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|Journey to Rwanda - Page 3|
All the years that I was working in my private practice in Washington, D.C., I never dreamed I'd one day be walking hand in hand with an African social worker down a dusty path into a Rwandan prison. But today, that's exactly what I'm doing. My mind is filled with questions: what's a white, middle-class woman like me doing here? what'll it be like to sit with genocide perpetrators? do I have anything to offer in a country so torn apart by tragedy?
As the other members of my team and I approach the Kigali prison building, I look behind me. Following closely are perhaps 50 people, mostly women, in colorful dress. They carry baskets of food on their heads and satchels with more food for the prisoners they're visiting. It's Wednesday, the main visiting day. The visitors sit on long benches just outside the main building.
When a whistle blows, a group of pink-uniformed prisoners hurries out and sits on another long bench across from their respective family members. Talk is rushed because each group has only about seven minutes before the whistle blows again and the family members must leave to be replaced by another group, and then another and another. There are about 6,000 prisoners in this prison, all of whom are accused of committing the severest crimes, such as planning the genocide or murdering many people. Some have confessed; others haven't. Some have been sentenced; most haven't.
It's been arranged that we'll meet with a group of genocidaires. I'm nervous when we join the assembled group of men. The language barrier strongly hinders most efforts to put everyone at ease. We have a translator, but many of the men talk at the same time, and then a prisoner who speaks English accuses the translator of not translating accurately what they're saying.