As many as a million Tutsis and moderate Hutus were murdered during a 3 month period in 1994 by radicalized Hutus, in an attempt at a complete ethnic cleansing of the country. The speed and brutality of this act of genocide was unprecedented in modern history, and was largely ignored by the UN and the rest of the world while it was happening.

Is it possible to heal the scars created by such an act? The government of Rwanda wants desperately to foster healing through reconciliation instead of retribution. They want the survivors of the genocide to forgive the men who killed their families. Imagine passing on the street the man who murdered your husband and children and be expected to accept their freedom. This is what the government is asking the people of Rwanda to do.

Gacaca means "meeting in the grass," and that is where the alleged killers are brought before their accusers to stand trial. Gacaca trials are held in maize fields, on soccer pitches, and in village markets, where the people of the area are invited to come witness against the prisoners, who are usually dressed in pink. The gacaca court cannot sentence a prisoner to death, even if they are thought to be guilty of multiple murders. In 2003, tens of thousands of genocidaires were released from prison.

In 2002, I shot at several gacaca courts near Kigali and Butare. What I found was a society in the process of holding its breath, waiting for the inevitable confrontation between killer and survivor.

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