Remnants of the Past
Le, Catherine and I are staying with Eddy and Nadja. We became so very close to Eddy on our last trip that he is now considered family. Eddy’s mother died when he was young and he never had a mother-figure in his life. So, Le has taken that place in his heart. Nadja is Eddy’s fiancé. She is from Belgium and, like Eddy, holds a special place in our hearts.
Their house is far more luxurious than what one would expect, based on American stereotypes of Africa. They live in a 3-bedroom, 1-bathroom house. It is a cement structure, every wall and the floor are all made of cement. Oddly enough, it is quite homey. At the same time, there are these strange paradoxes that go with it. The house is a virtual fortress, with a brick wall surrounding the property. The top of the brick wall is made of broken glass and wrapped in barbed wire. The windows all have bars over them. Every entrance has multiple locks, including padlocks. I suppose that during the difficult times in Rwanda’s past, this house was exactly what a person needed: difficult to penetrate and you were pretty safe from drive-by shootings. Here is a pic of the top of the brick wall.
The government has requested that homeowners remove the glass from atop the brick walls. They have ordered that all new structures are to remain open, that is no more 10-foot high walls. They want people to be able to see into the properties as they pass by. It is part of their reconciliation program. They believe that if people continue to live as if there is something to fear, then there will be something to fear. They must begin living as if neighbors are trustworthy so that everyone will be trustworthy.
The maximum penalty for being a “genocidaire” is 30 years, with half of the term served in prison and half served on parole. As of this July, it will be 15 years since the end of the 100-day genocide. This is the year when many perpetrators are to be released.
Can you imagine perpetrators and victims living side-by-side? How does a perpetrator reintegrate into a community? How should victims accept those who killed their families? It makes sense that Rwanda’s religious community plays a big role in the unification of the people.