Survivors opt for forgiveness

Wednesday August 14 2019


Visitors look at the portraits of Genocide Against Tutsi victims at the Kigali Genocide Memorial. PHOTO | YASUYOSHI CHIBA | AFP 

More by this Author

The family of Jean Bosco Nkurikiyinka, a Genocide Against Tutsi survivor in Rutunga Sector in Gasabo District is taking care of three children of a family of genocide perpetrators serving jail sentence.

This is a rare case that shows how survivors are copying since the 1994 Genocide Against the Tutsi.

“We adopted the children in 2011 when we realised that they were on their own in their home after their parents were imprisoned,” Mr Nkurikiyinka said.

The eldest boy was adopted at 12 and is now in Senior five while his two sisters are in senior two and three.

In 2009, a Gacaca Court at Rutunga in Gasabo District sentenced residents Evode Musonera and his wife Margret Nyirimana to 30 and 15 years imprisonment respectively for genocide crimes in their home area.

Two years later, Jean Bosco Nkurikiyinka 65, a survivor of the 1994 Genocide Against the Tutsi, noticed the 12-yearold son of Musonera and Nyirimana working on a resident’s farm.


“I felt compassion for the young boy, seeing him suffering due to the wickedness of his parents in which he never participated,” Mr Nkurikiyinka emotionally said.

Mr Nkurikiyinka said he talked to the boy who revealed that he was the “breadwinner for his two younger sisters in the desolate home of their convicted parents”.

The parents had left the three children in the hands of their married sister who failed to take care of them due to her marital commitments.

“I felt like deciding there and then, to take the children into my family but I had to talk to my wife and my seven children about my feelings,” he said.

Mr Nkurikiyinka’s family of six children agreed to adopt the three children whose parents had killed Tutsis including Mr Nkurikiyinka’s relative.

In 2011, when Mr Nkurikiyinka was adopting the genocide perpetrators’ children, there was sharp subtle mistrust between genocide survivors and perpetrators, which would make such adoptions less likely.

“Genocide survivor felt safer to drink in fellow survivor bars and the vice versa for perpetrators,” said Francois Ntwali 68, head of Rutunga Reconciliation Club.

The three children often report to Mr Nkurikiyinka or the wife that some residents were intimidating them that the “survivors would retaliate and kill them”.

“We feared such allegations would spiritually alienate the children from the rest of us,” Mr Nkurikiyinka’s wife Speciose Mukagakwaya said.

According to the National Unity and Reconciliation Barometer 2010, reconciliation had reached 80 per cent among Rwandans.

Gasabo District in Kigali City is manifested in the 2015 National Reconciliation Barometer as the second district with a high percentage of residents still "viewing themselves and others through ethnic lenses" and third in the exhibition of divisionism.

However, for Mr Nkurikiyinka to adopt the perpetrators’ children, it set the precedence of reconciliation in Rutunga Sector.

“Exonerated perpetrators started to ask for forgiveness as they believed that survivors could really forgive,” said Ange Marie Sandrine Mukantwari, the cell executive secretary.

The sector has been ranking the worst in molesting genocide survivors in Kigali City during commemorations save for this year, said sector executive secretary.

Mr Nkurikiyinka’s sons and the three adopted sometimes pay visits to the prisoners who are remorseful.

“My finances are constraining me but I hope I’ll do the best for my country and for the innocent children,” Mr Nkurikiyinka said.

According to Fidele Ndayisaba, executive secretary at National Unity and Reconciliation Commission, examples set by Mr Nkurikiyinka have helped to instill the message of reconciliation.

“It wins people into total reconciliation because it’s a vivid example. There are some people who have paid tuition fees for perpetrators’ children,” Mr Ndayisaba said.