Thursday April 10 2014

We participated in killing people

A Congolese soldier in Goma at the Rwanda-DRC border stands

A Congolese soldier in Goma at the Rwanda-DRC border stands in front of piles of weapons confiscated from troops of the ousted Rwandan government on July 18, 1994. PHOTO BY AFP 

By Faustin Mugabe

I am Emmanuel Ndaisaba, and I am 40 years old. Altogether, I attacked 18 people – men, women and children. I am haunted most by the 14th person, because she did not die and is still alive.

I hacked her all over and thought she had died. When I was leaving, I looked at her, and she was still alive. I left her.

Today, Alloys Mururinda is married but she has one arm. The other arm was amputated. She was about to be married when the genocide started. We now live in neighbouring villages.

I am reformed and that is the reason I was released from prison. I am one of the hundreds of thousands of former perpetrators of genocide released by the traditional Gacaca court.

Having participated in the genocide in 1994, I tried to hide, but I was eventually arrested the following year, and imprisoned.

I was not taken to court until 2003, two years after the traditional Gacaca courts were established.

While in prison, we were told that the courts had been established to try genocide perpetrators. Some of us decided to tell the truth about what happened.

So when I was brought before the Gacaca court, I accepted the crimes I committed. I repented and asked for forgiveness from those I offended during the genocide, in public.

Those who committed crimes and refused to accept their responsibility were sentenced and taken back to prison.

The Gacaca court sentenced me two years of community work which involved growing cassava for the community.
I am now one of the members of the Ukuri Kuganze association in Nyamata, which brings together genocide survivors and ex-prisoners who participated in the genocide. I still want to beg for Mururinda’s forgiveness.

I was married before the genocide and had a child with my wife. But when I testified in the Gacaca courts that I participated in the genocide, she left me. She said she could not stay with such a killer. Now, I make a living as a casual labourer in my village.

‘We were told to kill all the Tutsi’

My name is Athanasius Kamanzi. I am 45 and a resident of Gikoma village, popularly known as the “Village of Reconciliation”, in Rweru sector, Bugesera District, southern Rwanda near the border with the Republic of Burundi. I am married with six children and I am a farmer.

During the genocide, the interahamwe asked us to kill all the Tutsi in their village in 1992 and 1994. So we went on the rampage, killing every Tutsi we found. We killed Tutsi first in 1992 and later in 1994 when Habyarimana died. We were told by the interahamwe leaders to kill the remaining Tutsi.

I killed three people I knew well. They were my neighbours.

Having murdered people, when the RPF arrived, I too, like others, ran away until I was arrested in 1996 and imprisoned.

In 2003, I was arraigned before the Gacaca court in my village Gikoma. I pleaded guilty, repented, apologised and asked for forgiveness from those whose loved ones I had killed. Those who killed but pleaded innocent were sentenced and taken back to prison. Later in the same year, I was set free by the presidential communication.

I killed a 10-year-old boy, says Etiene Safari

My name is Etienne Safari. I am 54 and was a truck driver before the genocide. I am a local farmer and I am married with five children.
During the genocide, I killed one person. He was a boy about 10 years old. I used the impiri (a heavy wooden club); I hit him on the head and he died instantly.
After the genocide in 1994, I run away but later in 1997, I was caught by the security agencies in Nyamata. I was sentenced to 16 years imprisonment by the tribunal courts trying genocide perpetrators but was in 2003 released under the presidential communication (pardon) by President Paul Kagame.

I accepted the crimes I committed and asked for forgiveness before court, as well as from the sister of the boy in public.
Since you are going to publish my story, it is good that it will be read by people in Uganda and elsewhere, so they can understand about the reconciliation in Rwanda. I would like you also to go and talk to the sister whose brother I killed so that she too can be recorded saying that she forgave me. I asked for forgiveness from her, before the Gacaca courts and she said she forgave me. But I would want you to hear her say it.

Gacaca courts, Rwanda’s tool of reconciliation

Gacaca courts were proposed by the government as a system of local justice able to deal with the volume of detained suspected genocide perpetrators.

“Gacaca” refers to the short grass on which the gathering of such a tribunal is traditionally held, now a structured judicial system. The courts are convened on an ad-hoc basis by villagers and presided over by a village headman or collection of elders.

The attendees of the court are usually those connected to the issue at hand, but any member of the community is permitted to attend and voice their opinion.

The formalisation of this system involves headmen and elders, as well as trained arbitrators who facilitate the discussions and confirm the decisions of the court.

Under the system the public airing of grievance, where victims and perpetrators meet face to face, is central to the reconciliation process.

Second, the court system aids the discovery of truth. Third, the courts offer the possibility of “compensation” by perpetrators to victims.
Source: Consultancy Africa Intelligence Research Centre

Continues tomorrow