Interview With Jonathan Gasuzuguro – Legal Representative and Founder of ATEDEC – 16th August 2012
When was ATEDEC formed?
After the genocide, there was chaos in Rwanda. There was lots of immigration and emigration. There was no infrastructure, no housing and no water. Many people had no land and no home. The new government had many tasks and little experience. The government asked the people what they could contribute to the new Rwanda – how could they give the government the capacity to rebuild the country. There was a need for reconciliation of new immigrants and poor and dispossessed Rwandans.
Jonathan was living and working in the Congo. He had experience of running an NGO and studied at the Afro-Asian Institute in Israel.
Jonathan said “My passion is for beneficiaries. If a young person grows up with no education, no skills and no hope of employment it becomes dangerous for that person and for society. Young women who miss school are less likely to understand their rights, they are highly likely to marry young and have a large family. This leads to a vicious cycle.”
What type of projects did you start with and how has that changed?
In 1995, the primary need was for restoration, to house returning refugees. We started a project to build new houses for 8,500 families. This took place across three prefectures (former provinces) and 15 communes (former districts). The needs of these communities changed the types of projects that ATEDEC implemented. Poor communities needed ways to generate income and drag themselves out of poverty and they needed better infrastructure, for example access to clean water. We also needed to separate and protect vulnerable groups: the elderly, women, orphans and the disabled.
The activities of ATEDEC have followed three periods in recent Rwandan history: the emergence period 1995-2003, the transition period 2003-2007 and the development period 2007 – present. During the emergence period, the first requirement was for reconciliation. ATEDEC’s role was to provide shelter for displaced communities. Out of this, grew a need for better water infrastructure and the formation of income generating co-operatives. In the development period, ATEDEC are focussed on building co-operatives in the Nyamasheke District which continues to face problems of extreme poverty and deprivation. We are also promoting and developing the lives of young people in Kigali providing them with an opportunity for a productive and fulfilling life.
What is your vision for the future?
Increasingly, we are concentrating project work in the region of Nyamasheke. We have been working in this area for 17 years and have built a relationship with the community and local leaders. This will improve the effectiveness of our work – increasing interconnections between projects.
We will continue to use our expertise to build successful incoming generating co-operatives, providing practical training to young people and providing assistance to vulnerable groups.
We will let the people drive what is needed – whether that is investment in small agriculture or training in ITC and computer maintenance.