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Rwanda's reconciliation village is a symbol of hope 20 years after the genocide

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Rwanda's reconciliation village is a symbol of hope 20 years after the genocide

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It took just 100 days to kill more than one million Rwandans.

Twenty years on from the ethnic violence, Mathias, a Hutu and Silas, a Tutsi live side-by-side in reconciliation village.

Silas was just 11-years-old when machete-wielding men came to his house and killed his family. Coming to terms with his loss has been a difficult journey.

“When I moved here, I moved next door to one of the genocide perpetrators Mathias, who killed many people and I was very resentful. When I first found out that I’d be living here, next door to a genocide perpetrator, I was scared of him. But he turned out to be a good neighbour. He told me Silas, even though I killed people, I am no longer a killer today, I have repented. I know that everyone now knows that I am not what I was before. I have changed.”

For Mathias, who killed 20 in the genocide, reconciliation gave him a second chance.

“When I was in jail, I had given up hope. I didn’t think that someone who killed would be freed then go on to live like other Rwandans. I was scared. But after confessing my crimes, I felt like a burden had been lifted off my shoulders. I was relieved when the president said that those who confessed their crimes and ask for forgiveness would be set free. I didn’t believe it at first, I thought it was a trap by the Tutsi rebels who wanted revenge, because I couldn’t believe that they’d let me live amongst other people.”

On April 7 the country will commemorate the lives lost when neighbour butchered neighbour over a few months in 1994.

For the survivors dubbed ‘those condemned to live’, the genocide provides a lesson from the past which must never be repeated.