The story of Joseph, a Tutsi survivor

After nearly 20 years, deep-rooted trauma from the Rwandan genocide still haunts many.

Through our reconciliation work in Rwanda, we bring together survivors and perpetrators of the genocide by providing microfinance, trauma counselling and dialogue clubs.

This programme helps the communities to move forward and rebuild their lives together, avoiding the risk of renewed conflict.

Joseph’s story

Joseph, bare-chested, working in a rice paddy
@ Carol Allen Storey/International Alert

“My father and I escaped being killed by the Interahamwe [Hutu militia groups] and fled to Burundi by crawling through the swamp and swimming across the river.

“The Burundi military helped our rescue, and gave us protection as they had with so many other Tutsis escaping the slaughter. I lost 30 family members during the genocide. More than a year after the war ended we returned to our village. Coming back home was a horrendous experience.

Can you imagine how I felt learning that virtually all of my family were murdered? Only my mother was spared because she was Hutu. I had nightmares for years haunted by the sounds of screaming voices, as they were tortured, pleading not to be butchered. The militia were vindictive – after they slaughtered the Tutsis they destroyed their properties so anyone surviving would have nothing to come home to.

“A local official in my village encouraged me to join the Dialogue Club; a place he said would help lift me out of my despair. The trauma counselling helped me understand my constant fears.

“Perhaps one of the most exciting things the project offered was micro-financing. Now, in partnership with three other members, we have established a successful business of cultivating rice which has a constant demand – my poverty has been lessened.

“The greatest benefit I experienced from the project was to learn how to forgive and have no regrets. The only way forward to prevent another genocide is to talk about it and never let people forget the pain of the era – never.”

Read other inspiring stories of Rwandan people rebuilding their lives after the genocide:

For the 25th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide against the Tutsi we revisited a few people who have been part of our reconciliation project to see how they are continuing to rebuild their lives after the genocide and how they are now helping to build peace in their communities. Read their stories here.