Skip to content

Two men, fifteen scars–one act of forgiveness

2013 June 17

By Jean Baptiste Ndabananiye & Julia Boccagno

Physical and mental scars can’t be erased; they serve as constant, unforgettable reminders of the past. Yet, with the correct tools and resources, even the worst scars eventually fade.

Our team in Rwanda attempts to do just that—heal the emotional and psychological scars of genocide survivors through reconciliation programs.

For Gakwerere Innocent, a genocide survivor, sincere and genuine forgiveness was never an option. After being slashed with a machete 15 times and having 36 family members killed, Innocent craved revenge towards those who inflicted this unbearable pain.

As for Wellars Uwihoreye, a genocide perpetrator, he was one among many instructed to hunt and murder Innocent. “It’s thanks to God that I didn’t kill him since I was hunting him,” he said.  He’d given up hope of ever being forgiven for committing these inhumane crimes.

That all changed.

Because of the USAID funded program “Maximizing the Impact of Reconciliation in Rwanda,” Search’s radio journalists launched “Success Stories on Reconciliation in Rwanda,” a media initiative that publicly broadcasts personal stories of internal conflict resolution. The subjects of the stories become role models, inspiring both victims and perpetrators of genocide to embark on the challenging and rewarding journey to forgiveness.

The program allowed Gakwerere Innocent and Wellars Uwihoreye to peacefully reunite. With additional help from the nonprofit Christian Action for Reconciliation and Social Assistance (CARESA), Innocent was greatly moved by Uwihoreye’s plea of forgiveness. Innocent explained, “Uwihoreye asked me for forgiveness from the bottom of the heart so that I felt really fully satisfied to forgive him. He knelt before me and beseeched me pardon; he did it in a spirit of deep sincerity and conviction with deep feeling.”

Uwihoreye was awed and speechless by Innocent’s graciousness, “It was like a dream when I heard Innocent forgive me because I wouldn’t imagine because of cruelty I had committed against him, I immediately saw him like God.”

Uwihoreye on the left and Gakwerere on the right sharing beer at Gakwerere’s house.

Uwihoreye on the left and Innocent on the right sharing beer at Innocent’s house.

Now, Innocent and Uwihoreye are not only close friends, but their wives also confide in one another. Innocent and Uwihoreye even share a cow as part of an initiative known as “Cows for Peace,” which strives to build sustainable socioeconomic relationships among its clients through the joint ownership of a farm animal.

To forgive is not to forget. The horrific mental, physical and emotional scars caused by the 1994 genocide will always remain a part of Rwanda’s history. However, thanks to grassroots reconciliation programs, scars of the past can be lessened and healed to restore unity among the people.


Please share their story.


As one of Search’s radio journalists, Jean Baptiste Ndabananiye, helped produce content for Success stories on Reconciliation in Rwanda as part of “Maximizing the Impact of Reconciliation in Rwanda.”

As a rising American University junior, Julia Boccagno majors in Broadcast Journalism and double-minors in International Studies and Italian with the hopes of becoming a future foreign correspondent. She firmly believes that objective news reporting is a vital tool within the peace and conflict resolution conversation.. She is currently the New Media Intern at Search for Common Ground. 

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Note: You can use basic XHTML in your comments. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS