Ismail: HROC Participant from Central African Republic:
Finally there should be no reason for not standing together for healing and reconciliation. Neither religions nor ethnicities should not be reasons to kill one another. Chrisostome led me well while I am Muslim and he is a Christian. And I led him well too. Let’s focus on Nelson Mandela’s saying: “I am because you are”, since everyone has suffered, says Ismail from Bangassou in the white clothing in the picture, after the Trust Walk Exercise. Photo by Florence Ntakarutimana in Bangassou/Central African Republic
Gaspard, Hutu who killed people during the Rwandan genocide:
I wonder if this workshop has been organized for my sake. I have faced a lot of bad things that caused me to have trauma. I fled after I killed people during the genocide. As I was fleeing, I met so many challenges in the dense forest of the DR Congo. I spent many days without food. It was a pity to see people die due to deadly diseases which killed many of my relatives and friends.
When I came back in the country [Rwanda], I was thrown in jail. I also lost some of my properties. While in jail, I was always encouraged to say the truth about what I did and the people we worked together as we committed executions before we fled. By admitting the executions I was involved in, I also had to mention a couple of people that I knew who got involved in the killings in my area. It was a challenge as one of those people mentioned was in jail with me too and he did not like the fact that I mentioned his name. He sent a message to his relatives telling them to put poison in the food that they would bring to him so that he can give it to me as an act of generosity, but with an intention to kill me. Since we were starving he kept that food for a while, improvising means of giving it to me, but it didn’t work. So, he finally ate the food and died.
Later, I asked for forgiveness in public and I was forgiven and released from jail. When I got back into my community, I was disappointment by the fact that my wife had sold some of my properties in my absence without consulting me. As I tried to inquire about what she had in mind by doing that, we quarreled but we finally had to share the little property that had remained. After that, I became a drunkard since I thought that it would help me feel relieved from my problems. I am with some of my neighbors who can testify with me about my drunken behavior. Not only did I become a drunkard but I was planning to poison my wife without having an intention of killing her. I just wanted to put her in a sickly health condition so that I could be able to sell all our properties claiming to take her for medication. If I would have succeeded to sell them, I was planning to run away from her immediately.
Anyway, this workshop has helped me to check my heart and looking at the evil I was planning, I have changed my mind. Also, from now on, I have given up on my drunkard behavior. In fact, I’m going to put into practice these teachings and my neighbors together with my wife will notice that I am a changed person.
As I wind up, I thank you so much for thinking to invite me to be part of this workshop. Also, I request if possible to invite my wife some time so that she can attend to such teachings too. I’m also requesting that HROC facilitators can come to our home to visit us for more encouragement.
Congolese refugee in Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya:
I was brought up in Uvira [South Kivu in the Democratic Republic of the Congo]. My parents were killed when I was 19 years old. I was forced to go to Fizi where my uncles lived. While I was there war broke out again between the outlawed Banyamulenge group and the Congolese government. One night we were attacked and I was taken hostage with my eight uncles and we were taken to the forest where we stayed for seven weeks.
I was trained and lured into the militia group. I don’t know how many people I killed. The most horrifying thing is that one Sunday we took my eight uncles back to the village and together we were forced to dig a ten foot trench. After finishing it I was given ropes and told to tie up each of my uncles. Then I helped to throw them in the trench and we buried them alive.
We went back to the forest and that’s when I hid and ran to Burundi and then to Kakuma Refugee Camp. It’s so painful to be forced to do such things. I don’t know if I am a victim or a perpetrator because my family back at home has tried to poison me twice because they know I am in a militia of Banyamulenge and that I am the one who killed my uncles. I feel suspicious; sometimes I get sick and feel no peace. Little did I know I am suffering from consequences of trauma. I will never go back to Congo. Even though my grave is here in Kakuma I have learnt that the web of healing promotes healing and recovery and one day my family in Congo will forgive me.
Aquiline, Hutu from Mutaho community, Burundi:
My father and mother were both killed in 1993 at the same time when I was three years old. The soldiers [Tutsi] had surprised people in a hiding place and killed them. They left believing that they had killed all of us, but by the grace of God I was still alive. I spent half a day under my mother’s corpse. I was saved when the corpses were evacuated. I was badly injured and regained good health six months later. When I reached school age, my brother supported me until sixth grade in primary school. When I finished the primary cycle, he refused for me to continue in order that I could help his wife in family activities and I’m at home until now. I say thank you for this moment because, since the death of my parents, this is my first time to speak something about them. I don’t know if any mourning ceremony for them has been done or not. But that will be a discussion subject with my brother for this evening. [Proper mourning and burial is extremely important in Burundian culture.]
Vénéranda Niyonsaba, Rwanda HROC Facilitator:
I attended my first HROC workshop in January 2004 and facilitated my first HROC workshop later that year.
In 2004, we got this invitation in our company to come to a workshop about trauma. My boss knew me, knew the life I was living and the struggles I had, so he decided to send me to the workshop. In the training, I learned I was traumatized but I was also able to learn that I could heal. HROC has done a lot for me. Before HROC, I had decided that I could not be married. I only had one [fallopian] tube, so the doctors told me that I could never give birth to a child. Now in the workshop, we learned about the stages of grief. The last one is acceptance and moving on. That’s when I decided that I had to get married and continue my life as a normal woman, even if I could not have a child. So I found a husband. As the years went on and when I was facilitating frequent workshops, I gained more and more energy and felt like I was being carried by the stories I was hearing. Eventually I went to the doctors, and now I have my child! So HROC helped convince me to get married, and maybe I can even say led me to have my child and gave me an opportunity to meet people who can listen to me.