Home Institution

The University of Iowa

Publication Date

Spring 2017

Program Name

Rwanda: Post-Genocide Restoration and Peacebuilding


From April 7th to July 1st of 1994, one million Rwandan people were brutally murdered by their friends and neighbors in the meticulously planned and government-sponsored Genocide against the Tutsi. Survivors witnessed killings and sexual assault, had their lives threatened, lost multiple family members, and hid under dead bodies to evade the killers. To make matters worse, trust within communities and even within families was destroyed as Hutu perpetrators turned against Tutsis they had, days earlier, been inviting to family events. After the genocide, PTSD rates among adults in Rwanda were estimated at 20.5% for men and 30% for women (Munyandamutsa). Due to the violence, infrastructure throughout Rwanda was decimated, leaving their only psychiatric hospital abandoned and a meager 3 professional psychological support staff in the country. This report discusses four categories of coping mechanisms utilized by Rwandans to cope with post-genocide trauma: problem-focused strategies, emotion-focused strategies, avoidance strategies, and faith-based strategies. It then analyzes 9 personal interviews with Kigali-based psychological support organizations and 85 testimonies from Rwandans who experienced genocide for methods they either recommend or personally used to positively cope with genocide-inflicted trauma. The study shows that emotion-focused and faith-based coping strategies are the most utilized. While the results of this study cannot be generalized outside of a Rwandan context, these findings may suggest that internalized coping mechanisms are more applicable in trauma cases of atypical occurrence or magnitude.


African Languages and Societies | African Studies | Community Psychology | Counseling Psychology | Other Religion | Peace and Conflict Studies | Politics and Social Change | Psychological Phenomena and Processes


Article Location