Story from Bugesera 

My name is Paulo. I am 21 years old. I live in Nyamata, Bugesera District. Before joining the sociotherapy program, I was always very isolated and had a bad relationship with my parents. I grew up when my father was in prison. After he was released, he started conflicting and fighting with my mother. They decided to divorce. I went to live with my father. Later, my mother came and picked me up to live with her again. When I was in primary 5, I decided to live with my father again.  

One month after I moved in with my father and his new wife however, my father left us. In the beginning I did not know why he had left and where he had gone. My mother and grandmother explained to me that he was imprisoned again because of genocide-related crimes. I initially did not believe that my father had done what he was accused of. I could not understand it. I thought that perhaps my father was a liar; I thought that maybe he had not at all participated in the genocide. However, the mere thought of my father possibly having been involved in the genocide discouraged me and disturbed my well-being.  

In general, children with parents who were genocidaires are always ashamed. Often, they think that other people only see them in relation to the crimes their parent(s) committed. As a result, they do not freely connect with others. I myself too was always ashamed because of my father’s crimes. I felt culpable and as if I was always wrong. For example, I work as a bicycle taxi driver. In order to prevent my colleagues from getting an inferiority complex, I used to hide that I completed secondary school. They might have disconnected from me because I – the child of a genocidaire – had attended school, while they had not.  

When I joined sociotherapy, I was still feeling guilty. I also felt that I could no longer move on with my life. I was angry at my father for what he did. However, my fellow sociotherapy participants made me realize that I should not let myself suffer because of the crimes he committed. During sociotherapy, the phase of respect helped me a lot to move forward. It always felt like my father disrespected me when he left me and my stepmother while I was still young; especially because I had left my mother to go and live with him again. When I shared my experience, I was very much challenged by a question the members of my sociotherapy group asked me. They asked what I would have done if I had experienced similar things as my father. I thought about this and eventually started to forgive my father for leaving me. I even forgave him for the crimes he committed during the genocide, and for the fact that he confessed in the Gacaca courts. After sociotherapy I called my father to tell him that I had forgiven him.  

I am very thankful for sociotherapy, as it helped me move forward a lot. I myself and my fellow sociotherapy participants not only got empowered in our hearts, we also got economically stronger as we are now carrying out some income generating activities together. I am a member of two small associations, including a saving cooperation. Every week, I save 2000 RwF and hand it over to the association. At the moment, I have saved approximately 100.000 and I am about to receive 100.000 from the association as well.  

Also, the relationship with my family has improved. My mother continues to take care of me. Whenever she has a problem, she communicates it to me. For example, when her house collapsed, I was the one to build another one for her. In addition, my mother as well as my grandmother regularly ask me for advice, which I am happy to give. Also, most of the time I give advice to other bicycle taxi drivers in my working area. I feel that I am now trusted by a lot of different people.  

I am thankful to sociotherapy for helping rebuild myself. My life was shattered in every possible way. I used to hate my father, but I forgave him. Unfortunately, my father’s health is not that good anymore ever since he was released. Although he does not approach me, I will continue to take care of him until he has completely recovered. I do not hold any grudge towards him any longer. Sociotherapy helped me to get rid of the endless thoughts about the past. I no longer feel ashamed. I can finally sleep deeply again.