Suspected criminals in Rwanda who confess their involvements in the 1994 Tutsi Genocide, are given chance to serve half of their sentences outside prison doing community work. The community work is popularly known as TIG (travel d’interest generale).
TIG reinforces unity and national reconciliation process and contributes to the economic development of the country. It also enables the convicts, acquire new professional skills that will help them facilitate their reintegration into society and at the same time give them training in human rights and other related fields.
The works they get involved in, include; construction of houses for Genocide survivors and other people without shelter, constructing roads, farming and other developmental activities. They have been given special camps close to the people.
The TIG executive secretary Emmanuel Twagirumukiza said that, “those doing community service are housed in two camps, in the southern town of Nyanza and the central district of Ruyumba respectively. Some 780 inmates live in the second camp; including about a dozen senior citizens aged 60 to 81”.
‘‘TIG has progressed in achieving the three ultimate goals of its inception namely; fighting impunity, promoting unity, reconciliation and contributing to national development. Most of the prisoners have reformed and are aware that the destruction they inflicted to humanity was not necessary and should never happen again,”confirmed Nabahire
The director general of prison services in Rwanda, Mr. Steven Balinda, said on a telephone interview Thursday that, the programs of making the prisoners serve the community could help them reconcile with people they wronged.
“Interacting with a person you maltreated on a daily basis can help you to reduce fear to ask for forgiveness and at the same time paves way for possible feelings of forgiveness. Involving prisoners in a variety of tasks and activities within their communities give them chance to slowly re-integrate themselves in the new world.
Most of them have been over passed by events. It’s very dangerous to release prisoners into the community without skills that they could use to earn a living as they could become a burden to the society. Through community work activities, they experience a range of jobs options that will enable them to make more informed choices and decisions when they go back into their communities” Balinda emphasised.
On the other hand, one Theogene a resident of Kabeza with four relatives serving their sentences under TIG program said that, the program is good because it speeds up people’s sentences. “Many other communities had begun receiving their relatives they never thought to see again due to the gravity of the crimes they committed,” he said.
The systems of allowing prisoners who confess to serve half of their sentence in community work have accelerated the process of reconciliation in Rwanda.
Reconciliation being a long process, demands enough time and interaction between the offenders and the offended. The involvement of prisoners in community work before they are totally set free, gives chance the two parties to slowly reconcile. This is when they sit down and ponder the futility of continuing hatred and having an unnecessary dichotomy between them.
The community work also works as a form of compensation as wrongdoers re-build the houses of the wronged.
They could not have otherwise managed to pay back what they destroyed because they simply do not have anything. Apart from being involved in destruction, they never saved anything and cannot therefore pay the victims. TIG corrects this! TIG has also put hundreds of thousands of human power into active work. It would be illogical to keep them in doors and feed them for all many years using the tax payers’ money. This money will be instead channeled to other development activities.
TIG is promoting the essential infrastructure in the country including construction of feeder roads. There will be an increase in production because even the rural farmers will have access to the main markets and hence be motivated to produce more.
Increase in production leads to increase in income and subsequent raise of living standards of people. When peoples’ standards are at satisfactory levels, it is easy for them to think about reconciliation.
The community work (TIG) therefore, in all forms, gives typical characteristics of restorative justice that are essential in nursing the aftermath of the 1994 Tutsi genocide in Rwanda.
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