My name is Samuel Habimana, and I hold a bachelor's degree in clinical psychology and a master's in Public Health from the University of Rwanda (UR). I am currently a PhD candidate in Social Welfare and Social Research at the School of Behavioral Health, Loma Linda University (LLU).
My doctoral research focuses on "Psycho-social Factors in Survivors and Perpetrators of the 1994 Rwandan Genocide against Tutsi: The Role of the Community Resiliency Model in Helping Build Resilience and Social Cohesion." For this research I work closely with my committee members and research mentors, Dr. Susanne Montgomery, Dr. Zephon Lister, and Dr. Kimberly Freeman.
This research is an extension of my longstanding commitment to enhancing resilience and supporting the mental health recovery of communities experiencing conflicts and facing a scarcity of mental health professionals (Samuel Habimana, September 17th, 2022). A decade ago, I embarked on this journey in Rwanda with a local non-profit organization I co-founded, and am the Executive Director, namely the Rwanda Resilience and Grounding Organization (RRGO).
In the past, RRGO has conducted multiped projects (Habimana et al., 2023) using the Community Resiliency Model (CRM) to decrease trauma and promoting self-care among genocide survivors. While these findings are compelling, it is becoming clear that former perpetrators who since their release from prison are now co-living in some villages also suffer and that there is limited knowledge if CRM or other community-based interventions can effectively enhance psycho-social factors among both survivors and perpetrators and even among mixed group of both.
Therefore, in December 2022, we secured funding for a project entitled "Restoration of Peace and Compassion among Rwandan Genocide Survivors and Ex-Prisoners" from Rotary Club International, supported by Victoria Park Rotary Club (Australia) and Butare Rotary Club (Rwanda). This initiative introduced the practice of the CRM skills training and laughter yoga in 15 villages in Rwanda's southern, western, and eastern provinces. We were able to reach over 350 genocide survivors and perpetrators who participated in groups of 25, for three 3 days of CRM training plus laughter yoga. The outcomes of this intervention were remarkable, notably reducing post-traumatic stress disorder and depression, promoting social cohesion, and enhancing resiliency capacities for both the survivor and perpetrator groups. However, they only participated in separate groups of survivors and perpetrators and it remains to be seen however if the CRM intervention can be successfully delivered to mixed groups of survivors and perpetrators.
Therefore, I taught CRM in Rwanda's southern Nyamagabe district using a comparison group design to 50 survivors, 50 perpetrators, and 50 participants in mixed groups of both. I collected data before and after the intervention and again was able to show positive results. Indeed, as before, mental health symptoms, including Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, anxiety, depression, anger, and emotional dysregulation, were reduced in both survivor and perpetrator populations after just six hours of CRM implementation over three days. Additionally, there was an increase in resilience, forgiveness, social cohesion, and compassion. My continued evaluation will assess if these positive effects remain after six months.
We are truly excited that the CRM skill training resulted in significant improved mental health and increased pro-social attitudes. This type of a mixed delivery and the pro-social effects are critical as this is how participants live their lives and many are currently not engaging with each other, adding to their already stressful lives. Interventions such as this one are critical to help with the reintegration of perpetrators¹ and their families into Rwandan post-genocide life, and help survivors² and returnees³ live together with more pro-social engagement.
Written by Samuel Habimana, BSc, MPH, Social Welfare and Social Research PhD student
¹ The perpetrators comprise Rwandans who were involved in the genocide, served their sentences, and have now reintegrated into the Rwandan community.
² Survivors are Rwandans who were specifically targeted and managed to survive the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda.
³ Returnees are Rwandans who had been living in exile before the genocide and chose to return to Rwanda after the genocide had ended.
- Habimana S, Biracyaza E, Habumugisha E, Museka E, Mutabaruka J, Montgomery SB. Role of Community Resiliency Model Skills Trainings in Trauma Healing Among 1994 Tutsi Genocide Survivors in Rwanda. Psychol Res Behav Manag. 2021 Jul 30;14:1139-1148. doi: 10.2147/PRBM.S319057. PMID: 34354379; PMCID: PMC8331195.
- Samuel Habimana (September 17th, 2022). Building Resiliency Through Community Resiliency Model Skills (CRM) Training On Genocide Survivors In Nyamangabe. https://www.rrgo.org/?p=1907