At least 3000 convicts have written or are writing about their role in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, officials have announced.
Hilary Sengabo, the Spokesperson of Rwanda Correctional Service (RCS), told Saturday Times that the move by the convicts was a result of sensitisation efforts that led them to atone for their crimes and reach out to their victims.
“We provide them with various lessons which have triggered them to change and seek pardon from Genocide victims. As years pass, a few of them change and give testimonies about their role in the Genocide against the Tutsi,” said Sengabo.
He added that, through writing, they are disclosing where they dumped remains of their victims, some of which had never been found, 24 years after the Genocide.
“They write their own testimonies and those who are illiterate are helped by those who can write. This is enriching the database and helping in the healing process of our country.”
“For instance, the book by Edouard Bamporiki called ‘Mitingi Genosideri’ uses, as excerpts, tales by Genocide convicts which were written under the initiative,” he said.
Sengabo said RCS staff work with experts from the National Commission for the Fight against Genocide (CNLG) who examine the writing process and the quality of drafts on paper so that testimonies and messages are not distorted.
“The experts assess the manuscripts. Those who have so far come forth and expressed interest in writing about their role are at Kigali, Muhanga, Huye and Rubavu correctional facilities,” he said.
He, however, said that these were few; ten per cent of all the convicts that are currently serving sentences for Genocide.
The move, he said, is commendable change in mindset considering that in 1990s none could dare share such testimonies.
Dr Jean Damascène Bizimana, the Executive Secretary at CNLG, told Saturday Times that the move was commendable, but stressed that it has to be done in a comprehensive way to better document facts about the Genocide against the Tutsi.
“We have given them terms of reference to follow. When they finish their drafts, they send them to us, we read them and provide any advice,” he said.
However, he said some flaws are still observed in terms of writing about individual roles.
“The most common flaw is that some perpetrators do not explicitly write about the crimes they committed, they do not give details how the Genocide was planned and committed, reveal all names of those who participated in it by showing each one’s role in the execution,” he commented.
Bizimana said that there is need to reveal all the information about perpetrators instead of waiting many years to elapse.
“It will help future generations to know the truth about the Genocide history and help survivors to know more because they were mostly in hiding during the Genocide.
“But the perpetrators know all about the atrocities and they should give testimonies,” he said.