Charles and Francoise's story

Twenty years after the genocide, deep-rooted trauma still haunts many people in Rwanda.

Our reconciliation work brings together survivors and perpetrators of the genocide to help them move forward and rebuild their lives together.

Charles and Francoise met at one of International Alert’s ‘dialogue clubs’, where people have the opportunity to share their feelings and experiences of the genocide. This is their story.

"My life was good", says Francoise. “I had a family and a property. I was really happy. As a result of the genocide, my entire family perished. I lost three sisters and three brothers, including all their children. I also lost my father, my uncles, aunties … Everybody was gone. Life had completely changed.

"I joined International Alert’s dialogue club to help me come to terms with what had happened. Slowly, the programme taught me to see the perpetrators as human beings, despite their crimes.

"Through the dialogue club Charles and I started to say hello to one another, and the initial fear I had towards perpetrators started to disappear. When I fell sick, Charles was the only person who came to see me. He would walk to the hospital every day with food. I was very weak when I returned to the village, but Charles supported and helped me through it.

"We became so close that he eventually told me what he did. He killed five members of my family. The Alert programme taught us to go beyond what had happened and to accept one another. It helped to change my opinion of the perpetrators; to no longer see them as enemies, but as humans and individuals.

"If I have a problem, Charles is the first person I contact. There is a harmony between us and in the village thanks to the programme."

It is an experience that has meant a lot to Charles as well.

"When the genocide started," says Charles, "I found myself following everybody else, and becoming part of a gang without realising and without really knowing why. There was a sense that if you were strong, young and able, you were expected to participate. As a result, I committed horrible crimes – we would arrive at villages specifically to kill. If I hadn’t taken part, I would have been killed myself.

"The International Alert programme helped me to handle my fear when I decided to go and seek forgiveness. The first person I came to seek forgiveness from was Francoise. I believe that Francoise had reached the same point as I had and was ready to forgive those who had killed his family.

"If I had not joined the programme, if forgiveness had not been sought and given, then Francoise and I would not be good friends now. Everything I have today is because of the programme. For many of the people who saw what we did during the genocide, the Alert programme has helped to heal them in the same way."

By making a donation of £5 today, you will help more people like Charles and Francoise to rebuild their lives, working together for a future without violence.

Because the world needs more peace right now, not less.