Restorative justice and the Rwandan genocide
Apr 07, 2010
Do you see healing occurring in the victims? And in the offenders as well? How does the community respond?
The healing process is a long and involved one. I think that Umuvumu Tree Project has helped in that process in several ways.
First, it has contributed to the offenders’ willingness to admit what they have done, to answer questions, and to apologize deeply.
Second, it has reminded people of the importance of forgiveness in this process. The forgiveness I speak of is not simply offered by victims of the genocide toward the perpetrators. The cycle of violence between members of both Hutus and Tutsis has gone back many years, and they are reinforced by accounts of atrocities in the past that may or may not have happened. It is why we helped the prisoners understand that forgiveness was important for them to consider, since most of them considered themselves victims in some ways.
Third, prisoners have wanted to do something tangible to demonstrate their desire to make amends. In a number of places they have done this by working at no cost to build homes for survivors. As he worked on one such house, one of the ex-prisoners said that he was glad to have this opportunity, and that it made it possible for him to think of himself merely as a Rwandan, not as a Hutu or as a participant in the genocide.