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Victims, Perpetrators of Rwandan Genocide Live in Peace in Small Community

  • Noel King

In 1994, Rwanda's hard-line Hutu government oversaw a genocide that took the lives of 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus, in a little more than three months. Tens of thousands others were tortured, maimed and raped. Despite the horrors of the genocide, victims and perpetrators in Rwanda's Reconciliation Village, now live side-by-side, in one small community. Noel King has more in this report from Kigali, Rwanda.

Jaqueline Mukamana narrowly escaped the Rwandan genocide with her life.

Her family was not so lucky.

She says she went to the village well to get water on April 7, 1994. She felt something was wrong. She says she arrived home to find her entire family had been hacked to death by neighbors wielding machetes.

Now, Mukamana lives in Rwanda's Reconciliation Village, right next door to one of the killers.

Forty families, headed by both perpetrators and victims, live side-by-side, working together in the fields, chatting in local shops and attending church together.

Mutiribambi Aziri did not take the lives of Jaqueline's family, but he does admit to killing some of her neighbors during the genocide.

In 2003, he was released from prison, as part of a Rwandan government initiative to clear the nation's packed jails, after he confessed publicly and asked for forgiveness from his surviving neighbors.

He says he and Jaqueline are good friends. He says their children play together and, when a member of one family gets sick, the others all help out. He says, if they can manage to forgive one another, then anything is possible.

Anglican Pastor Steven Gahigi provides spiritual counsel to both victims and perpetrators.

Gahigi himself barely survived the genocide, by fleeing to neighboring Burundi. His mother, father and siblings were killed.

He says, after the genocide, he prayed to God to help him forgive. When he realized he could forgive, he began preaching in the prisons, telling perpetrators to ask for forgiveness.

Reconciliation Village is a part of Gahigi's parish. It was his idea for survivors and perpetrators to live side-by-side.

Working with a non-profit organization called Prison Fellowship International, residents erected the tin-roofed homes as well as a small general store.

Pastor Gahigi's message of forgiveness reached Xavier Namay, a farmer and perpetrator who was languishing in a crowded prison.

He says, when he was killing, he knew what he did was wrong. But it was like he was possessed by the Devil. He says the most important thing is that his children know what their father did, so that they never repeat his mistakes.

All residents of Reconciliation Village say they want their children to share a prosperous and united future.

They say it is critical to think of themselves not as Hutus or Tutsis, but as Rwandans.