They stepped forward with a smile on their faces and hugged as though they had never held a grudge against each other.
In Karama Sector, Huye District in Southern Province, hundreds of residents gathered to witness the event.
This was on the last day of the Legal Aid Week in the area.
This year’s Legal Aid Week focused on executing Gacaca court rulings, among other things.
It was in this context that these two families in Huye District which had been engulfed in conflict over property destroyed during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi reconciled.
Gacaca courts had ordered compensation of many survivors’ property that was destroyed during the Genocide.
But years later, many Genocide perpetrators have failed to honour court orders, many for lack of capacity.
However, Oreste Hakizimana, a victim, and Damian Ndorande, a perpetrator, both residents of Mahembe Cell in Karama Sector ultimately chose the path of reconciliation.
Hakizimana declared that he had pardoned Ndorande who could not afford to compensate for the property he destroyed during the Genocide, which is worth Rwf 49,000.
In his remarks, Hakizimana said one of the solutions to many unresolved Gacaca cases is to forgive and write off compensation.
“What if someone can’t afford to pay?’’ Hakizimana asked.
Ndorande welcomed Hakizimana’s gesture, noting that solutions to Rwanda’s problems are among Rwandans themselves.
Huye District has up to 7,500 unsolved property-related Gacaca cases.
According to the Gacaca cases’ assessment by the Ministry of Justice in February and March this year, countrywide, 1,197,117 (94%) of property related cases were executed whereas 69,515 (5.49%) are yet to be executed.
Of all the remaining cases pending execution, 18,950 (27%) of them are said to be possible to be executed, while 50,565 (73%) still have barriers to end.
Speaking at the event, Evode Uwizeyimana, the Minister of State in charge of Constitutional and Legal Affairs, called on other families with unsolved cases to emulate the two men.
Uwizeyimana said that peaceful co-existence is key to addressing society’s problems.
“Apart from consulting lawyers, pursuing justice legally, know that families where you live are the foundation of society. Ending all unsolved cases, including Gacaca’s, is important,” he said.
He observed that solutions to society problems should be sought from within by the community members.
Beata Twagirumukiza, a Karama resident and mediator, also encouraged residents with unsolved cases as a result of the suspect’s inability to pay to sit together and ‘talk’.
“More efforts are needed to connect perpetrators and victims’ families. Such families should sit down and devise lasting solutions within themselves,” she said.
“We have many who lack ability to meet the compensation. We can’t say the cases will not be executed but we have to use the principle of seeking our own solutions,” Twagirumukiza said.