Cooperative organizations aid peace building in conflict-torn Rwanda

January 18, 2010

A thesis from the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, shows that cooperative organisations play an important role in the peace-building efforts undertaken in the wake of the Rwanda genocide.

The 1994 genocide in Rwanda tore apart and destroyed large parts of the country's socio-economic and institutional foundations, and its severe consequences are still evident. As part of the recovery process, there is a desperate need to restore relations between genocide survivors and former perpetrators - and this in the midst of intensified poverty.

In his thesis, Ezechiel Sentama proposes that cooperative organisations may serve as a means to strengthen social cohesion and facilitate reconciliation and recovery.

'I have explored what happens to the relationship between conflicting parties in the aftermath of violence, such as the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, when they become partners in the same cooperative organisation,' says Sentama.

Friendship and positive communication

Sentema studied the two cooperative organisations Abahuzamugambi coffee and Peace basket, and found that they have indeed played an important role in the restoration of relations between the post-genocide conflicting parties. Not only have they enabled the former antagonists to overcome dehumanising relationships plagued by division and miscommunication, they have also fostered positive and (re)humanising relations characterised by friendship, positive communication and an overall good atmosphere.

Sentama concludes that genuine and well-functioning cooperative organisations can make a positive difference in efforts to restore relations among people, and suggests that cooperative organisations should be seen as an alternative to other mechanisms used in the process of post-conflict peace-building.

'It is possible to restore relationships between different groups if they are part of the same genuine and well-functioning cooperative organisation,' says Sentama.
The study is based on qualitative interviews with 222 individuals (both members and non-members of a cooperative organisation) from both sides of the conflict.

University of Gothenburg

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