Photographer finds young Rwandans building a nation of peace

Thu Sep 18, 2014 1:56pm EDT
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By Alex Whiting

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A long row of school kids are seated on the woodland floor, heads bowed in remembrance of local teachers killed protecting their charges during Rwanda’s genocide 20 years ago.

It’s a haunting image of what these children have lost, but also what some of them have found: unity.

Award-winning photographer Carol Allen-Storey met the children earlier this year, among 60 young adults she photographed for an exhibition that opened in London on Thursday.

Some bear the stigma of being a child of a killer or a child born of rape. Some were orphaned in the violence, and a few are full-time carers of their deeply traumatized parents.

“I traveled the length and breadth of Rwanda ... They all said very simply: ‘If we are not united, we will fail as a nation and we will fall back into war’,” said Allen-Storey, who is UNICEF ambassador for photography.

“Their whole thought was that if you hold onto hate you have no future,” she said. “All of them said … they must learn to forgive, that they must not embrace their parents’ prejudices.”

Below the surface, communities in Rwanda are still deeply divided and there is a real danger that violence will break out again without greater healing and reconciliation, according to International Alert, a London-based international peacebuilding NGO which organized the exhibition, “The Amahoro Generation”, ahead of International Day of Peace on September 21.

In the 100 days of slaughter that began on April 6, 1994, Hutu government soldiers and allied extremist militia orchestrated a genocide to destroy the Tutsi minority. Across the country, some 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed.   Continued...