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|Journey to Rwanda - Page 2|
We're in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, in central Africa. All of our luggage has been lost en route from London, so we set out with our driver-translator, Peter, to buy necessities.
Kigali, a bustling city of more than 600,000, has a mix of dirt and paved roads, tall buildings, modern hotels, and small, tin-roofed houses, all jammed together among numerous hills. As we drive through the streets, Peter points out places where large-scale massacres occurred. He gives us tips about what not to do while we're here: don't photograph anything military, don't ask about anyone's ethnic identity, don't talk politics, don't ask too many questions. At dinner later, after requesting a table in a quiet, out-of-the-way corner of the restaurant, he goes into more detail in a hushed voice. He's a Tutsi and bears the scars of his own experience from the genocide.
Back in my room, I feel less safe than I did upon arrival, despite, or maybe because of, the armed guard employed by the guesthouse. As I write and read in my room, the blare of a violent television show playing in the reception area cuts through the night. I notice some fear at being here. Even though the genocide happened 14 years ago, in some ways it feels quite present.
We're going to the prison on Wednesday and hope eventually to develop a program that trains selected prisoners to provide TRM to other prisoners. This trip is a first step, an opportunity to begin developing relationships at the prison, and to learn about the needs of the prisoners, called genocidaires, who perpetrated or are accused of perpetrating the genocide.
There's a strong emphasis in Rwanda on a truth-and-reconciliation process, somewhat similar to the model in South Africa after apartheid. I've been told, however, that many prisoners are unable or unwilling to take responsibility for their acts, and therefore can't participate fully in efforts to reunify the country. I suspect that many of the genocidaires, as a result of what they did and saw, must be in a physiological state of immobilization, or in SE parlance, a "freeze." Without some way of coming out of the frozen emotional state, their healing and rehabilitation will be difficult.