Emmanuel and Vestine seem like any other Rwandan couple raising a family in a modest house in the capital of Kigali. But one of them is a survivor of the 1994 genocide and the other, one of its perpetrators.
Ten years ago, the pair decided to build a life together. Twenty years ago, they were on opposite sides of a genocide that claimed 800,000 victims in 100 days.
When violence first broke out in 1994, Emmanuel joined the Interahamwe, a Hutu paramilitary group that slaughtered countless Tutsis, hunting them down as they tried to flee to safety. He admits murdering some 60 people with the death squads.
“They posted us at roadblocks and ordered us to kill Tutsis. They'd go into houses, get them and then kill them in the streets,” Emmanuel recently told FRANCE 24. “I was with them, we were all together, they used to call it ‘working’.”
He spent eight years in prison for the killings. Emmanuel says he is sorry for what he did and that he has made every possible effort to change.
His wife Vestine, a Tutsi, believes him. She not only lived through that bloody chapter of Rwanda’s history but survived it. She was 8 years old when members of her family were murdered at the hands of Hutus.
“I didn't only see my parents die, but many other people too,” Vestine remembered. “They were killed with machetes or with clubs studded with nails... It was awful.”
She believes that her husband was not an instigator of the mass killings but was caught up the violence.
“I've been living with him for a long time. It's obvious that he was forced to act in the way he did. If he'd done it of his own free will, I wouldn't be able to live with him,” she says.
When the Hutu-Tutsi couple met in the late 1990s, their relationship raised eyebrows. Few could understand how a Tutsi could embrace a Hutu following the massacres. Hutus blamed Tutsis for locking them up in prisons in the wake of the genocide.
The couple endured the pressure and remained together. As Rwanda marks the twentieth anniversary of the genocide, Emmanuel and Vestine’s stubborn union is an example for the entire country.
To watch FRANCE 24's full report on Emmanuel and Vestine click in the player above.
Date created : 2014-04-05