Pictures taken by Katy Migiro in Mbyo, Rwanda, on March 21, 2013
PHOTOBLOG: Genocidal killers and victims bury past in Rwandan reconciliation village
MBYO, Rwanda (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – It is hard to believe that Jeanette Mukabyagaju, 35, and Mathias Sendegeya, 56, are friends.
Twenty years ago, he was roaming the countryside, butchering Tutsis in a 100-day genocide in which almost one million people were killed.
She was a teenage girl, hiding from men like him.
Now they are neighbours, living side by side in Mbyo village, an hour’s drive south of the Rwandan capital. They laugh and joke easily.
“I came here because the killers apologised and we survivors, we also forgave them,” Jeanette said. “We want to live together, forget the past and focus on the future.”
In 2004, the villagers started building its 53 tin-roofed concrete and brick houses with the help of Prison Fellowship Rwanda, a local charity.
Many survivors were living in poverty and perpetrators were being released from prison with nowhere to go.
The village’s founding members selected residents who were both poor and willing to live side by side with their former enemies.
The villagers say that working together in their agriculture and livestock cooperatives helps them to move on from the genocide. Reconciliation goes hand in hand with economic development.
Those who are unable to farm, like Jeanette whose back was damaged during the genocide, make handicrafts like baskets and bracelets.
“We have a bank account for women only. You can borrow money and get credit,” she said.
She is raising her four children alone. Her husband, a soldier, died in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1998 fighting the Hutu extremists who carried out the Rwandan genocide.
“I cannot forget the genocide. Nobody can forget,” said Jeanette. “But now I don’t focus on it. I focus on life and the future for myself and my children.”
Prison Fellowship Rwanda has five reconciliation villages around the country.
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