Soap opera helps heal post-genocide wounds in Rwanda

Soap opera helps heal post-genocide wounds in Rwanda
A sound engineer working during the recording of an episode of the soap opera "Musekeweya" in Kigali.

KIGALI - Twice a week and for half an hour, everything stops on the hillsides of Rwanda as people huddle around a radio and listen to a soap opera that aims to help heal the wounds left by the genocide.

The idea behind "Musekeweya", or the New Dawn, is to do the opposite of what the notorious Radio Libre des Mille Collines did 20 years ago as it stoked ethnic hatred during the genocide carried out by Hutu extremists.

Radio Mille Collines played a major role in the planning and carrying out of the genocide, which, in the space of 100 days starting on April 7, 1994, saw an estimated 800,000 people, essentially minority Tutsis, hacked to death by Hutu extremists.

"Musekeweya" started up in 2004 and aims to eradicate violence by educating communities. It also keeps them entertained.

The soap opera recounts the day-to-day life of the residents of two fictional villages, Bumanzi and Muhumuro, who, after years of conflict stoked by the authorities, are trying to heal their wounds and mend fences.

For the past 10 years the series has explored what causes the destructive behaviour of the two villages' inhabitants, basing itself on the work of Ervin Staub, a psychologist and Holocaust survivor, who in "The Roots of Evil: Genocide, Violent Conflict and Terrorism" explores the origins of violence.

Even if the words Hutu and Tutsi, taboo in present-day Rwanda, are never mentioned, the conflict that has affected the two fictional villages mirrors the genocide that took place in Rwanda two decades ago.

"A lot of people followed orders," explains Aimable Twahirwa, who heads the project, set up by the Dutch organisation La Benevolencija, which has similar initiatives in Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan.

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