“She made me a human again.”

During an interview session, I asked Thasiani a question: “What would have happened to you if you had never met up again with Lawurencia?” Thasiani answered passionately, that he would have continued to be an “inyamaswa.” I asked him what the word means in English. He explained that the word inyamaswa means a wild beast in Kinyarwanda. I probed further. “What do you mean by a wild beast?” Then he suddenly stood up, and after walking like a Rwandan cow, he explained to me what the wild beast is like:

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Thasiani: “A beast is a creature that walks at night so that the people don’t see it. The animal walks at night because they fear people…. Me too, that is how I was feeling during that time [before the ABPRA].”

Dr. Minami:     “So, was it caused by the fact that you felt guilty and ashamed?”

Thasiani: “Yes, it is because I felt guilty and ashamed. As I met Lawurencia and she forgave me, it brought back humanity and happiness in me.” 

I discovered in this moment what his experience of having lived his life as an ex-prisoner, murderer and perpetrator had been like. The concept of inyamaswa, I was taught, represented his long held fear of retaliation from survivors, shame of having taken lives of the innocent people, and life filled with heavy guilt and torment by his conscience. He continued expressing that his experience of working for and with the survivor in the ABPRA had been like a process of re-birthing him back as a human being.

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In fact, all ex-prisoners reported that by providing services to survivors with the very hands they have used to harm them before, they felt that they were able to bring back humane characteristics such as kindness, genuine devotion, sincerity, and, being helpful toward others. At various point in my research, I celebrated together with the ex-prisoners the re-birth of them as human beings. “Happy Birthday!”

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