My father was killed in the Genocide Against the Tutsi. I never had a chance to bury him or to say goodbye. Many of my relatives died in the genocide of 1994 that swept across the lush green hills of Rwanda, whipped up by an ‘ethnic-based’ political party that sought to eliminate “undesirables” like me: a Tutsi. I was only seven, but I survived. For three months, I endured like a wild animal in the bush, hiding among dead bodies hoping not to be killed, and scratching for food in neighbour’s gardens during the night. My eyes saw what no child should see. My ears heard what no child should hear.
I knew some of the killers. These families were our friends; we had shared food with them, I played football with their children. My father had solved village problems amicably, but because of planned government-taught hatred, murder had become praiseworthy and we were suddenly hunted like animals, sought by friends who now wanted only to kill us. Yet, I have forgiven them.
From the time of the tragedy onwards I was consumed with burning questions: What is the best revenge against this? How could such a terrible thing happen? What could cause friends to become murderers? If such things could be learned, could they be un-learned? Could victims and perpetrators find a way to continue living together? Did Rwanda have a viable future?
Some years later, when I was in senior secondary school, I started a student’s theatre club to aid reconciliation. The club was to include all ethnic groups even if parents and elder siblings were not willing to support inter-ethnic friendships. We witnessed the power of performing arts to bring people together; challenging the status quo and start the long process of social change. Students whose parents had killed or been victims were singing, dancing and acting together. We started to discuss the past and thought about what would make a better future for all Rwandans.
In university, I continued exploring the same idea, using sociological theories I was studying in lectures and my own library reading to leverage improvements and measure outcomes. It was successful and quickly garnered support from parents, leaders, students, religious believers, teachers and the whole community.
In 2010, I was one of the twelve young peace activists from all over the world who attended a twelve day-workshop followed by a conference in Switzerland, on “Re-establishing Normality – Cultural Relations, Conflict Prevention and Reconciliation” organised and hosted by the British Council. I gave my testimony there which was followed by a lot of good feedback.
Having read Professor Tariq Modood’s research online and watching conferences on YouTube when I was doing my BA at the National University of Rwanda, we were able to form a relationship over emails. This relationship made it possible for me to get to the UK and study MSc Sociology at the University of Bristol, School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies.
I have decided to spend the rest of my life in service of peace-making with advocacy for innocent suffering as a result of biased routines of conflicts. My goal is to participate in the peace process, preventing wars and helping to solve and manage the consequences of conflicts. I hope to achieve this by telling my story of survival, forgiveness and need for peace around the world combined with my various projects. My motto is HUMANITY. I shall always help in conflict resolution and peace-making processes. I shall not run after richness but after service of people and for the needy within my country, the region and all over the world. This will help me achieve my goal of being a real peacemaker.
Listen to Hyppolite on BBC Radio Bristol for more information.
Rwanda is a developing country within a politically volatile region of central Africa. In addition to this, the country has suffered one of the worst Genocides of modern history, and is faced with enormous social challenges connected to inter-group trust, social cohesion and reconciliation. The misunderstandings, suspicion, hatred and conflict that surround ethnic identity in Rwanda are challenges that must be overcome for the future progress of Rwanda.
Identity issues were at the core of the Rwandan tragedy, and because I was so directly affected, am fearful when I see the signs of these being reanimated in minds of my fellows Rwandans. My future, the future of my nation and the future of the Great Lakes region will depend on finding a way past these dividing issues, as well as improving economic and human development so that we can go forward united and strong. In my mind there is an urgent need for the whole region to have more sustainable social planning with coordination frameworks implemented in the case of disputes or social conflicts based on research and education.
Thus; I see my contribution to the future of my homeland both as a part of peace-maker, humanitarian, and more widely, as a qualified professional able to help coordinate and organise frameworks at national, regional and local levels. These frameworks will help to reconcile fellow citizens and avoid future tragedies but also head towards socio-political stability.
As a longer-term vision, I wish to create a social institute with various different centres: social research in conflict and peace centre, training centre, arts centre with theatre and a mindfulness retreat centre. The institute will foster a rigorous and independent research environment to ensure objective, relevant and unbiased analysis. This institute will be to raise funding that will support less fortunate victims of conflicts and other harmful social phenomena.