78% of Genocide convicts still unrepentant

A Genocide Convict with Survivors of the Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda (photo: Prison Fellowship Rwanda)
A Genocide Convict with Survivors of the Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda (photo: Prison Fellowship Rwanda)

By Jean d’Amour Mbonyinshuti, The New Times

Despite efforts by Rwanda Correctional Services (RCS) and partners, most people who took part in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi are yet to show remorse and apologise.

This was revealed Thursday by RCS Commissioner General, George Rwigamba, during an event in Ntarama, Bugesera District where 20 Genocide convicts apologised in public.

“25 years later, some people are yet to come forward and talk. They have had enough time to reflect on what they did and some are opening up. It has been a tough journey but together with Prison Fellowship we have achieved a lot and we believe others will also show remorse and apologise,” he said.

In partnership of National Unity and Reconciliation Commission and Prison Fellowship and other partners, RCS started healing and reconciliation programmes of inmates.

“We have over 27,000 Genocide convicts and many of them are yet to show remorse and apologise to the families of the victims, only about 6,000 (22.2 per cent) have apologised and were forgiven by victims and reconciled,” revealed Rwigamba.

The programme started two decades ago and has helped some prisoners to reintegrate into their communities and meet with the victims and reconcile.

Through the programme, inmates are taken through transformational period of about six months and those whose hearts are convinced write letters of apology to the victims’ families detailing the former’s role in killing the latter’s family members.

One of those who apologised was Innocent Mukumira, a former pastor of one of local churches in the current Ntarama sector but confessed having betrayed and killed people he had to protect.

“I betrayed those I was supposed to protect and ignored my responsibilities as a pastor,” he said.

“I was no longer a human being but an animal, I apologise to the families whose relatives I killed. I apologise to the family of Francois Gakayire (who was present) I killed her sister, a neighbour who hid there and another lady I could not identify.

I also killed at people who sought haven at Ntarama Pentecostal church and I was involved in several other attacks. We would carry bodies on a wheel barrow and dump them close to the church, but I had never recognised my role in the tragedy,” he added.

Fabien Hategekimana who is serving a life sentence was a soldier in the former Rwandan army (Ex-FAR).

“We used heavy guns to exterminate the Tutsi and I personally led several attacks in public places such as schools and churches. I bow to apologise to the victims, my family as well as the general public as a whole,” he said

For genocide victims, such as Gakayire, though knowing people who killed his family members cannot resurrect them, it at least relieves him.

“I did not know it was Mukumira who killed my family members until recently and wondered why it took him over 20 years and never apologised before. But since he apologised with his whole heart I also forgive him from the bottom of my heart,” said Gakayire before hugging Mukumira.

Originally Published: December 29, 2018

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