A Work in Progress
by Captain Elizabeth Hayward
KIGALI is the capital of Rwanda. Its boulevards are wide and its buildings in the centre of the city elegant, showing clearly the influence of the French and Belgian colonialists. Away from the capital, the valleys seem fertile and the small village communities are neat and attractive, their compact farming plots fringed with borders of flowers.
Yet if you ask a person what they associate with Rwanda they will almost inevitably say ‘genocide’ – genocide as one clan group tried to eradicate another: communities fractured and destroyed; neighbour against neighbour, atrocity upon atrocity. The Genocide Memorial Museum in Kigali is witness to Rwanda’s troubled history. A visit is a sad and sobering experience as Rwanda’s past is contextualised with others in the world – Nazi Germany and Cambodia among them.
The pink-suited prisoners working in the fields are testament to the system of justice and reconciliation through community courts which Rwanda has instituted and through which the country is seeking to be at peace with its history.
Many people, of course, fled that genocide. Across the borders into the neighbouring countries of Tanzania, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo thousands fled, taking with them very little. They established communities in foreign lands.
The 1994 Rwanda genocide was hugely significant in the evolution of humanitarian emergency response. The huge societal changes of the 1980s and ’90s had their influence too as the Cold War came to an end and the Berlin Wall was breached. Humanitarian agencies found that they were responding to an increasingly volatile world and in increasingly less secure situations.
They were in the media spotlight and held accountable to the public worldwide for their actions. In many ways the genocide was the catalyst of these changes. All major agencies responded to Rwanda and, almost for the first time, The Salvation Army was among them.
I recall sitting in the gallery of Westminster Central Hall in London as General Paul Rader prayed for the small group of UK officers who were going to Rwanda to head up the Army’s emergency response.
The international agencies’ experience in Rwanda led them to conclude that, in many ways, they were culpable for their lack of coordination and poor accountability. Arising from their determination to improve, The Sphere Project is a collaboration among all major humanitarian non-governmental organisations, the International Federation of the Red Cross and the Red Crescent and United Nations agencies.
|Returning villagers and Salvation Army workers build the foundations of a new house|
|Captain Elizabeth Hayward with local children in Rwanda|
|A Salvation Army officer tries out the new water pump in Gituro|
It seeks to outline the ethical principles which humanitarian responding agencies share as their basis for coordination and to define minimum standards in disaster response. It articulates a Code of Conduct of 10 principles to which The Salvation Army was signatory under General Rader in 1997. As from May 2008 The Salvation Army will be a member of the Board of The Sphere Project.
The international Salvation Army’s emergency response was hugely significant in Rwanda for the contacts it made became the basis for the Movement to open fire there, setting up permanent work as a result of its emergency response. The thriving Salvation Army corps (church) in Kayenzi is witness to it.
In 2006 International Emergency Services went back to Rwanda. Rwandese people were returning across the borders in their thousands, among them a small community of 70 families going ‘home’ from Tanzania to Gituro. They returned with little except a commitment to their community forged in their shared Christian faith.
The Salvation Army provided a water pump for Gituro and Oxfam gave training for the community in how to maintain and manage its use. The pump enables the people to cook and clean and to irrigate crops. What was just scrub now flourishes with maize and other crops as far as the eye can see.
Each family now has a toilet and so sickness has decreased. This then has the knock-on effects that less money is needed for medical treatment and the people are strong enough to work. A community hall has been built and there are plans for a medical clinic and pre-school classes to be held there.
It will also become the corps hall as the community asked The Salvation Army to provide a pastor and the first corps officer was appointed to Gituro in 2007.
Each family has manufactured 2,000 bricks of mud and straw for its own house and they are almost all built – roofing sheets and doors, windows and floors reflect the return of a community to normality.
Eto is about seven years old. When I visited Gituro she walked with me around the village. She liked the smell of my hand cream and the tick of my watch. Because of The Salvation Army’s emergency services Eto’s family has a house and a toilet. Her parents grow crops and have access to water for their needs.
The community in Gituro has been transformed.
Captain Elizabeth Hayward is Field Operations and Training Officer for The Salvation Army’s International Emergency Services