The genocide ended on 17 July when the RPF entered Kigali and formed a Government of National Unity. The people of Rwanda had to begin the process of rebuilding their lives. Fearful of retribution, thousands of innocent Hutus fled to refugee camps in neighbouring countries. Also escaping to refugee camps were members of the Interahamwe looking to escape justice. The murder of Tutsis by the Interahamwe continued in the refugee camps.
In Rwanda Tutsis who had survived the genocide started to rebuild their lives – in some cases as the only member of their family left alive. Many returned to communities where their attackers still lived, in some cases as close neighbours. Survivors had to cope with horrific injuries including the loss of limbs or severe disfigurement caused by machete attacks.
In 1995 the Association of Widows of Genocide – AVEGA – was formed in Rwanda to address the needs of those who had been affected by the genocide, including widows, orphans, those who had lost their children and people disabled by their injuries. AVEGA helps to provide healthcare and counselling services, establishes income generation projects and helps people with legal matters.
Many women who had survived the genocide had been raped and had contracted HIV/ AIDS. In 2003 AVEGA polled and tested 1,200 of its members and discovered that 80% had been raped and 66% were HIV positive. Few women can afford the anti-retroviral drugs which would help to improve their quality of life.
Children continue to be affected by the loss of parents during the genocide and deaths from AIDS – Rwanda has one of the world’s largest proportions of child-headed households with an estimated 101,000 children living in 42,000 such households. Education, which is vital to prevent a re-occurrence of the rise of hatred which leads to genocide, can often be impossible for young people to access. There are more than 400,000 children currently out of school.
People found it difficult to cope with the aftermath of the genocide. Daniel was 11 when the genocide began and lost his parents and brothers, he was seriously wounded and had his left arm amputated. It took him several years to discuss his disability and felt ashamed, hiding his arm by always wearing a jacket. It wasn’t until 1998 that Daniel started to receive counselling for his trauma.