We could fight at least three times a week but today we are a happy family

29 november 2017

My name is Paul; I was born in Busasamana sector, Rubavu district. I am married and have four children. Before the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi, after my primary education, I tried to join the army. However, after having passed all tests successfully, I was not recruited. During the genocide my first wife who was four months pregnant was killed because she was a Tutsi. In addition to that, my property was stolen.


After the genocide I was called by the new leadership to serve as a local police at the level of what was known as “Commune”. It was a dangerous period as we were always fighting against infiltrators from the DRC. Towards the end of 1998, I remarried. We got four children. I never felt safe with my second wife. We were always disagreeing, quarreled almost every day and fought at least three times a week. I did not provide for my family because I was always drunk. Each time my wife made a mistake, I would compare her with my first wife who would not have done that, which was another source of conflict. My second wife was most of time drunk. Whenever I tried to ask her about what was happening in my house, she reacted violently. I remember that once after work I brought my service gun home and then went to meet other men in the bar. Coming back in the evening I found my wife with my gun pointed at me through the window. Fortunately, she did not know how to operate it; otherwise she would have killed me. Another time we were having a dispute, I took a machete without the intention of killing her. However, I did injure her on her forehead. Our children have been extremely affected by our conflicts to the extent that they did no longer spend the night in our house, while some of them were about to drop out from school.


In the beginning of 2015, sociotherapists came to my house and invited me to participate in sociotherapy sessions. I went there and met other people. However, looking at the characteristics of people I found there, I discovered that I had been invited because of conflicts that had devastated my family. We discussed about different topics and people gave testimonies and their points of view. I also started to reflect on my life and my family. I identified areas where I needed to improve. I had small notebooks in which I was documenting all the new rules I was setting for myself after each session. I started by approaching people who had stolen my property in 1994 and with whom I had been living like enemies ever since. I told them that I had changed and that I had forgiven them. After that, we started to socialize and became friends. I discovered that my drunkenness was the first reason for conflicts in my family and started to limit my drinking habits. I found out that my family had fallen into deep poverty and decided to work hard to change the situation without taking into consideration my wife’s behavior. Whenever I came home and she wanted to raise conflicts, I kept quiet. Later I started to observe changes in her behavior and conflicts in our family stopped. Within these last two years, we managed to build a new house with iron sheets; we now have a cow, chickens, pigs and Irish potatoes plantations. We are trying to work hard and put what we are earning together to prepare a brighter future for our children. I have become a trustworthy person in my village and recently I have been recruited to serve as a security guard at our Roman Catholic parish. I wish sociotherapy could continue and reach many families as they would benefit from it and overcome conflicts they are living with.


Paul’s wife also gave her testimony:


We got married in 1998, but soon after we started to fight. My husband was always drunk. Whenever children would hear him coming, they would hide or flee to other households nearby. But since he joined sociotherapy, he started to change his behaviors, coming at home sober. He had a notebook where he was documenting what they have learnt in the group and the decisions he had made about changing his behaviour. I used to read through his notes and observe whether he did stick to them or not. Those decisions included bringing peace at home and improving the economic situation of the family. Later I observed that he was indeed changing and I started to reflect on my own behavior. I realized that some of my behavior as a wife had been contributing to the conflicts in my family and I decided to also change. Nowadays, when you look at the way he is and how he has fulfilled all commitments he mentioned in that notebook, we are living as a happy family. Our neighbors as well as our children witnessed what we are sharing with you today. Children are going to school regularly; they are free to ask their father everything they need, which was not possible before. I also wanted to participate in sociotherapy. However, sociotherapists told me that they were closing the program. Recently I learnt that there was a group that started in a nearby cell and I went there. Unfortunately, sociotherapists told me that I was not allowed to be part of that group as I’m from another cell. They promised me that they will come back in our cell and I’m eagerly looking forward to participate in the group they will be formed here because I came to like sociotherapy very much. I highly appreciate what you are doing for our families.


Story by Emmanuel Nzabonimpa/ CBS – Western Province