Encounters with conflict and peace
Alisa, Rwanda
“They took us by surprise. They removed my clothes, they cut my face and my hand, then they cut my baby in two parts. They hit me twice in the head with a hammer. They thought I had died, so they left.” (Alisa)

“A neighbour yelled that she was pregnant, so he ripped open my sister’s belly in one slicing movement with his knife. This is what my eyes saw without mistake.” (Janvier, aged 14)

How can anyone recover from that?

Alisa told me her story near the end of my visit to Rwanda. I’d heard plenty of accounts of bewildering cruelty, but as she told her ‘genocide story’ at a massacre site, with a backdrop of smashed walls, dried skulls and clothes from dead people, I couldn’t figure out how I felt.

Diary entry
What do experiences like those do to the victims? What do they do to the offenders? How can you possibly have any kind of normal life afterwards? Even for people used to dealing with horrible things, many of the stories from Rwandan genocide survivors were almost too much.
for the future
Some felt that the traumas which people were describing were so severe that the sensible reaction would have been to give up any hope of recovery. Antoine Rutayisire, from the National Unity and Reconciliation Commission (NURC) said: “There are some cases, really, when you hear someone’s story you say to yourself, do I dare to talk about healing?”

But Antoine, and many people like him, were determined that life for Rwandans should not be endlessly miserable. “But then you say, well, for the benefit of this person - for the future of this person - I have to talk about it.”

Do we become prisoners of the past?

Paul Kagame, Rwanda
Paul Kagame, the current President, said recently, “Do we become prisoners of the past and live like that? It happened… If we could undo it, that would be ideal, but life isn’t like that. It’s a change you have to make, otherwise you suffer twice. You suffer in the present and you continue to suffer forever… The process of healing is proceeding probably better than I expected at the time of the liberation, but it will take a long time.”

< previous page    |    next page >