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English, Photographers

Rwanda, 20 years after the genocide: Portraits of Reconciliation by Pieter Hugo

Laurent Nsabimana Perpetrator  / Beatrice Mukarwambari Survivor

Laurent Nsabimana
Perpetrator / Beatrice Mukarwambari

NSABIMANA: “I participated in destroying her house because we took the owner for dead. The houses that remained without owners — we thought it was better to destroy them in order to get firewood. Her forgiveness proved to me that she is a person with a pure heart.”


MUKARWAMBARI: “If I am not stubborn, life moves forward. When someone comes close to you without hatred, although horrible things happened, you welcome him and grant what he is looking for from you. Forgiveness equals mercy.”


20 years after the genocide in Rwanda, reconciliation still happens one encounter at a time.

Last month, the photographer Pieter Hugo went to southern Rwanda, two decades after nearly a million people were killed during the country’s genocide, and captured a series of unlikely, almost unthinkable tableaus. In one, a woman rests her hand on the shoulder of the man who killed her father and brothers. In another, a woman poses with a casually reclining man who looted her property and whose father helped murder her husband and children. In many of these photos, there is little evident warmth between the pairs, and yet there they are, together. In each, the perpetrator is a Hutu who was granted pardon by the Tutsi survivor of his crime.

The people who agreed to be photographed are part of a continuing national effort toward reconciliation and worked closely with AMI (Association Modeste et Innocent), a nonprofit organization. In AMI’s program, small groups of Hutus and Tutsis are counseled over many months, culminating in the perpetrator’s formal request for forgiveness. If forgiveness is granted by the survivor, the perpetrator and his family and friends typically bring a basket of offerings, usually food and sorghum or banana beer. The accord is sealed with song and dance.

The photographs on the following pages are a small selection of a larger body on display — outdoors, in large format — starting this month in The Hague. The series was commissioned by Creative Court, an arts organization based there, as part of “Rwanda 20 Years,” a program exploring the theme of forgiveness. The images will eventually be shown at memorials and churches in Rwanda.

At the photo shoots, Hugo said, the relationships between the victims and the perpetrators varied widely. Some pairs showed up and sat easily together, chatting about village gossip. Others arrived willing to be photographed but unable to go much further. “There’s clearly different degrees of forgiveness,” Hugo said. “In the photographs, the distance or closeness you see is pretty accurate.”

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Source: New York Times Magazine

In April 1994 Rwanda descended into genocide. Over the course of 100 days, up to one million people were killed, mostly from the minority Tutsi ethnic group.
The Rwandan genocide saw people killed at a speed and on a scale not seen since World War II. It was one of the 20th century’s bloodiest chapters.

Trócaire in Rwanda

In 1994, Trócaire launched an emergency appeal for people fleeing the violence in Rwanda. People in Ireland donated an incredible £6m to our appeal, which helped to provide emergency relief.

Twenty years on, Trócaire remains in Rwanda.

Today, our programmes are focused on two key areas: a livelihoods programme that aims to improve the quantity, quality and value of household food production, and a governance and human rights programme that promotes greater citizen awareness of their rights and responsibilities in local decision making.

Our Rwanda programme is an example of how Trócaire builds long-term development after humanitarian interventions.

More here: http://www.trocaire.org/rwanda


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