Sociotherapy is building bridges : inmate and her victim meet for reconciliation

14 juli 2017

The impact of sociotherapy is being sustained. One of the inmate socio-therapists, who is also a socio-therapy graduate, met with her victim, a genocide survivor from Nyanza district. This reconciliation meeting was held in Muhanga prison on 31st May 2017.The inmate is a genocide prisoner  who after attending  socio-therapy  sessions  came  up  recognizing  her role in genocide crimes; rape ,torture and  the killing of  the  sister of the genocide survivor. The inmate wrote a confession letter to her victim requesting them to meet . Through mediation the victim accepted and came together with the daughter of the inmate in prison for that meeting.

That reconciliation meeting was facilitated by the one in charge of social affairs of Muhanga prison, and the coordinator of socio-therapy program.


  • Apologizing from the inmate

 During  and after Gacaca courts , and  before imprisonment, I didn’t get opportunity  to  meet  you, because I  was still denying  my responsibility in the rape ,torture  and the  killing of your elder sister . During genocide, your sister came in my house to look for protection, instead of keeping and hiding her, I sent her to my brother-in-law expecting that he would protect her. Unfortunately, when she went there she found herself in the group of many killers. They did not kill her straight away, instead they kept her up until night torturing and raping her. Eventually they killed her the following day. 


Ever since I had been life sentenced by Gacaca courts, I did not acknowledge my responsibility. Through socio-therapy sessions I discovered  my responsibility, and particularly during the phase when discussing the subject of care, I found myself guilty because I hadn’t taken care of that young lady who came to me  expecting that I could protect her. I came to realize I had failed to do so ! Also after the genocide before  Gacaca courts, I was hiding from the truth. although I was aware about the death of your elder sister. I don’t  know how  to  express  my feeling seeing you here ,being  with me! I apologize for all that I did, could you please forgive me?


  • Forgiveness from the  victim/the genocide survivor

I was very touched by the letter you send me. You wrote, asking for my forgiveness and requesting me to come in the prison to meet you. I told myself, I have to decide whether or not to meet with you in prison.  But even before receiving your letter, I was ready to forgive you. Before your imprisonment, you were a friend of my family. Only 3 people survived in my family ; my sister, one brother who also died later and myself.

They were the ones asking me not to testify in accusations against you. But as I knew about your role in my sister death, through your brother in-law, who had come to ask for forgiveness even before Gacaca courts, while he has not ready to reveal the truth publicly.


Before and during Gacaca courts, I was mad and traumatized; I was obsessed because I wanted the know the truth about the death of my elder sister. Before genocide, I used to be an evangelist preaching the word of God, but after genocide I stopped attending church services. I even used to pray for prisoners, but I couldn’t continue praying and accusing at the same time. Nowadays, I have reconciled with my God and I consider myself an evangelist again. As a consequence, I feel like I’m strong enough and ready to forgive all my offenders, this means including you.  


During Gacaca courts, I was so chocked by your testimony; I remember clearly how you said that you heard the voice of my sister laughing at 3 am in the morning, whereas she was in the company of the men who raped her . That was such a painful insult that troubled me for a long time. I later discovered that after my sister had been raped all night long, those rapists had decided to pass her to two young men to execute her. The two young men who we’re given order to execute, didn’t finish their job. Instead they cut her and left her behind unfinished. They threw her into the toilet, where she remained in agony for two weeks before she died. Your brother-in-law who is also imprisoned was among the killers. He is the one who revealed after the genocide, where the body of my sister was. I was also shocked by his behavior, because that day he used a piece of tree to identify the body of my sister among other bodies as a sign of disregard! This also exacerbated my trouble.

After hearing you apologizing , I feel like my mind and soul are a bit more at ease. I don’t know if you are feeling the way same way ? This reconciliation action is not only helpful for the both of us, but also very important for our children. Our reconciliation is serving as a liberation to them . I often meet with your children in the village where I live. I heard from neighbors that your son twenty year old son, has said he hates me, because I am responsible for your imprisonment. He was projecting his suffering towards me. As a response I sent one of my neighbors, so that he could explain and tell him the truth about why his mother is imprisoned. After this, he one day surprised me, while I was walking back home carrying water, as he came up to me and asked “Can I help you to carry that Jerrycan of water?” I accepted his offer to help and replied “yes, please” and we walked back together to my house.  His reaction gave me life and inspired me. That is why forgiving you will not only liberate the both of us, but also have a positive impact on both our families. From my side, I could even plead for your release from prison and I will certainly come back to visit you in prison.  






The reaction of the offender after being forgiven by her victim:

“From this forgiveness, I accordingly hope to liberate my children and neighbors. One I am released and return to the community, I will feel comfortable to meet with your family members as well all neighbors”


The offender’s daughter who also attended this meeting said “I am happy that finally my mummy meets with her victim. This is a result of a long process .Many thanks to Socio- therapy who has made this possible.Their reconciliation will help us children to co-habitat well, and overcome suspicion, and mistrust.  My younger sister even has a boy -friend from the family of the victim. One day , they were asking their selves “what would happen if we got married? They both answered: we would always be insulting each other”.