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When Genocide convicts repent, preach unity and reconciliation

Musanze Prison: Inmates here discuss ways to fight genocide ideology. Regis Umurengezi.

IT IS TUESDAY MORNING inside the Musanze prison. Two groups of inmates sit separately on benches. Females on one side as their male counterparts at another. A prison guard stands sentry at a distance.

The inmates, members of the ‘Anti-Genocide Group,’ are in a session where they sit and discuss how genocide ideology can be uprooted among inmates and in society in general.

The club, made up of over 50 members, most of whom are Genocide convicts, was formed four years ago after the inmates were taken through intensive correctional training to help them transform and bear in mind that the crime they committed was against humanity and inhumane.

The objective of the club is to fight genocide ideology and denial by sharing knowledge and experiences on Genocide to ensure that it never happens again.

Such training, inmates say, transformed them and they committed to change and be active fighters against genocide ideology to prevent the tragedy from reoccurring anywhere in the world.

The inmates believe that once they transform, then society will be safe as at the end of the day the same prisoners are members of society.

Patricie Dusabemariya, 57, is serving life sentence for her role in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. She is against anyone who ignores the impact of the Genocide on the country and still harbours its ideology.

Through the club, members channel their messages that promote unity and reconciliation and through ‘’Ndi Umunyarwanda’’ programme.

Learning from the tragedy

Dusabemariya says that she has been positively transformed, thanks to knowledge she acquired from the prison officials and later became one of the club founders.

Her task now, just like her colleagues, is to help inmates who still nurse genocide ideology to live a transformed life. This, she says, will help them when released.

Dusabemariya has no kind words for people who ignore the tragic history that Rwanda has passed through instead of learning from it to shape the future.

“Our motherland was on the verge of being a failed state but rose again from the ashes and changed for the better. However, it is a shame that some some Rwandans, including inmates here who should be reflecting on their gory deeds, still harbour genocide ideology. As members of anti-Genocide club, we are out to tame the mindset of such people, we want all of them to join hands to build the country,” ,” says Dusabemariya.

Emmanuel Manirakiza, who is serving time for genocide ideology, said the club has been a transformative agent and believes that he would no longer fall into the trap that led him to prison.

“After understanding the essence of Ndi Umunyarwanda programme through our club, I changed and committed to never go back (to the negative mindset) again. Nothing good comes out of divisions, I don’t wish anybody to fall into the same trap as I did. We are striving to ensure that Ndi Umunyarwanda initiative spreads among all the inmates,” says Manirakiza.

Speaking to The New Times, Hillary Sengabo, Rwanda Correctional Service (RCS) spokesperson, said there are several anti-genocide clubs in every prison countrywide supported by prison officials to transform inmates.

“Inmates are taught by prison wardens as it is among the responsibilities of Rwanda Correctional Service; they are provided with civic education, unity and reconciliation and correctional related trainings among others,” Sengabo said.

He noted that the clubs have registered a positive impact so far and many inmates participate in commemoration activities compared to the past years especially between 1997 and 1998 when no one could talk about commemoration in prison.

“Hearts were still heavy and inmates were hard to manage but today there is an improvement, thanks to anti-genocide clubs, genocide perpetrators are writing letters requesting to meet with families they offended, some of those perpetrators are being pardoned as most of Rwandans are aware of unity and reconciliation programme,” he added.

Over the past years, some inmates have sought apology from survivors and were granted clemency as part of unity and reconciliation among Rwandans.


(c) 2017 The New Times

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