African Unity’s International Panel of Eminent Personalities concluded that "we can be certain that almost all females who survived the genocide were direct victims of rape or other sexual violence, or were profoundly affected by it"
The Special Rapporteur on Rwanda estimated that between 2,000 and 5,000 pregnancies resulted from war rape.
During the genocide, it was culturally acceptable/mandatory to stand by while women were raped.
The Interahamwe were the chief perpetrators, but RAF soldiers, including the Presidential Guard, and civilians also committed rape against mostly Tutsi women. War rape during the genocide was also directed against Hutu women considered moderates.
The current Rwandan government prohibits discrimination on the basis of ethnicity, race or religion. The government has also passed laws prohibiting emphasis on Hutu or Tutsi identity in most types of political activity