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Tassian & Emmanuel: No ordinary friendship

Standing side-by-side, Tassian and Emmanuel look like two ordinary friends. This is no ordinary friendship, however. 

In 1994 Tassian, along with his wife and three children, fled Rwanda to escape the genocide that was to claim 800,000 lives. When he returned one year later, he found that 30 members of his extended family had been murdered. 

Tassian Kamanzi and Emmanuel Harugimnna

Photos: Tassian Kamanzi and Emmanuel Harugimnna

For a long time Tassian carried with him a lot of anger about what had happened to his family. He could not forgive the people who had so brutally slain his family members. 

Then, in 2007, Haguruka, one of our partner organisations in Rwanda, encouraged him to attend meetings aimed at building peace between Rwanda’s Hutu and Tutsi communities. 

It was at one of these meetings that Tassian met Emmanuel, whose family had been responsible for the murder of Tassian’s loved ones.

I compared the life I was living to that of Emmanuel’s and was moved to compassion

At first, Tassian found it difficult to be in Emmanuel’s company. However, after listening to Emmanuel talk about the poverty in which he lived, a strange thing happened: he became so moved that he offered to help

Tassian says he “compared the life I was living to that of Emmanuel’s and was moved to compassion”.

Although Tassian does not have much, he is happy to share it with Emmanuel. He gave his new friend a plot of land on which to build a house and even helped to pay for his wedding. 

“I was so surprised when Tassian selected to become my Godfather,” says Emmanuel, describing Tassian as “my father who offers me advice as to how I can improve my life”. 

Nothing can bring Tassian’s family back, but through friendship he can help to build a stronger Rwanda. 

Other extraordinary friendships in Rwanda

rwanda peace building

Photos by Hu O’Reilly: The Ubutwaribwokubaho Women’s Association in Huye district, south Rwanda is a unique peace-building group. Some of the women’s husbands were killed during the genocide, while the husbands of other members took part in the war.

Top: Euphrasie Mukakamana (left) Cansilda Kankindi (right). Cansilda lost her husband during the Rwandan genocide and had to flee to a refugee camp in Congo. Meanwhile Euphraise’s husband took part in the war and is now in prison. The women have found peace and forgiveness and are supported by Trócaire in peace-building, farming and small loans.

Bottom: Stephanie Hategekimana (48) (left) and Genovieve Nyirahibimana (57) (right) members of the Women’s association. 

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