8 Jun 2010
SURF was founded with an objective to raise funding internationally for survivors of the genocide in Rwanda. In her memoir, You Alone May Live, SURF Founder, Mary Kayitesi Blewitt, recalls her first few months of work on her return from Rwanda in 1995, which led to the establishment of SURF :
I felt isolated, desperate and trapped. I seemed to be the only person who understood what had happened in Rwanda, but no one wanted to hear me. I visited NGOs working in Rwanda and the UK Department for International Development, pleading for funds to be channelled to survivors. As had happened in Rwanda, I was informed politely that funds were already committed to the country, and with the emergency period coming to an end, there were no more earmarked for it.
With a letter from SURF published in today’s International Herald Tribune, our pleading continues.
In addition, the new Secretary of State for International Development, Andrew Mitchell, recently stated that he has “put DFID staff on notice now, that every time I visit our work overseas I’m going to be asking how are you engaging with local people and civil society, as well as their government?”
We hope that this will result in future funding from DFID Rwanda being channelled directly to survivors, rather than exclusively to Government.
Andrew Mitchell in his review of Linda Polman’s War Games, emphasises that “we need to face up to the difficult issues that Polman raises” which includes the mistakes made in the immediate aftermath of the Rwandan genocide, when more international funding was channelled to the perpetrators of the genocide than to the survivors.
As a brief visitor to the country it is all too easy to see the huge strides that the nation has taken since 1994 as evidence of reconciliation, but as with so much in Rwanda – still waters run deep. Non-violent coexistence is not the same as peace: tensions may go unexpressed violently but they are still very real.
Having now worked in Rwanda for sixteen years, SURF is no brief visitor to the country. However, we are still learning how deep the still waters run – as we hope international funders do so too.