“For 12 years, since 1994, I wasn’t enjoying life and this was stealing my joy, destroying the best in me and, finally, killing me. I realized I was the one who had the problem; what to do? I made a decision to act on what I call ‘Pacific Revenge’. Instead of blame, have compassion. The genocidaires also need help to acknowledge evil and depart from it. Between 1994 and 2001 I was bitter and then I decided to live my dad’s life because, though outwardly I wanted to live a good life, inwardly this was not the case. If you want to make a difference you have to go deep. I am going to preach love, I’ve made this my banner. Hatred consumes itself and everyone. If you want to kill something, starve it. We Rwandans need to starve hatred. You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.”
Solange cites other Rwandan examples of what she calls Pacific Revenge: “There are people trained – mental health workers – who go out to communities to help those struggling. Genocidaires who confess serve half their prison term but they must do community service. Rwanda is clean because this is a community service and there are smoother roads now because this too is a community service. I think it’s usually 1/2 day per week. Also there is an ongoing – possibly once a week during the evening – community dialogue between the victims and perpetrators. Just as it is for me, so for all Rwandans, this Pacific Revenge must continue at least through the affected generations. It has to be worked on.”
“An effort of will, is what is expected of Rwandans, by themselves and their government, by Paul Kagame [Rwanda’s president]. After 19 years, don’t forget but don’t use the genocide as an excuse not to get up and work.” So Solange, after 12 years of bitterness, of self-pity decided, with God’s help, to work positively for reconciliation in her beautiful country. It appears to me that at least two times in Solange’s life she has made this effort of will; what can ever really be accomplished without this?
With no background in agriculture and no English, she embarked on an MSc / PhD in Kansas during a midwest winter and took on her missing father’s job to bring up her siblings and rebuild her county. She went to the US on a Fulbright scholarship and first studied English in California for 8 months. Although she was not yet adequately prepared for graduate studies, Solange continued her education in freezing Kansas where the huge American steers on feedlots were definitely not ‘pets’. She was lost at sea in this landscape, one at odds with her intimate, green homeland. She would have preferred to study medicine but had not the financial where with all for the 6 year commitment. Not without anguish, she made the decision to like her choice of following her scholarship to its conclusion and to live constructively with it. She is now Dean of Agriculture and has learned to enjoy her job.
Solange is one of the promoters of the series of genocide related public lectures here at the university that are taking place each afternoon during this week of genocide remembrance.