Forgiveness in Rwanda after the genocide


After the genocide in Rwanda: Rosaria meets the man who killed her family © As we forgive - Forgiveness in Rwanda after the genocide
After the genocide in Rwanda: Rosaria meets the man who killed her family © As we forgive
Sixteen years ago, one of the most terrible genocides of the modern era took place in Rwanda. In just 100 days, more than 800,000 people were brutally murdered – hacked to pieces with machetes, kicked or battered to death. It left a broken population, a split nation.

Just a few years later, the Rwandan government let over 50,000 convicted murderers go free. They were to return to their home villages, be "judged" there by the inhabitants and reintegrate into society. All of a sudden, the family members of victims were once again living next door to people who had murdered their families and friends.

Rwanda: survivors want to forgive

Rosaria, a Rwandan woman who lives in a small village, is a testament to how this works. One of her neighbors is a man called Saveri, who lives only a few houses away. He lived in the same house before the genocide, too – before he killed Rosaria's sister, nieces and nephew. Rosaria's husband and her four children were killed at the same time, by others. She was the only survivor.

Then Saveri was released from prison. He came to Rosaria's door and asked for her forgiveness. In spite of the pain this man had inflicted on her, Rosaria's said, simply, "How could I refuse you forgiveness, when I have had my sins forgiven too?"

Soon after she forgave Saveri, he pitched in when the neighbors got together to help Rosaria, who is now on her own, work her fields.

"I am glad that I can do something for her," Saveri says.

Rwanda: background to the genocide
After the genocide in Rwanda
After the genocide in Rwanda

The genocide in Rwanda had its roots in the division of the population into Hutus and Tutsis.

Today, speaking of this ethnic distinction is officially forbidden. There had been tensions between the two groups, the Hutu majority, who were mainly farmers, and the Tutsi minority, who were mainly cattle herders, for a long time.

Under the Belgian colonial power, the Tutsis dominated; once the country gained its independence, the Hutus established a dictatorship. It stirred up hatred among the Hutus, who had previously been discriminated against, and called for veritable mass murder. As we well know, that call was heeded – with catastrophic results.

Now – after the fall of the Hutu regime, a UN invasion and the judicial processing of crimes – the country has the most difficult task of all ahead. President Paul Kagame once expressed it like this: "After our roads and towns, we now have to repair the hearts of our people."



Women in Focus Editor
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