Spotlight: Innocent Musore

Meet Innocent –

Innocent Musore is the Executive Director for the Global Initiative for Environment and Reconciliation (GER) in Rwanda, an organisation focussed on building sustainable peace in his community, and a Founder Partner of Coalition Peace. On Peace Day 2020, Coalition Peace introduces you to Innocent, who shares his experience of working for peace and reconciliation in his country, especially during Covid-19.

Based in a nation recovering from the 1994 genocide, which is estimated to have taken 800,000 lives (BBC, 2019), Innocent and his team are on a mission to support the peace and reconciliation process, encouraging healing at the community and national level, whilst also facilitating social reintegration. To this day, the genocide continues to impact the development of the country and the common aspects of life – the relations, the dynamics of communities, “the social fabrics”, as Innocent puts it.

“The country is stable, but people are still facing the effects of the genocide against Tutsis. We still have wounded people. We have the perpetrators; we have young people [born] from perpetrators. Being the child of a perpetrator – it is not an easy matter, it’s very hard and shameful. It’s a process. It’s a process wh58bbacere we like to [encourage] everybody to take part, because all Rwandans have been affected in different manners by the genocide”.

While they do work with a broad demographic, Innocent and his team focus predominantly on the youth in post-genocide communities in Rwanda. Their joint programme, ‘Beyond Conflict Rwanda’, is a collaboration with Force for Change (CFOR), which aims to facilitate deeper dialogues at the individual and community levels, between perpetrators and victims, in order to restore trust, promote sustainable peace and prevent future violence. The programme has been implemented in the Bugesera, Gasabo and Kicukiro regions with approximately 500 participants, the majority being youth. “[The youth] want peace, [they want] to reconcile, and this is a foundation, a bridge and an initiative. We focus on the youth – how they can be actors of peacebuilding and the developing world”. With young people (16-30 years old) constituting 26.6% of the resident population (Youth Thematic Report 2016/17), Innocent stresses the importance of working with the younger generations: “If we don’t do anything, we affect the next generation. [If] we don’t focus, we can lose.”

But the GER also work hard to send their message of reconciliation beyond the borders. Reaching out to the youth beyond Rwanda, the GER’s Cultural Exchange Programme gives young people around the world the opportunity to experience Rwandan culture and to gain a better understanding of how the past has shaped its present. “Anyone who is interested to see Rwanda, [to] see the history, visit different institutions, the genocide memorials [and] interact with people” are welcomed with warm arms.

Regardless of the hard efforts that go into the programmes, Innocent acknowledges the struggles that have arrived in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Across Rwanda, children are unable to go to school, unemployment is increasing as the economy continues to shrink, and some areas still remain in lockdown. GER has had to put many of their programmes on hold due to a lack of financial support and government restrictions on travel and social distancing. For over two months, Innocent and his team have been unable to visit their projects and the communities. Without the capacity to travel and having to adhere to the necessary social distancing obligations, organising and monitoring activities in the field has become almost impossible. But the pandemic has also had a personal toll. “Even my neighbour, if he’s not well, he lose[s] the job. It affects me. My relative, if he’s not working because of COVID, it affects me,” Innocent says, “[because] when you are in a community, we share the good and the bad”.

Yet, despite the adversity, Innocent and his team continue to find small ways to make a big difference to the new challenges faced by their community: “We are working with elders, [providing] good, hygiene and special materials. They have the right to live life.”. Social media platforms have also provided solace to individuals when the national genocide commemoration (April 7th) was cancelled amidst the pandemic. Whilst Rwandans would normally remember the tragedy together, this year’s 19th anniversary saw many people commemorating alone due to distancing regulations. However, Innocent took the opportunity to utilise online platforms as a solution to encourage interaction:

“We have a WhatsApp group with the young people in some communities. We are calling on [the] phone, […] we can ask question[s] and get feedback in [the] group – and so we are connected with our people”.

The benefits of the group, Innocent cites, is that it has given participants the chance to share their struggles and experiences in isolation and to spread messages of solidarity during the period of commemoration. This online engagement has not been restricted to the community level, but has also been shared on a global level, as Rwandans continue to “share [their] stories, [their] testimonies” with the rest of the world to inspire support and unity. This builds on GER’s wider role and impact more broadly in the peacebuilding community through their international engagement and partnership with Coalition Peace – a coalition of more than 10 organisations across Africa.

“If we get support, it can help my organisation to contribute to the peacebuilding and reconciliation and the healing. […]. We are committed to supporting peace and getting support from our Partners at Coalition Peace or any [other] partners”.

So, how does the future of peacebuilding look for Rwanda? In a society which sees constant progression and changing dynamics, Innocent emphasises the need to develop and adapt, but he simultaneously displays an abundance of optimism.

“The picture for Rwanda is bright because we are contributing to sustain peace. In that sense, we hope that we are stable, but it does not mean that we don’t have challenges. Peace is a responsibility of everyone – not only of the government, not only the organisations – it’s for everyone to accept, to [promote] peace”.