Rwanda

Breaking the Cycle

by Eva Nyandoro

Set in the headquarters of Amnesty International ‘A Place at the Table’ tells a gripping story of the strained relationship between the Hutus and Tutsis from ancient myths through colonialism to the 1993 assassination of Burundi’s President Ndadayc. The play looks at the conflicts in Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo and the genocide in Rwanda.

The experimental theatrical production takes you on an artistic journey using transcripts from the UN Security Report, refugees, campaigners and eye-witness accounts to produce a visual and verbatim play that invites the audience to take a place at a large table alongside the performers to eat, drink and reflect on what is fact, truth and fiction.

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The all-female cast of four use visual images throughout the play like the soldier chopping a fish with a machete on the table or the beautifully haunting voice of Grace Nyandoro accompanying the picture of a child soldier projected on to a screen. The performers use mime sequence and movement through dance to provide an intense performance that explores the disturbing relationship between two tribes that has resulted in the massacre of around 250,000 people in Burundi from 1972-1993, and the killing of over half a million people in Rwanda during the period August 1993 to July 1994. The play leaves you feeling a great sadness for what has past and what may happen again if people remain casual observers.

Director Paul Burgess tragically lost school-friend Charlotte Wilson after Charlotte and her Burundian born fiancée were killed on the way to meet his in-laws at the hands of the Party for the Liberation of the Hutu People National Forces of Liberation (PALIPEHUTU-FNL) in Burundi. The tragic circumstances inspired the project as a way of raising awareness on the on-going troubles in Burundi, Rwanda and the African Great Lakes Region and to show that this is not something happening far away it can affect all of us.

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The Daedalus Theatre company project was a moving piece of work that explored the disturbing material in an original way. The play was performed throughout January and if you would like any further information on the play or any future work, checks out their website on: http://www.daedalustheatre.co.uk

Last year the country celebrated 50 years of independence.  Today peace in the region is fragile with fears of a civil war breaking out at any moment. Sadly the cycle of ethnic violence continues in Burundi as a new generation of youngsters are repeating the crimes of their fathers. There is no easy solution or quick fix to the problems the Burundian people face but violence, intimidation and mistrust in your neighbour, your colleague and your best friend can never result in a sustainable future for anyone. If I ever asked a Hutu teenager or Tutsi Grandfather why there is such tension and even hatred, I would probably get thousands of reasons why the blame lies with the other side.

The Hutu population is 85 per cent and the Tutsi population is 15 per cent. Many people have argued that the former colonial territories of Belgium where ethnicity was marked with identity cards and where the Tutsi community were favoured as elite caused a longstanding ethnic competition and heightened tension. However some people believe that the ethnic tension has been around pre-colonialism.  Distinction and competition has always been a part of the culture in Burundi; it was just made official through colonialism. The roots of the animosity and built-up tension cannot be pin-pointed to one moment in history; just like a failing marriage searching for reasons under the air of disappointment and anger. What is clear is the past is creeping into the present in a disturbing way.

Burundi is one of the five poorest countries in the world; with extreme poverty, lack of law and order and human rights violations remain constant barriers to development and stability in the region.

The conflict in Northern Ireland, which has killed thousands, came to a ceasefire after the IRA and Loyalists negotiated and signed the ‘Good Friday’ agreement in 1998. The Irish people were living in a conflict area but through power sharing were able to find peace.  The cynical side of me however believes that civil-war in Burundi benefits politicians and an elite minority in the country. Unless this small elite are given real incentive to change the tide, lasting peace supported by strong government may allude another generation of children.

As Nelson Mandela once, said: “It must be possible for the people of Burundi to materially distinguish between the destructiveness of conflict and the benefits of peace.”

Together We Can Make a Difference

By Eva Nyandoro

While helping to build a school in the beautiful valleys of Rwanda, Troy Aitken, co-founder of MAD4Africa, noticed that young men and women who were carrying the bricks and mixing the cement as labourers could change their lives by obtaining a craft or trade.

When Troy arrived back in London, in 2008, he and seven others who had shared similar experiences and had a diverse range of skills decided to setup a charity to help rural youth in East Africa learn a trade like sewing or carpentry to gain employment.

The young charity runs wholly on volunteers who work a 9 – 5 job and then work part-time for MAD4Africa. The UK Project Manager and Coordinator spent time visiting training centres in Rwanda to find a centre in desperate need of their help and where they could make the biggest difference.

Tailoring class in Rwanda

At the Kiyonza Professional Training Centre (KPTC) they saw nine girls sitting around one sewing machine. The girls’ were eager to learn but were being seriously hampered by having to share one machine. MAD4Africa took on KPTC as its first project in 2010. They renovated the run-down training centre and provided the centre with tools to enable young people in the poorest community to change both their lives and those of their families.

Workers Co-operativesA significant number of skilled craftsmen and teachers in the country were killed during the Rwanda genocide of 1994. MAD4Africa seeks to make a difference by driving a ‘skills revival’ for local people. It supports centres that teach young men and women life-changing skills in vocational, language and literacy training so they will be able to lift themselves out of poverty and into a job.  The small group of UK-volunteers have also set-up local Workers’ Co-Operatives. They are a place for students who have graduated from the centre to join forces with local business to offer a trade they have learned on the course. It is a modern day apprenticeship scheme.

MAD4Africa’s next project this year is to renovate and equip the Maraba Vocational Training College in Rwanda with the tools needed to increase the numbers of students attending the centre. Only 70 students are enrolled but there is a demand of 600 students waiting for a place at a training centre in the district.

Maraba Vocational Training Centre

The training centre’s poor standard of facilities and equipment means it has yet to be approved by the local Workforce Development Agency (WDA) which means graduate students do not get a recognised certificate.  MAD4Africa is taking on the development and renovation of this training centre to ensure it can provide places for over 130 students with an income generating project running alongside the centre. The income generating project will help the centre run independently and sustainably. The UK team are hoping to raise £55,000 to fund Maraba VCT project that will help young people in Rwanda learn new skills to build themselves a better future.

Troy Aitken, Operations Director for MAD4Africa, speaks candidly about the lessons learnt from the first project in Rwanda (KPTC). “The cultural difference between people working in the UK and people working in Rwanda meant at times it was difficult to deliver on the expectations we had set ourselves. The centre manager hired to run the project was not hired by us. With our next project we will ensure that we have a much bigger role in deciding who the person will be to run the centre.” He hopes that this will improve delivery and accountability.

One of the challenges facing MAD4Africa is competing for grants.  “We are finding that as a result of the budget cuts some of the bigger charities that would normally not apply for one of the smaller grants are now applying for these grants.”

As a result, MAD4Africa is looking for more volunteers, “as a charity run predominately by volunteers we are always looking for committed, hardworking people who want to make a difference in Africa. We’re desperately in need of fundraisers – people with experience in fundraisings particularly corporate fundraising.”

If you would like to find our more about the work MAD4Africa is involved in contact troy@mad4africa.org.uk