Fifty convicts of the Genocide against the Tutsi currently serving varying prison terms in Rubavu Prison have asked for forgiveness from survivors and community for their involvement in the 1994 Genocide.
The event took place on Thursday at Petit Séminaire Nyundo playground in Nyundo Sector attracting thousands of residents from different parts of Rubavu District.
The convicts said they were remorseful, with many saying they took enough time to reflect on inhumane crimes they committed and associated consequences that the community suffered and country at large.
Gaetan Ndererimana, 62, who spoke on behalf of other convicts, said they “had become savages in 1994” when they mercilessly killed neighbours, co-workers and innocent toddles among other victims.
A cross section of some Genocide convicts from Rubavu Prison ask pardon for their involvement in the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi . Regis Umurengezi
He however revealed that after a period of penitent, they jointly came up with an idea to ask for forgiveness as they realised that unity and reconciliation process is paying off among many Rwandans.
“Fellow Rwandans here present, dear brothers and sisters who survived the Genocide perpetrated against the Tutsi in 1994, you all turned a blind eye to evils we did against you in the Genocide and rather opted to welcome us within the community,” said Ndererimana.
“We are here before you asking for forgiveness; we wronged God, the Rwandan community and most importantly, the Genocide survivors who we hurt hitherto, may you kindly forgive us,” he added.
Rubavu locals raise hands as a sign that they forgive the Genocide concicts. Regis Umurengezi
The head of Ibuka – an umbrella body of Genocide survivors’ organizations – in Rubavu District said that as survivors, they had forgiven the convicts.
He however stressed that the convicts should do more than seek forgiveness and provide information on whereabouts of some of the remains of the victims which have never been found.
“We need to know the whereabouts of our loved ones so we can exhume them and give them a decent burial. When such information is shared it obviously leads to total reconciliation,” he noted.
Officials revealed that despite efforts by Rwanda Correctional Services (RCS) and partners, most people who took part in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi are yet to show remorse and apologise.
Researcher and former senator, Antoine Mugesera pointed out that there is an urgent need to assess reasons that impede Genocide convicts from asking pardon, which impedes the reconciliation process.
The Executive Secretary of the National Unity and Reconciliation Commission (NURC), Fidèle Ndayisaba, said that seeking and granting pardon contributes significantly to the journey of unity and reconciliation.
“Asking or giving pardon doesn’t means you are weak; it is part of the healing process and that actually requires strength,” he said.
Figures from RCS indicate that there are over 27,000 Genocide convicts and only 22.2 per cent have apologised and been forgiven by victims and reconciled.