“Aegis Trust and the Kigali Memorial has been the force behind our continued hope for peacebuilding in South Sudan,” he says.
“When I realised that Freddy himself, the director, was one of the survivors, and knew some of the people who killed his family, I realised that forgiveness is healing. It makes you feel free when you forgive somebody. I also felt it necessary to forgive. And that made me think of what can be done in South Sudan because there are so many out there who have problems, and they feel that forgiving cannot help.”
During years of internal armed conflict in South Sudan, warring sides have used traditional leaders to recruit and mobilize young people to fight.
“We realized the only way to at least do something is to get these traditional leaders to Rwanda,” says Nicholas. “When they came to Rwanda, they went through the Memorial. They saw the skulls, they heard the history.”
Among the South Sudan group brought by Nicholas and his colleagues was a lady who hated the Dinka community.
“The lady shed tears,” he says. “She said, ‘When we arrived today, I did not have interest in speaking to any Dinka. But after I’ve listened to these stories, I have realised that we have innocent people here who we are hating for nothing. And hate has led to genocide’.”
Participation in the visit also changed the behaviour of the chiefs who came.
“The chiefs went back to their villages, and they started telling people, ‘Whatever we are doing right now will not help us. We can mobilise our young people to fight, and they lose their lives. Why don’t we mobilise them to go to school?’. The warring parties were realising that, oh, these chiefs, they want to think independently,” says Nicholas.
“It happened in Jonglei State, it happened in Upper Nile, and it happened in Bentiu. Lives have been saved. And that is a preventive measure. It has helped,” he says. “We need to continue engaging young people in peacebuilding. We also need to continue dialogue in neutral places like Kigali.”