“We can’t punish them without thinking about their future and the future of our country,” Jean-Paul Nyirindekwe, the coordinator of Travaux d’Intérêt Général (TIG) – “Works of General Interest” – told me last week when we spoke about the work of TIG, the government-sponsored program through which perpetrators of the genocide in Rwanda atone for their crimes through community service.
Many Rwandans convicted of genocide in the gacaca courts are sentenced to community service, which is led by TIG. TIG only began its work in 2005, but it hopes – and needs – to move quickly. As of today, almost 8,000 perpetrators have completed their service through TIG, 26,000 are currently serving their sentences in 60 camps around the country, and 40,000 still wait to be placed into a TIG camp.
Jean-Paul explained the three aspects of TIG’s programs: punishment, social reintegration, and reconstruction of society through development projects. I wonder if punishment is the correct word to use in this case.
My mind drifts to my walk to work in Nyamirambo, I pass a TIG camp with hundreds of prisoners in pink jump suits milling around the compound, usually carrying some sort of tool to do this service work. It is a bit disconcerting to start the morning coming face-to-face with murderers and rapists. I think of Emilienne, of Chantal and Consolee, of all of my friends who have shared their stories from 1994. I cannot imagine what this must be like for them.
I’ve asked Albert about this before. “It is necessary,” he said. “It is the only way.”
Albert and Survivor Corps are working with TIG on the third element of the TIG program, social reintegration. Survivor Corps will provide peer support training to TIG staff and perpetrators in TIG’s programs. In addition to this training, Survivor Corps plans to work with local government to train and deploy community-based peer outreach workers to provide sustained support to perpetrators as they reintegrate into society. By encouraging survivors and perpetrators to work together on community service projects, Survivor Corps and TIG will work to not only rebuild communities, but to repair relations between survivors and perpetrators.
Jean-Paul stressed the importance of TIG’s partnership with Survivor Corps. “The social reintegration component is the major output of our program; it is our output into society and it will shape Rwanda’s future.
(Photo credit: THOMAS LOHNES/AFP/Getty Images)
Posted By Lisa Rogoff
Posted Jul 12th, 2009