Between April and July 1994, some 800,000 women and men lost their lives in appalling circumstances during the genocide against Rwanda's Tutsi minority and massacres of political opponents. Shocked like the rest of the world, Switzerland took action.
Since 1994, the SDC contributed to the international humanitarian effort to help the hundreds of millions of refugees displaced by the conflict. At the end of the 1990s, the SDC replaced its humanitarian operations with reconstruction assistance for Rwanda through numerous projects. The SDC-funded projects included a programme to promote justice and reconciliation, urban participative workshops to deal with the sudden population growth experienced by the country's cities in the wake of the war and the training of mental health professionals.
The SDC's efforts in Rwanda have continued without interruption to this day. It has helped to restore functioning institutions. For example the national cooperative health-care scheme that today guarantees almost all Rwandans access to health care is the result of Switzerland's long-standing efforts in the Rwandan health sector. Nevertheless, Rwanda is still a country with precarious living conditions and almost half of the population lives below the poverty line.
Regional cooperation strategy
The SDC is currently operating in Rwanda on the basis of an enhanced commitment in fragile contexts. A coordinated regional cooperation strategy (development and humanitarian assistance, peace policy, diplomacy) focusing on Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo has guided Switzerland's actions in the Great Lakes region since 2009. It is considered that peace, justice and stability are essential conditions for combating poverty.
The SDC is currently carrying out six projects in Rwanda in the health, vocational training and environment sectors. The operations carried out on the ground aim to further improve the functioning of the state institutions with two core objectives: to enable the state to providequality basic services to the population and an environment conducive to employment.
1. Example project: Psychosocial programme
The health sector has always been a priority for the SDC's efforts in Rwanda. Pursuing an action initiated by the Humanitarian Aid, a programme set up by the SDC in 2011 addresses the issue of gender-based violence and helps women and men who have experienced this kind of abuse. In Rwanda, "healing workshops" assist the survivors of the genocide and other conflicts in overcoming grief and moving towards reconciliation. The Psychosocial programme also covers Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Victims of physical or psychological aggression as a result of domestic violence or armed conflict are given therapy and invited to discuss their situation and their needs in a group.
Article Un seul monde (fr)
2. Example project: Vocational training programme
Some 80% of the population of Rwanda depends on subsistence farming and the country urgently needs to diversify its economy. The SDC has set up a project specifically targeted at improving the vocational and skills training available in Rwanda. Launched in 2012, the project has already enabled the construction and equipment of four brand-new vocational establishments. Six post-school education courses have been developed in areas as varied as masonry, soldering and car mechanics.