On Sunday, residents of Ruharambuga Sector in Nyamasheke District looked on in awe as a true reconciliation story unfolded before their very eyes when 10 Genocide perpetrators openly expressed remorse for their role in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi and sought forgiveness from survivors.
The reconciliation event, that took place at Ntendezi Parish in the presence of officials from the National Unity and Reconciliation Commission, government officials and church leaders, was organized under an initiative known as Hear Healing, a faith-based reconciliation and healing programme.
Initiated in 2008, the programme has hitherto helped reconcile 30 perpetrators with survivors.
It was indeed humbling to see survivors and their former tormentors who had sought and received forgiveness happily embrace and share ikigage, a local brew, from the same pot, putting behind them bitterness and disgrace inherited from a genocide visited upon this country by its own leaders.
This story from a small village in southwestern Rwanda embodies this country’s remarkable journey of resilience, ownership, forgiveness, reconstruction of national identity and fostering a sense of common belonging for a little more than 20 years now.
Across the countless rolling hills of this country, such intriguing stories of remorsefulness, forgiveness and reconciliation, often championed by ordinary Rwandans themselves, have increasingly come to shape Rwanda’s post-Genocide recovery and unshaken hopes for a better Rwanda in the future.
There are so many success stories of Genocide survivors and perpetrators or their families that have not only reconciled but have joined hands in cooperatives to develop themselves through income-generating activities.
It is precisely because of these strong foundations for a united, peaceful and inclusive nation that the people of Rwanda can be proud of their achievements over the last two decades of nation-building and draw strengths to stay the course.
Nonetheless, there are still a few perpetrators out there who have yet to show remorse with even some still unwilling to reveal the whereabouts of the remains of Genocide victims 22 years later.
We urge such people to liberate themselves by letting go of the ideology that led to the Genocide, actively partake in the national healing process by telling the truth and helping in the recovery of victims’ remains for decent burial, and seek to live harmoniously with survivors and the rest of the community.
We also call on the Genocide survivors who are yet to overcome the terrible loss of their loved ones and the bitterness that came with it to take another step in their courageous journey of healing to forgive their former tormentors who seek forgiveness and reconciliation.
We all have a lot to learn from the reconciliation story in Nyamasheke and other similar stories around the country.
In doing so, we are laying the necessary building blocks for a united, more prosperous Rwanda.