In Rwanda, evil has a name, an address, and a bunk bed. At the Kigali Central Prison entrance, a 10-foot strand of twine and an elderly Rwandan armed with a rifle are the only bars to entry. Deo Gashagaza, Prison Fellowship Rwanda's executive director, drives up to the lush hillside entrance and the guard lowers the string, waving us through. The Ministry of Justice has granted CHRISTIANITY TODAY a rare day pass to visit this prison in Rwanda's capital.
Inside the five-acre prison complex is an astonishing sight for a Westerner's eyes: 5,056 men, 96 percent accused of genocidal butchery, dressed in pink. About 85,000 individuals, known as genocidaires, are imprisoned nationwide in a country a little smaller than the state of Maryland. Thousands of others are in so-called solidarity camps, where they prepare to re-enter civilian life, minus the infamous ID cards marking them as Hutu or Tutsi.
Four large warehouses ring the prison's large courtyard. The size of a football field, the courtyard is a mass of male humanity. Using buckets, they wash each other in the open air. A kitchen crew cooks bean porridge over a wood fire in hot tub-sized aluminum pots. Others weave baskets to be sold on the open market, or repair shoes. One teacher-inmate instructs prisoners in how to read and write in English.
The warehouses, where each inmate has a tiny bunk, are dank with human sweat. Laundry hangs in the rafters. The only illumination comes from several naked light bulbs. In the infirmary, skilled medical intervention and modern drugs are almost nonexistent. Sick inmates, including two in diabetic comas, lie on wood pallets and await whatever care may come their way, or a rapid and painful death.
I traveled for a week through Rwanda last ...1
Already a CT subscriber? Log in for full digital access.
Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.
Subscribe to Christianity Today and get access to this article plus 60+ years of archives.
- Home delivery of CT magazine
- Complete access to articles on ChristianityToday.com
- Over 120 years of magazine archives plus full access to all of CT’s online archives
- Learn more