RWANDA

The school where Rwanda's ex-soldiers get a second chance

 The village school in Nyanza, south of the Rwandan capital of Kigali, has become a place where former Rwandan soldiers can get off to a fresh start. Those who once only knew how to fire a gun are taught carpentry, weaving and masonry skills.

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A pupil in the training centre in Nyanza learns to weave.

 

The village school in Nyanza, south of the Rwandan capital of Kigali, is a place where former Rwandan soldiers can get off to a fresh start. Those who once knew only how to fire a gun are taught carpentry, weaving and masonry skills.

 

The Rwandan conflict sparked the Hutu mass killings of Tutsis that led to the genocide of 1994. It later spilled beyond the country's borders into the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), fueled by ethnic violence in North Kivu.

 

In 1999, Rwandan troops were withdrawn from the DRC after the signature of the Lusaka ceasfire agreements. Tens of thousands of men with no other experience than warfare (soldiers, but also militamen from various armed groups) returned to the country. Leaving them idle was potentially risky, so the govermnent decided to launch a programme to reintegrate them into civilian life.

 

According to a report in 2006 by an organization affiliated with the World Bank, more than 20,000 soldiers from the Rwanda Defence Force (RDF) and about 6,500 other combatants, including 624 child soldiers, have been repatriated and demobilized. Several Rwandan armed groups are still present in border regions with the DRC, which remains a staging ground for several conflicts.

 

 

The training school in Nyanza.

 

Among the demobilised soldiers, the poorest benefit from reintegration aid and are offerred  professional training. Our Observer visited a school in Nyanza, whose mission it is to give demobilized soldiers a second chance at life.

 

 

Woodwork workshop.

Post written with France 24 journalist Ségolène Malterre.

"The goal is that the ex-soldiers be able to find civilian jobs after their training"

 

Graham Holliday lives in Kigali. The photos were posted on his blog Kigali Wire.

 

The school in Nyanza doesn’t only train ex-soldiers. It is one of 30 public training centres in Rwanda. After the 1994 genocide, a great number of children and teenagers found themselves orphaned, with no education or training. That is when the first apprenticeship programmes were launched. The centres were initially free and open to all. But since 2009, they have started to charge tuition fees and only candidates who have gone to school for at least nine years are admitted.

 

 

Demobilized soldiers are helped financially by the Rwandan government to pay for their training. They are taught masonry, joinery, metalwork, design and even weaving. The goal is that ex-soldiers be able to find civilian jobs after their training. They are more than likely to find work in one of the many construction projects in Kigali the government announced in February 2009 as part of a massive modernization plan.