Encounters with conflict and peace
“The culprit and the victim will ask forgetfulness for a little protection. It won’t be for the same reason. And they will not be asking for it together. But they will appeal to the very same forgetfulness."

Marie-Chantal (wife of Joseph-Desire, a killer)

PANCRACE: "In prison, malaria and cholera have taken a heavy toll. Fear of vengeance has killed. The miserable life here and the fights have killed, but regrets – never. Life proves too vigorous against regrets and the like.

Someone who killed too much in the marshes tends to abandon his bloodstained memories among the corpses he left behind. He wants only to remember the little he did in the marshes that everyone saw and that he cannot deny without being called a liar. He hides the rest. He mislays remorse that is too damaging. His memory serves his own interest, it zigzags to guide him through the risks of punishment."

What about the killers?

In the immediate aftermath of the genocide, around 120,000 suspects were rounded up and put in overcrowded prisons throughout Rwanda. Without a working legal system, many were held in terrible conditions, without trial, for years. As Paul Kagame (vice-president at the time) said in 1998, “This cannot continue in the long term - we have to find other solutions.”

Releasing prisoners into the community

prisoners, Rwanda
In 2003, the government started to release prisoners, beginning with the very young, the old and sick and prisoners who had already confessed to their crimes. Before they could return home, prisoners had to spend three months in education camps - ingando.

The lessons were simple enough. They were taught about Rwanda’s history of bad leaders: how the Belgians and then the previous government had divided Rwandans against themselves; they were told that there was no place now for the old ethnic divisions - “we are all Rwandans now” - and that they could be part of spreading that message and building a new national unity.

They learned how gacaca would work: what they could expect at their trials, and how gacaca would allow the community to “talk about its problems together.”

They were also given practical advice about going back home: how to relate to their wives and children, what to do if their wives had married someone else while they were in prison, and how to behave if they met relatives of people they had killed in the genocide. Most prisoners felt that the education camps were useful.

But what was going on in their minds? How did they feel about the things they had done during the genocide?

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