22 March 2018

Rwanda: Senators Root for Reintegration of Released Genocide Convicts

Members of the Upper House of Parliament yesterday urged the Government to devise plans on how to follow up on Genocide convicts who complete their sentences and go back in society in order to help them reintegrate.

They made the resolution yesterday during a plenary session of the House following a presentation by the Senatorial Standing Committee on Political Affairs and Good Governance on unity and reconciliation affairs.

The committee analysed the 2016/17 report of the National Unity and Reconciliation Commission (NURC) and its plan of action for the current financial year 2017/18.

Senator Jean Nepomuscene Sindikubwabo, the chairperson of the Senatorial Standing Committee on Political Affairs and Good Governance, told fellow senators that research conducted by NURC last year indicated the need for reintegration efforts for former prisoners.

According to the NURC study, relatives of former prisoners of Genocide crimes say that the convicts have reintegrated back into society at the rate of 71.4 per cent, neighbours of the former prisoners see them as having reintegrated at 57.2 per cent, while Genocide survivors said the culprits' reintegration is at 43.5 per cent.

The senators interpreted the perceptions as cause for alarm when it comes to the extent at which former prisoners for Genocide crimes who complete their sentences are reintegrated back into society and they suggested that the Government should help in the reintegration process.

Senator Tito Rutaremara, a member of the Senatorial Standing Committee on Political Affairs and Good Governance, said that the former prisoners are supposed to have received unity and reconciliation lessons while in prison but insisted that it is not enough.

"The Government should look at it and consider proper mechanism through which to reintegrate former prisoners back into society. Former prisoners' security and how they are received in their families should be something that the government cares about," he said.

Senator Marie-Claire Mukasine, another member of the committee, said that there is need for members of society that received former prisoners in their neighbourhoods to be prepared to live with them while former inmates should also embrace the country's unity and reconciliation programmes.

"There is need to look at both sides. The former inmates need to be prepared but members of community who will receive them and live with them need to be prepared for it too," she said.

With thousands of prisoners who participated in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi having completed their sentences 24 years after the atrocities, the next challenge for them and Genocide survivors is how to live together again.

But most senators yesterday said that both sides will need to embrace the country's policies of unity and reconciliation, which will help them to live in harmony with each other.

"The journey needs to continue and we need to keep working on the reconciliation of Rwandans so that it can guide their lives today and for future generations," Senator Mukasine said.

Last October, officials from NURC revealed that the body's activities in the current fiscal year would focus on conducting mass healing sessions for Rwandans to help them cope with psychological scars left behind by the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

The commission's president, Bishop (rtd) John Rucyahana, announced the body's plan of action while presenting to the Senate a report of NURC's activities for the Financial Year 2016/17 and action plan for the current financial year.

Rucyahana has said that the healing sessions have to essentially be in the form of talk therapy whereby people are encouraged to meet in their communities and clubs where they live and discuss their wounds and how to overcome them.

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