Reaching a Common Reconciliation
By Adrien Niyongabo
been supporting Healing and Rebuilding Our Communities (HROC) workshops
in Burundi since 2002. Mutaho is an up-country community
where the HROC program has been very active since the beginning. This
is a report about one recent three day workshop which illustrates the
effects it can have on people and the community.
A HROC workshop
took place on May 13-15, 2008 in Rurengera, Burundi. This workshop
featured next door neighbors from the Hutu community
mixed with Tutsi who had originally come from that same community but
some of whom are now staying in Mutaho IDP camp. 21 participants – 10
men and 11 women – attended with five facilitators conducting
the workshop – Joseph Ngendakumana, Sebastien Kambayeko, Dorcas
Ndagijimana, Pascasie Nduwimana, and Eraste Ndikumana.
On day one, the participants did not want to express themselves so
much and some could not even smile or laugh. As the workshop went on,
they started not to fear each other any more and their faces became
When we entered
in the “Loss, Grief and Mourning” session
at the beginning of the second day, tough matters came to the surface.
We need to remember that all these participants know each other because
they belong to the same community even though some are now staying
in the IDP camp. In fact, whatever was done or happened to one of them
was almost known by everybody. That is why the sharing became so fluid
and deep. They mentioned their relatives who got killed, their belongings
which got stolen or destroyed in 1993. It was expected that a workshop
of this kind would be emotional as folks are gathered close to where
the horrible events took place. Consequently, the facilitators provided
needed services for those who struggled with their emotions.
There were two participants, one from the IDP camp – a Tutsi
woman – and another from the village – a Hutu man – who
conjointly asked for more time to work on the issue that was between
them since the 1993 war. Here is their story: When the war started,
the Hutu man came to the Tutsi family. He had been sent by a group
of other Hutu who were hunting Tutsi to check if there were Tutsi
males hiding in the house, especially the brother-in-law of the Tutsi
woman. If there were any males found, he was to capture them and
take them to the group of Hutu who were killing the Tutsi. So, when
he arrived in front of the house, he pushing roughly on the door,
his eyes open like a monster. The woman and her kids got terribly
frightened. Shocked by the act and trying to protect the kids, the
woman took her hoe as a weapon and went to fight against the man.
As he was too strong, he took away the hoe and started beating her.
Letting her rolling on the ground, he checked in the rooms and nobody
else was found. He went back furious!
These were now the two people meeting, after all these years, in the
workshop. Well, these two folks asked for a special time and they were
taken to another location for more privacy with one of the facilitators
leading the dialogue. They finally succeeded in reaching a common reconciliation.
It was with big smiles that they came back to join the group, sharing
with the rest of the group that they are healed from carrying such
a big burden for years. Then, there was another shivering that occurred
in the room when it was revealed that it was Pastor Sebastien (a Tutsi
and HROC facilitator) whom the man had been hunting that time and he
now was among the facilitators of that workshop!
On the last day of the workshop, participants were more open, joyful,
and interactive. They even expressed that they would feel happy to
stay for one more day. Below are some of the many quotes from participants.
- These teachings have helped me so much for I had become careless
because of what I lost. I could not undertake any activity that would
inquire effort from me for I was saying that there was no need. Since
the war took away my dear loved ones, I decided to get drunk every
single day. It is painful, I tell you! It is now that I have been in
this workshop that I stopped this bad behavior because I understood
what was wrong with me. I promise you that I am going back to work
- Every single night I came home, my wife and kids had to hide themselves.
Breaking the pot on fire (before the food would be ready) had become
my easy thing to do. You know, I deprived several meals to my family.
I am ashamed! It is time for me to change and I am going to do it.
I want to be a tree of trust for my family. More, I will tell those
with whom I shared beer to stop and plant the tree of trust.
- The time I spent in this workshop will remain unforgettable for me.
Those I used to fear have been the ones I talked to, shared food
with and, at the end, we were good friends. It is possible to rebuild
again our neighborhood as people who remained in the village and
those who are in the IDP camp.
- The example from our two friends touched my soul so deeply that
I feel I want to put forth my own story, too. When the war was hot
we were fleeing in the bushes, a Hutu woman told me: “Why are
you still tying that evil child on your back?” Meaning that the
child is evil because I am a Hutu and my husband is Tutsi and therefore
the child is considered a Tutsi. “Take him down and throw him
away!” Did she forget that he was my child? Did she mean that
my loving husband was evil? Since that time, I decided not to be with
that woman and had been holding such hatred and anger against her.
But, this workshop taught me how to let it go. I want to meet with
the woman and tell her how what she said wounded me and that I have
been able to forgive.
We closed the workshop with a request from participants to be invited
again. It was also asked that many workshops would be conducted for
more people of Rurengera.
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