Can't WE Just Get Along?
This is a tale of Rwandan-style reconciliation. It may seem almost incomprehensible to outsiders, yet in some cases it works here.
It's driven largely by economics: Coffee is Rwanda's biggest export. To get the beans grown, harvested and processed, both killers and victims from the genocide are striking an uneasy peace born of economic codependence. "They need each other to make that container of coffee," says Timothy Schilling, a coffee consultant, referring to steel shipping containers that are packed with beans and shipped overseas.
[. . .] Call it trickle-down reconciliation. After the genocide — in which some 800,000 people were killed in just 90 days — Rwanda's Tutsi-dominated government proclaimed, "We are all Rwandans," and created a climate of extreme political correctness. It's now taboo even to utter the words "Hutu" and "Tutsi."
The aim is to quash any public mention of ethnicity — and therefore any recurrence of violence — while focusing on economic growth that will benefit both Hutus and Tutsis. It's the Rwandan equivalent of President Reagan's economic approach: Create a rising economic tide to lift all Rwandan boats — and float them away from the jagged rocks of ethnic conflict.
"The more people have a house and a car, the less reason they have to throw a stone at someone," explains Shyaka Kanuma, editor of Focus, a private newspaper in the capital, Kigali.
Over the years, Jeannette began to separate killers' past deeds from their current contributions. "This doesn't change the emotions," she explains, "but it does help me interact" with them. Through the cooperative, she says: "We've been building a relationship that changed our lives. We ended up reconciling in a way we didn't know."Go read the whole thing.
[. . .] In the end, the proximity of victims and killers in this crowded country — along with the strong hand of government preventing further mass violence — has forced a grudging, practical reconciliation. On certain hillsides, coffee has become an enabler for this fragile unity.