Could you forgive the man who murdered your family?
TWENTY YEARS AFTER THE GENOCIDE IN RWANDA, RECONCILIATION STILL HAPPENS ONE ENCOUNTER AT A TIME
recently, 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 tableaux. 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 pair,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 towards reconciliation and worked closely with the Association Modeste et Innocent (AMI), a non-profit organisation. In AMI’s programme, small groups of Hutus and Tutsis are counselled 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.