Ruanda: Martine Bonny Dikongue

My dream is to see all people smiling. Not because they have to, but because it comes from within.

— Martine Bonny Dikongue

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 tells stories to heal traumatized survivors of the Rwanda genocide. The 45-year-old trainer in non-violent conflict resolution defines peace with a story. “One very dark night villagers could not see their surroundings. But they felt that a strange creature was present. The first person said: I touched it and felt something long. A second person said it was something thick. For a third one, something wet. No, said the fourth person, something dry. They could not agree what the creature was. The next day they saw it: an elephant. They had all touched it, but each at a different spot. The story shows us that each sex, ethnic group and minority has their own perspective on issues. If one perspective is excluded, conflict is inevitable. If the people had accepted each other’s perceptions, they would have recognized the elephant.” Dikongue, a Cameroonian national, spends several months a year in Rwanda helping to restore trust in the world among the traumatized survivors. Her “white dove method” is a combination of cultural techniques grounded in African traditions, including storytelling, theatre, dancing and singing. “There were several genocides in Rwanda before the 1994 genocide, 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. 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.” 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. It’s a beginning. People are starting to live their lives again.”

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