Speaking to IGIHE, Mukarurinda has talked about the role of Gacaca courts in reconciling Genocide survivors and how they have helped her to forgive perpetrators who killed relatives.
Raised in former Kayumba sector, Mukarurinda was a follower of the Catholic Church. In 1959, the then Government expelled their families from Kigali and settled them to Bugesera where they continued to endure oppression.
Mukarurinda passed Primary Six national examinations but was delisted from students allowed to pursue education in secondary school because she was a Tutsi.
As she narrated, Tutsi were ousted from leadership positions that time and replaced by Hutus so that they could facilitate the provision of a list showing Tutsi targeted to be killed.
“In 1991, our children and brothers realized that things had fallen apart. The then Government started making a list of Tutsi employed in public institutions to be killed. Cell leaders and village leaders were also relieved saying that no Tutsi will assume leadership position again, “revealed Mukarurinda.
They continued to endure persecution until 1994 when the long-planned Genocide began.
On 13th April 1994, she said, a bus brought soldiers and Interahamwe militia in Ntarama and started killing Tutsi.
“They had guns and grenades to kill whoever identified as Tutsi. I was outside with a 9-month old baby on the back. It saw them setting the church ablaze. As they started firing, I immediately run away with my husband,” she revealed.
On 29th April 1994, soldiers reached them in a papyrus marshland where they had sought refuge and heinously killed her children.
“They were many soldiers who surrounded the papyrus marshland and shortly reached me. I heard them saying ‘return them home in Ethiopia’. They entered the papyrus thicket and started stabbing us. They hit me with a thick wooden truncheon on the head and split my nine year old bay into two parts,” she said.
Mukarurinda explained that RPF Inkotanyi soldiers later came to rescue them and started providing first aid to heal the wounds of those who were still breathing.
Journey to forgiveness
After the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi, Mukarurinda supported unity and reconciliation efforts despite tragedies she went through.
In 2003, she become a judge in Gacaca traditional court that was established to provide a solution for the complex nature of the cases related to the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
During her duties, Mukarurinda learnt that perpetrators who killed relatives confessed and apologized.
“I was appointed the secretary of Gacaca court in Nyamata. Perhaps, God wanted to make me strong. I used to see files of genocide suspects and meet with convicted perpetrators. Some of them were released upon Presidential mercy,” he noted.
It was not easy for Mukarurinda for forgive a perpetrator who stabbed her but she gradually calmed down when perpetrators revealed whereabouts her parents were killed and dumped.
More perpetrators continued to come for apology that she finally felt relaxed and forgave them. Mukarurinda currently belongs to the same unity and reconciliation group along with forgiven perpetrators.
“We work together and belong to the same unity and reconciliation group. I neither feel suspicious nor associate them with wrongful acts in daily lives because I forgave them,’ she said.
The President of IBUKA in Bugesera district, Chantal Bankundiye has also emphasized that Gacaca courts played a great role in reuniting Rwandans.
“We appreciate the contribution of Gacaca courts and the Government for introducing the approach because it would take so long for many Genocide survivors to get justice considering the enormous backlog of genocide-related cases. Moreover, Gacaca courts helped to unite genocide survivors and perpetrators,” she revealed.
“Unity and reconciliation in Bugesera district stands at good progress despite the sorrow and nightmare Tutsi went through in the area. As of today, there are genocide perpetrators who apologized to offended survivors and forgiven as others who completed their sentence are underway to join the journey,” added Bankundiye.