Claims and contentions

26 Apr 2010

A number of articles of late have raised awareness of the lack of support that survivors in Rwanda have received, and continue to receive, from international development agencies.

In yesterday’s Observer, there is a fascinating profile of the Dutch writer Linda Polman and her new book War Games. Polman narrates the tragic tale of “how the humanitarian aid industry, the media and warmongers the world over are locked in a cycle of mutual support.” The Observer comments:

Perhaps the most striking case in the book deals with the aftermath of the genocide in Rwanda in which the Hutu killers fled en masse across the border to what was then Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo). There, in Goma, huge refugee camps were assembled and served by an enormous array of international agencies, while back in Rwanda, where Tutsi corpses filled rivers and lakes, aid was not so focused.

Sixteen years on from the genocide, the victims of the genocide – the Tutsi survivors – still are awaiting to benefit from the aid raised in their name – and continues to be raised in their name.

In the Development in Practice Journal, Noam Schimmel delivers an incisive argument on “Failed aid: how development agencies are neglecting and marginalising Rwandan genocide survivors”.

It illustrates that genocide survivors remain impoverished and marginalised, and that development aid agencies only tangentially, if at all, acknowledge their vulnerability and take steps to empower them to realise their rights.

(The full article can be downloaded from here)

This is a contention that SURF Founder, Mary Kayitesi Blewitt OBE, expounds on in her new book You Alone May Live. In an earlier article, also in Development in Practice, Mary wrote that for survivors, “Humanitarian and development efforts will not achieve lasting benefits without better coordination and the ability to act on lessons learned.”

SURF is a small organisation, with only a director and a part-time administrator in our one office outside Rwanda. However, of any international development agency we provide the greatest level of funding to survivors’ organisations in Rwanda.

Where is the funding from the many large international development agencies active in Rwanda, which have the capacity and the remit to support local community organisations? Why are they not as well proving the tailored support still critically needed by survivors in Rwanda?

We plan to do more to advocate for international development agencies to better support survivors. We can do more to coordinate efforts, and we will.