A tale of forgiveness: Perpetrator and victim reconcile

40 year old, Jean de Dieu Ndagijimana who confesses to participating in the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi, is a resident of Remera sector in Ngoma district (Kibungo), Eastern province.
Ndagijimana and Mukangarambe telling their story. (Photo by R.Mugabe).
Ndagijimana and Mukangarambe telling their story. (Photo by R.Mugabe).

40 year old, Jean de Dieu Ndagijimana who confesses to participating in the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi, is a resident of Remera sector in Ngoma district (Kibungo), Eastern province.

He is a member of Inango y’amahoro Association of 52 members which has humble efforts to contribute to the national message of reconciliation.

Ndagijimana was part of a gang of interahamwe militias who terrorised Remera sector at the home village of Colonel Rwagafirita, the former senior army officer who is alleged to have mobilised and equipped thousands of residents to murder the Tutsi population in the Eastern province.

He was Consulate Mukangarambe’s neighbour. Although Hutu, all her children were murdered because she was married to a Tutsi man and the children were thus considered Tutsi.

Ndagijimana says that Mukangarambe’s brothers, Celestin Rwabirinda and Murindangabo, called on him to help them kill her (their sister’s) five children, grabbed the last son from her arms and killed him too.

Ndagijimana claims that it was prohibited in the Hutu laws to marry Tutsi and it called for death.

“They came and killed my five kids. I was remaining with one young son in my arms, so it was hard for them to take him off my arms. With the help of my two brothers they pierced my arm with a knife and these men grabbed my baby and killed him. They hit him on a rock and threw the body in a latrine,” Mukangarambe narrated to The Sunday Times.

Ndagijimana acknowledges that now the government has taken a good step of uniting the society and coming out with the clear explanation that both Hutu and Tutsi are Rwandans.

“During the Gacaca court hearing, I accepted my role in the 1994 genocide and pleaded for mercy. The court accepted my plea and sentenced me to 7 years in jail. I was set free after serving half the sentence and returned to my village when Posien Munyangaju advised me to join the Inango Y’ubwiyunge Association,” Ndagijimana narrates, adding, “The idea that was hard to buy as I thought it was their way of trapping me to face the law again.”

According to Mukangarambe, she was surprised to see Ndagijimana joining the association because in the community he was considered as a rough radical who could not support the reconciliation process.

“I forgave Ndagijimana since he was willing to become human and recognise what he did as a crime against the entire community and God. Again, he particularly approached me pleading for mercy and to be integrated in the family. Now he is one of my best friends,” Mukangarambe reveals.

“Reconciliation is the matter of the heart not the mind,” Mukangarambe adds.

According to Ndagijimana, he felt free after being integrated in the community and he has since managed to encourage six other men who accepted their role in the 1994 genocide to join the association.

Inango y’ubwiyunge has also launched other Unity Clubs in secondary schools and one club in the village. It has also set up income generating projects such as arts and crafts, and agriculture.

In an exclusive interview with The Sunday Times, Jacque Bakundukize, the Executive Secretary of Remera sector said that reconciliation is one of the great pillars of the sector’s annual contract with the president of the republic.

She says that the National Unity and Reconciliation Commission has done a great job which he considers a success in the Eastern Province.

“Ndagijimana has helped us with a tangible testimony. It’s hard to reconcile people when others can’t have access to the bodies of their loved ones because they don’t have information and yet the people who killed them are here keeping quiet,” Bakundukize added.

He added that Remera sector will soon establish unity clubs in all cells of the sector and in all secondary and primary schools, and mobilise all unity clubs to reach out to the entire community.