She is one of the 1000 women proposed for the Nobel Peace Price 2005.
She says: “It makes me incredibly happy when I see people alive who I saved from death”.
… Mais Léonie refusa d’accepter la situation de tension montante, et avec son ex-voisine Yvonne Ryakiye elle osèrent traverser la rivière pour se rendre visite. Comme elles étaient sans armes d’autres personnes suivirent leur exemple … (full text).
Yvonne Ryakiye – Burundi
Yvonne Ryakiye lives at the foothills of Bujumbura, where many Tutsi families were killed or driven away during the 1993/1994 genocide. Yvonne, a Hutu, started her organization by hiding Tutsi refugees.
With the Hutu and the Tutsi entrenched on either side of the Kanyosha River, she took the initiative to re-establish contact with her former Tutsi neighbor Léonie Barakomeza. The two women risked their lives as they crossed the river to visit one another. This began the warming-up of the relations between two hostile ethnic groups.“As women, we have done our best to make the Hutus and Tutsis live together peacefully again, because we do not want to lose our husbands and children,” says Yvonne Ryakije, a Hutu farmer who lives in Busoro village at the foothills of Bujumbura, where the river Kanyosha flows through a deep gorge.
During the 1993 – 1994 genocide the Tutsi were driven to the other side of the river, while the Hutus had to flee from the opposite bank to Busoro. In the beginning, Yvonne hid Tutsi refugees in her house, but this soon became too dangerous. The river was considered a natural boundary. Recalls Yvonne, “It was like a wall protecting us from being murdered, because nobody dared to cross it.”
However she was not willing to accept this situation. When the tension became unbearable, she took the initiative and arranged for a secret meeting with her former neighbour, Léonie Barakomeza, a Tutsi. “The fact that she was willing to risk and have a meeting with me, strengthened me, ” quips, Yvonne today. She adds, “Women are the centre of the family, that’s why we suffer most during times of war and must do anything to end it.”
Together the two women decided to break the ban, by crossing the hitherto insurmountable barrier to visit each other. When they remained unharmed, other women soon followed their example. Yvonne recalls, “The men were relieved to see the friendly encounter between the women, and those who had previously forbidden their wives to meet with women from the other ethnic group, now allow it.”
Thereafter, together with other women, Yvonne and Léonie founded the peace organization “Twishakira amahoro” meaning “We want peace.”
Under the organization, the women jointly cultivate the fields, reconstruct houses and assist refugees. Yvonne’s assessment of the situation today is, “Although, the ethnic conflict has not been forgotten, there is a glimmer of hope for reconciliation and mutual tolerance.” (1000peacewomen).
She says also: “I warned the Tutsi that it was dangerous for them to stay and that they should consider leaving. Most Tutsi heeded my advice and left the area” … and: “s soon as the Tutsi left their homes, the Hutu began destroying them. But they also began destroying the houses of Tutsi who still remained there” … (full text testimonies).
Constructions, négociations et dérives des identités régionales dans les États des Grands Lacs africains: approche comparative, 241 pages en pdf;
Nonviolent Change Journal, Vol. XX, no. 3;
Johanna Berking, Seattle: Illustrations for ‘women speak out‘;
Human Dignity and Humiliation Studies, Breaking the Cycle of Humiliation.