Rwanda Reconciliation Radio (2003- 2005)
Financed by the Dutch and Belgian Embassies in Rwanda, this project supported the start of the Gacaca village tribunal process (Gacaca) following the genocide and to sensitize the entire population on the psychological mechanisms that were used to incite the perpetrators so that they may resist incitement to harm one another in the future. The age-old Gacaca, a community based justice system, was revived in 2001 to deal with a collapsed justice system and overcrowded prisons, and was intended to serve as a vehicle for truth, justice and reconciliation.
The project successfully combined the use of edutainment with peace building, trauma healing and research, as it launched two radio programmes: Kuki (‘Why’) a factual radio programme and “Musekeweya” (A New Dawn) – a radio soap drama. The storyline is based on messages constructed by Prof. Ervin Staub and Dr. Laurie Pearlman, two acclaimed international experts on the psychology of peace and the prevention of violence. The programmes were supported by listener groups that later turned into a more comprehensive grassroots program of activities. Musekeweya quickly became one of the most popular programmes in Rwanda and evaluations showed that the messages were understood by the listeners.
Regional project – The Great Lakes Reconciliation Radio (2005 – 2008)
Building on the success of the Rwandan pilot, a regional sensitization campaign was launched to sensitize the citizens of Burundi, Rwanda and DRC to interact peacefully in their own countries and towards their neighbours. This project aimed at promoting understanding of the roots of group (ethnic) violence so as to prevent violence, and to promote trauma healing, reconciliation and justice. All activities used the behaviour change communication strategy developed in the Rwandan prototype: a soap opera to reach the general public, factual programs for an educated, opinion leader audience, and a “practice’ element – grass roots activities. Evaluations showed that from the start, project messages were understood and prompted some attitude change, chiefly increasing trust, trauma knowledge and moderation of respect for authority.
The Great Lakes Reconciliation Media (April 2008 – May 2011)
Further deepening the outcomes already reached in previous projects, now La Benevolencija sought to further evolve the national accents of the three country programmes. In Rwanda our activities are centred on the reconciliation process. It used radio to inform about actual reconciliation activities, and it developed projects furthering mental attitudes enabling reconciliation. It also set up a network of nationwide grassroots associations connected to broadcasts, whose members endeavour to act as “Active Bystanders”, emulating the role models presented in the soap operas.
In the DRC the programme focussed on justice and sexual violence, and the active proliferation of grassroots groups working for social cohesion in tandem with themes popularized through the soap opera Kumbuka Kesho. In Burundi a pilot academic scheme was implemented, teaching the project’s skills and findings to journalists.
In 2010 La Benevolencija coordinated all major media NGOs in Burundi in a wide range of activities to support the holding of democratic elections and their aftermath, known as the PACAM project.