Reintegration of ex-genocide convicts: a journey of healing, reconciliation

As Rwandans continue to observe a week of mourning to mark 30 years since the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, the nation is also reflecting on the journey of rebuilding and reconciliation across various spheres.

Among the aspects of this journey is the reintegration of individuals who were convicted of participating in the genocide and have since completed their sentences.

Over the years, Rwanda has implemented various programs and initiatives to facilitate the reintegration process, aiming to foster healing and reconciliation within society. Institutions like DiDe (Dignity in Detention) have played a pivotal role in this endeavor.

Established in 1998, DiDe has been focusing on rehabilitating detainees and facilitating their smooth reintegration into society. Led by Odette Mukansoro, the Executive Director, DiDe emphasises the importance of preparing individuals for reintegration long before their release, beginning with self-examination and seeking forgiveness from the survivors and community in general for past actions.

Mukansoro stresses the necessity of societal readiness to welcome these individuals back into the community. Through initiatives like the Rehabilitative Justice for Reconciliation in Rwanda project (DIU), DiDe has made significant progress.

She pointed out that the project has seen success through public reconciliation events, psychosocial support, vocational training, and therapeutic groups both within and outside prison facilities.

18 months after the start of the DIU project, 130 detainees apologised to 132 survivors of the 1994 Genocide Against the Tutsi. Over 15,000 inmates across various correctional facilities participated in reconciliation events, alongside community members and local authorities.

“Outside prisons, public reconciliation events drew thousands of attendees, demonstrating widespread community engagement,” she said.

Moreover, DiDe has provided extensive psychosocial support, vocational training, and therapy within correctional facilities. From individual psychological support to therapeutic group sessions like ‘Mvura Nkuvure’.

‘Mvura Nkuvure’, is a concept that brings together small groups to share experiences consisting of both survivors and ex-prisoners, learn from one another, and support each other in coping with past traumas.

Muakansoro further said that the institution also focuses on strengthening community capacity for social unity and reconciliation. Training programs for prison officials and inmates on societal trauma healing have been instrumental.

“Notably, in 2023, 352 inmates graduated from sociotherapy healing groups, marking a significant milestone in their rehabilitation journey,” she added.

She highlights the pivotal role of correctional facilities in the reintegration process, emphasising that rehabilitation begins long before release.

Mukansoro further said that DiDe’s commitment to encouraging dialogue, forgiveness, and healing has been part of the peace and reconciliation journey in Rwanda.

Testimonials from individuals like Alexandre Sebahebera and Frodouard Nsabimana further shows the progress made in reintegration. Despite initial worries, both ex-convicts express gratitude for their acceptance and support from society. They highlight the importance of dialogue, remorse, and genuine efforts towards reconciliation.

Sebahebera reflected on the journey of integration, noting the initial hesitance of society to welcome them. However, over time, he observed a shift as trust was rebuilt through open dialogue and the sharing of accurate information about the genocide.

He emphasized the importance of acknowledging their role in the past and the willingness to confront it. Sebahebera further highlighted the positive evolution of relationships, citing his current involvement in a cooperative with individuals whose properties he once looted. He expressed gratitude for the reconciliation, describing how he and his former enemies have become good friends.

Nsabimana also shared his journey, admitting that initially, he felt hesitant about engaging with survivors of genocide. However, to his surprise, they welcomed him back into society with open arms.

Recent assessments conducted by the Ministry of National Unity and Civic Engagement (MINUBUMWE) and Interpeace reveal promising indicators of resilience within Rwandan communities.

These findings underscore the nation’s commitment to healing, unity, and collective progress, even three decades after the tragic events of the 1994 genocide against Tutsi.



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