We are commemorating the passing of a section of Rwandan humanity; we lost our finest. We have had continuous discussions about what caused it, how we can avoid it in the future, how we can bring about continuous reconciliation and healing.
We need more action, less talk and more communal effort. If Rwanda was a person; we have treated the wounds, tried to hunt those responsible, sought reconciliation but we need to restore the survivors.
The saddest story I heard is of a group called “banyakamwe.” This is a group of Genocide survivors who are the only living member of their genetic bloodline.
They meet regularly to be a family to each other, it is a very lonely life to be your only relative, the burden of restoring a thin DNA strand that has held on since the beginning of time.
To owe a debt of life to the dead and a solemn promise to preserve their memory and restore their dignity, I somehow adopted a survivor.If you can call it that, he is now a best friend and brother in every way, and I am preparing for his wedding like it is my own.
One time, we had a heated argument in the car, and he burst out laughing “if my brothers were alive, this is the exact kind of stupid argument we would be having.” Things we take for granted, to be lucky enough to have relatives to argue with.
He is not self-pitying, he has fought valiantly for his country, he has no bitterness, doesn’t hold collective blame, and above all, he considers himself lucky to be alive. Every so often he feels injustice that he is personally in a worse situation than even some killers.
Then the personal reconciliation he has is put in doubt, and that is cast the key to reconciliation. There is the fleeting moment of reconciliation, the moment when hate is put aside, we gain empathy and mutual understanding, then we go home to live with the consequences.
Our government does not have the financial or emotional resources to restore these former victims, that must fall on our shoulders. If we all took our share of responsibility, we can restore our nation, we can restore our people, and in so doing restore ourselves.
Particularly those of us who grew up in exile, those with resources and knowhow, it should be a tradition to invite survivors into your homes and your lives.
Simple normality of domestic life can be healing, restoration of daily life and be their support system.
It is scary just to think about what they went through. Imagine going out to play and come back to find your family has been killed and mutilated, mother raped, children impaled on spikes.
Then you wonder in the streets scavenging for food, you wait until you are old enough to join the army, where you find structure and discipline. Then when you leave the army you are back to square one.
There is no mass-cure for this, we must restore these people one by one. Whatever is in your capacity, do it.
Nothing is more precious than time spent listening and bonding. We can reconcile actions, events, crimes, but the consequences of these actions are still there. Therefore, we need to restore these people to dignity, respect, and a basic comfortable life.