Hundreds of ex-convicts in Rwanda today hold responsible and trusted job positions in their firms.
When seated in his office, it is hard to tell that 38-year-old Didace Manzi, has served time in prison.
“I was convicted of theft and forgery; got sentenced and served four years at the infamous 1930,” he said.
Kigali Central Prison is popularly known as ‘1930’ because of its historical beginnings. Manzi narrates of how he reformed to become the responsible man he is today.
“Every second in prison was like eternity, this period gave me a chance to slow down and think about my life and what I wanted to make of it. I quit smoking and drinking and vowed never to bend or break any law, he said.
Life was tough for Manzi when he first stepped outside the prison walls after four years.
“I didn’t know where to start from, all my friends and families had deserted me and I had lost everything. I was determined to stand strong and build my life from scratch.
“Every night I prayed to God to give me another chance; to ‘make right what went wrong’.
His prayers were answered.
“A few weeks after my release, I got a job at a construction company as a gate keeper. Hard work, punctuality and the desire to do more than what was required of me attracted my boss’s attention. Three months later I became the Chief Storekeeper and early this year I was promoted to Procurement Manager.
“I personally don’t agree with the ancient saying, ‘once a crook always a crook’. Today I see many of my former inmates who acquired skills from prison, and are able to work and earn a decent living when freed,” Manzi assured.
At the grounds of the notorious 1930 prison, inmates participate in various activities.
According to the Director of the Kigali Central Prison, inmates are trained in various skills.
“We don’t call convicts abanyururu (prisoners), they are referred to as abagororwa (those who are under rehabilitation). We train them in hands-on skills such as; mechanics, welding, carpentry etc. so that when they leave this place, they can easily earn their daily bread,” Kamugisha said.
“Everybody makes mistakes; if they want a second chance, we should give it to them. We should lend them a helping hand, because if we don’t, they are likely to go out and commit new crimes,” warned Kamugisha.
All ex-convicts who chose the right direction, are welcomed to humanity, let the past be a source of inspiration not limitation or repetition.