Martine Bonny Dikongue – Rwanda

Linked with InWEnt.

See also the WSF World Social Forum 2007, Kenya.

She is one of the 1000 women proposed for the Nobel Peace Price 2005.

She says: “My dream is to see all people smiling. Not because they have to, but because it comes from within.”

She says also: “I saw people walking through Kigali, many of them carrying weapons, and I had the impression that they were mummies. Dead. Without any expression in their eyes. They moved like machines, without perceptible feelings”.

And she says: “In Rwanda interpersonal trust was completely destroyed. People could not share their feelings with their neighbors, often not even with their brothers and sisters. So we needed a program in which individuals could open up to a confidant. These should be people with a relationship. For example, friendships exist among classmates; in a group of women who work on the same farm; or in a groups of street children”.

And she laments: “The culture of silence and mistrust is developed from an early age. Alread at two years old children were taught, that they should never say what they were thinking and never show their feelings. This takes away peoples’ ability to think freely”.

Martine Bonny Dikongue - Rwanda rogné redim 80p.jpg

Martine Bonny Dikongue – Rwanda

She works for Inser, and for Internationale Weiterbildung und Entwicklung GmbH InWEnt.

Read: Development Partnership with InWEnt.

Martine Bonny Dikongue from Cameroon was born in 1960. She is an economist and trainer for non-violent conflict resolution. She helps traumatized survivors of the Rwanda genocide to re-learn to trust people. She works with teachers and other professionals in a project financed by the German government and the Protestant Church of Rwanda.

She has developed her own approach to trauma work, called the white dove method. Martine Bonny Dikongue, a Cameroonian national, works with traumatized survivors of the Rwanda genocide. As an African woman I feel responsible, she says. The 44-year-old trainer in non-violent conflict resolution spends several months a year in Rwanda, helping to restore trust in the world among the traumatiszd survivors.

Bonny’s childhood in Douala, the major Cameroonian city, was influenced by early experiences of discrimination. She studied economics and management. After her university studies in 1988, she worked for a French consulting firm. In 1995 she founded her own small service business, INSER. Its goal was the empowerment of disadvantaged people through strengthening their self-confidence and initiative. In 2000, INSER and its eight employees moved to Yaounde, the capital city, to be closer to its main clients: government ministries and international aid organisations. When she travels, which is most of the time, her two children live with their grandmother. Her involvement with social gender roles led her to become a trainer in non-violent conflict resolution. Until the genocide of 1994, Rwanda was not important to her. She was aware that most African countries had to struggle with their colonial heritage, including Cameroon.

After the genocide she learned about the historical premise that had created divisions and hatred between the minority Tutsi and majority Hutu. There were several genocides in Rwanda before the catastrophy of 1994, but the memory of the past was repressed and mention of them was taboo. This resulted in a culture of silence and mistrust. It allowed violence to return with a terrible force. Dikongue was distressed that the whole society needed therapy, because all people had been traumatized.

There were two million offenders, three million witnesses, six million traumatised. She wondered how a whole society could be treated.

After five weeks she had met Rwandan partners with whom she could plan projects. Her most important partner is Francois Rambonera, the director of the national office of the council of the Protestant Church, who is responsible for the advanced training of teachers. Francois survived the genocide by hiding in a hole underground. He is convinced that the genocide was made possible by the deeply rooted culture of silence, in which people tightly lock their feelings inside. I felt we needed a new way of relating with each other; an active and participatory kind of education where children can speak their minds.

Bonny had inspired Francois and today the two lead seminars for teachers and other professionals, financed by the German Organisation InWEnt. Bonny is also looking for answers: How was the genocide possible?

She developed the Méthode Colombe method, the white dove method.
Bonny spends every day for six weeks with groups. We live together. We eat together. We do everything together.

I do not use a specific formula; it always depends on the particular situation and group. After three weeks it may happen that someone has told the whole group the story of his trauma. I use the strategy of personal analysis, which gets people to ask themselves: what have I done in my life? This is a gentle way to confront them with the genocide. Her white dove method is a combination of cultural techniques grounded in African traditions, including storytelling, theatre, dancing and singing. The basic problem in Rwanda, she says, is that there was no culture of individual choice. When a social group decided that another group had to be killed, it was killed. “That is why we try to develop individuals’ options to choose. The moment someone picks up a machete, he must be able to choose freely whether he does it because he really wants to, or because he is following the will of the group.
You have to encourage people’s critical spirits. This strengthening of the self, the personal will and the ability to verbalize ones thoughts, is what Bonny taught over several years in different African countries. She points out that people who were formerly excluded are now included in community issues.

During the genocide most of the people killed were men. In Rwanda’s past, women never had much to say on issues affecting the community. But now nothing happens without their participation. Today Rwanda has the highest proportion of female parliamentarians in the world. The current parliament elected in September 2003, 48.8 percent of members are women. Slowly and gently, Bonny is able to heal devastated souls. My dream is to see all people smiling again, she says. Not because they have to smile, but because it comes from within. Now you see smiling children and laughing people in the streets of Rwanda again. It’s a beginning. People are starting to live their lives again. (Read all on 1000peacewomen 2005).


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Available texts (2003) through TCSP-Newsletter;

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