Skip to: Content
Skip to: Site Navigation
Skip to: Search


Rwandans: a reeducation in how to live together

The effort plays out in local courts as well as camps that teach the culture of a 'new' Rwanda.

(Page 3 of 4)



"Gacaca tries to combine the two necessities [Rwandans] see in the reconciliation process. One is justice, that is, the punishment of the guilty, and the other is reconciliation. In many ways, the two are contradictory. The gacaca system, although highly imperfect, is a way to try to balance those two," Mr. Kinzer says.

Skip to next paragraph

Gacaca testimonies can be hard to hear

Gacaca has gotten mixed marks inside Rwanda, as well. Some survivors question the need to dredge up the past; others say the national healing process requires the information they produce. Even some who support the courts have difficulty participating.

"My sister refused to go to gacaca," Uwimana says. "Every time she was thinking about her two boys [who died in the genocide], she would fall apart. She was too fragile to go there."

Government officials had anticipated that kind of reaction. In 2003, the National Unity and Reconciliation Commission surveyed Rwandans to measure expectations, a full year before pilots began. Over 50 percent of survivors expected giving or listening to testimony to retraumatize them.

"During gacaca activities, people heard what they did not expect," says Denis Bikesha, director of training, sensitization and mobilization services at the National Service of Gacaca Courts. "You may know that members of your family have died, but you may not know the ways."

Uwimana says this is the kind of information that has kept her away from gacaca.

"It's harder to hear from the killers ... than to listen to the survivors," she says. "When you hear about how they did it—how they cut hands, how they hacked people—that's harder than victim testimony."

But knowing where her family had been left, she says, brought her as close as she expects to get to closure. Survivors express skepticism about forgiveness for or reconciliation with genocidaires who say they don't know where victims' bodies were left. Many consider that information a gesture of sincere repentance, which in turn makes it easier for survivors, they say, to consider genuine forgiveness.

"Those who ask, you can see it comes from their heart. They need forgiveness to go on with their lives," Uwimana says. "Those who don't care go into jail, and even when they come out, they can kill again, because they still have the ethnic ideology. It is hard to live with them."

No more 'Tutsi,' no more 'Hutu'

In a small village outside Nyamata, about an hour's drive from Kigali, genocide survivors and perpetrators share a neighborhood of 40 homes they call "the village of unity and reconciliation," and they tell their stories regularly to tourists who stop by.

"This man used to be a Hutu," Jeanette Mukabyagaju says, as she strokes the arm of the man sitting next to her. "Now, he is one of my family."

He reciprocates, patting her hand. "Once, this lady was a Tutsi. Today, she is a Rwandan, just like me."

For Hutus returning from years of exile in Congo, today's Rwanda starts in the ingando, the reeducation camps where secondary school teachers, university students, and confessed genocidaires spend 75 days in classes that cover everything from hygiene to gender sensitivity. They also get a reeducation in Rwandan history and in the country's new, ethnicity-free "politics of unity and reconciliation." The camps are also the first stop for Rwanda's newest returnees, mostly young men who fought for years in the Congolese bush as part of a Hutu militia, the FDLR.

Permissions