Survivors of the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi and former convicts from Kicukiro, Gasabo and Bugesera districts have come together to seek ways to achieve reconciliation and uproot genocide ideologies.
They committed to this during a three-day forum organised under a platform dubbed, “Beyond conflict Rwanda,” this week in Kicukiro.
The forum seeks to support the Government-led reconciliation process, community recovery and prevention of violence in the country. It was organised by a local organisation called Global Initiative for Environment and Reconciliation (GER).
Claudette Mukarumanzi, a Genocide survivor from Nyamata, Bugesera District, is a neighbour to Jean Claude Ntambara, a former convict who killed her family.
She recalled how Ntambara tried to kill her with a machete.
“Ntambara is my best friend now, I cannot do anything without informing him and and vice versa. I lived in pain for long due to what I went through but after I forgave him, we became friends, I’m even his Godmother. Before I did, whenever I could see him, I would get traumatised but now even when I’m sick, he is the first person I call,” Mukarumanzi said.
She said one way to be relieved is by confronting a person who hurt you, adding that when you have not yet forgiven, you always feel sad and lonely.
The new relationship came after Ntambara showed Mukarumanzi where remains of her loved ones were dumped and asked for forgiveness.
Ntambara said that after serving his seven-year jail term for genocide, he took the initiative to attend reconciliation workshops in the area where he learnt the values of unity.
“I got courage to approach each and every person I had wronged, asking for forgiveness, which helped me reconcile with Mukarumanzi and many others,” he said.
He encouraged former Genocide convicts to approach the people they wronged and ask for forgiveness, which is key to reconciliation.
Innocent Musore, the managing director of Global Initiative for Environment and Reconciliation, said during the workshops, people are more open and through testimonies, they are able to change their mindset.
“Survivors are able to forgive while perpetrators feel remorseful to ask for forgiveness. Every month, we have been able to visit people we trained and many of them did not just stay with the lessons taken, but they have undertaken different healing initiatives in schools, in their families and where they live. We hope this can have a great impact to society,” Musore said.
Annunciate Nzamukosha, one of the survivors from Kicukiro, said she had never sat down together with perpetrators over the last 23 years (after the Genocide) until they met at this particular workshop.
“Mukarumanzi has been a good example to me. You need to have a golden heart to make a person who killed your family your best friend! I’m getting used because sitting, lunching together has made me feel like I’m healing,” Nzamukosha said, and called on the perpetrators to reveal the whereabouts of remains of their loved ones.
She added that to achieve true reconciliation perpetrators should speak the truth on what happened, ask for forgiveness and take responsibility for their actions instead of just putting the whole blame on the former government saying that it incited them to kill people.
Josephine Murebwayire, from Gasabo District, said survivors are ready to forgive and reconcile with former tormentors. The 2015 Rwanda Reconciliation Barometer indicated that up to 92.5 per cent of Rwandans felt that unity and reconciliation had been achieved and that citizens lived in harmony.