"The Uncondemned": Lessons to be Learned from Genocide: Field Report from Rwanda

Last  month, I was fortunate to be part of a delegation in support of the private filmmakers' screening of "The Uncondemned" documentary in Kigali, Rwanda including the opportunity to meet the incredible women who made the case possible: witnesses JJ, NN, and OO, and Godelieve Mukasarasi, Chairwoman of the SEVOTA Association. The trip included genocide memorial site visits and opportunities to be further informed about the atrocities that took place during the Rwandan genocide in 1994.

In 1997, a mismatched group of underdog lawyers went after rape as an international war crime for the first time. The film recounts their fight for the first conviction and follows the story of the heroic Rwandan women who risked a wave of witness assassinations to testify. The documentary is directed by former investigative correspondent to Bill Moyers (PBS) and political anchor at CNN, Michele Mitchell, and co-director, Nick Louvel. 

Rape continues to be used as a tactic of war in conflicts around the world and the perpetrators of this violence are not being held accountable. "The Uncondemned" is inspirational and educational in addressing these challenges - it underscores the value of "seeing is believing" as we tackle our humanitarian and social justice issues.

I invite you to read more about my trip, highlights from a robust itinerary, and personal reflections about the impact of genocide on society.

Wars, conflict, and persecution have forced more people than at any other time to flee their homes, seek refuge and safety elsewhere, according to a new report from the UN refugee agency. UNHCR's annual Global Trends Report: World at War, released on June 18, reported that worldwide displacement was at the highest level ever recorded. The number of people forcibly displaced at the end of 2014 had risen to a staggering 59.5 million compared to 51.2 million a year earlier and 37.5 million a decade ago.

When the genocide in Rwanda ended in 1994, 800,000 people had been murdered – 300,000 of these victims were children. In addition, 95,000 children had been orphaned. Thousands of children were victims of brutality and rape, and thousands of children – some as young as seven – were coerced into military operations and forced to commit violent acts against their will.

The lingering trauma of the 1994 genocide still leaves many women and youth with little hope for a prosperous future and rebuilding models can take years to restore communities and economies.


Ntarama and Nyamata Genocide Memorial Sites

Leading up to the screening, we visited two churches 25-30 km south of Kigali that are evidence to some of the most brutal killings during the 1994 genocide. These churches are two of the most moving memorials, having on display the bones, skulls and bloodied rags of those brutally murdered.  During the genocide, the Tutsis (persecuted minority of the population), sought sanctuary in the Catholic churches in the hopes that they would be a safe haven. People smuggled food and other essentials into the churches. It is thought that some of the clergy informed the Hutus of the secret mass of Tutsis that had taken refuge in the churches. Ultimately, the Hutus stormed the churches and massacred all the people.

At Nyamata, the Nyamata Parish Catholic Church is the larger church. Here, grenades, rockets and automatic weapons were all used to massacre the people imprisoned inside the church. It is believed that 10,000 were killed inside the church with a further 35,000 killed around the church compound in April of 1994. The church houses the bloodied clothing of the victims piled up on the benches. A set of stairs leads down to a crypt where a shelf of skulls lie above a coffin of a woman who was repeatedly raped. The walls of the church show where the grenades blew holes in the walls, doors and windows were blown open.

Next to the church is a large underground crypt. It is filled with thousands of skulls, femurs, and other bones belonging to the 55,000 people that were brutally murdered. There are crude, wooden coffins filled with bones of whole families, neatly stacked and all draped in purple covers.

Ntarama is a small church and school where about 5,000 people, many of whom were women and children, were massacred.  People hiding in the separate kitchen building were burned to death. The children were taken into the one room school and killed by smashing their skulls against a wall.  There is a blood-stained wall where these massacres were carried out. The blood-stained clothes of the dead are draped over the church pews and the instruments used in the executions are grouped at the front of the church. At the rear of the church are all the skulls, other bones of the victims, pots and pans demonstrating community life.



Private Filmmakers' Screening of "The Uncondemned" – June 17

At 11 p.m. on the night before the screening, Michele summoned the core members of her team to advise us that not only had President Kagame agreed to attend the screening, but the entire logistics and location were also to be changed.  

"The Uncondemned" is a feature-length documentary that traces the legal chase to a historic verdict—which included the first-ever conviction for genocide and for rape as a form of genocide. Shot in Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, The Netherlands, and the U.S., the film includes interviews with the first women to testify about rape as a war crime, as well as the genocidaires-turned-militia that committed the crimes. It has been a crime of war since 1919, but was not prosecuted until 1997, when a group of young prosecutors, activists and investigators went after that first conviction. Thanks to the extraordinary courage of the women of rural Rwanda, Witnesses JJ, NN, and OO, and their fearless leader Godelieve Mukasarasi, they changed history and formed a community to empower women and improve livelihoods. 

More than 300 representatives from the government, private and civil society sectors attended the screening including his Excellency President Kagame, her Excellency, the First Lady, Jeanette Kagame and Ms. Barks-Ruggles, the United States Ambassador to the Republic of Rwanda. The documentary and its critical story was well received and publicized locally and internationally.

Post-screening - A Visit to SEVOTA

After the screening, we visited the ladies in Taba (home of the convicted Jean-Paul Akayesu) and were greeted by celebration, dance, and presentations made by the Deputy Mayor and principals. We were then each handed a gift with a hand-written card of thanks and appreciation.

SEVOTA is a Rwandan organization that hosts forums for women who became pregnant because of rape during the genocide. The organization’s mission: Solidarity for the Development of Widows and Orphans to Promote Self-Sufficiency and Livelihoods.


Lessons to be Learned

Surely, the consequences of genocide are suffered not only by the targeted society, but also by humanity at large. Genocide has devastating consequences at all levels of society and a society cannot rebuild or manage its development in isolation.  It must include participation from the solidarity of other people and survivors who have suffered similar experiences in other communities around the world.

Rwanda, now considered one of the safest countries in Africa, is a model for future learning as a society that underwent genocide and post-conflict resolution. To that end, Rwandan survivors' associations are advancing by establishing relationships with other survivors, creating organizations to learn from their experiences, and building resilient communities for women and orphaned children, including the provision of basic needs, health services, and education.  However, this level of work and advocacy has to be further advanced to help mitigate and prevent further acts of crimes against humanity. 

We all need to think critically and understand what human beings are capable of, especially in the context of war and genocide. As such, we must cultivate transparency and open dialogue about common problems such as intolerance, bullying, domestic violence, rape, prejudice, hatred, abuse, gender inequality, and more. We owe it to ourselves and future generations to learn from these lessons.

By Sam Taylor, Founder of Reputation Dynamics.

"The Uncondemned" is currently in post-production and we welcome exploring opportunities to support this critical documentary including  sponsorship, hosting educational screenings, and/or alignment with SEVOTA Association's mission to help widows and orphans to promote self-sufficiency and livelihoods. "The Uncondemned" is a 501c3 through fiscal sponsor, Filmmakers Collaborative. We invite you to review the trailer:

About SEVOTA: A Rwandan organization that hosts forums for women who became pregnant because of rape during the genocide. Website: 

Featured Article:

Please contact to explore opportunities for partnership.

"The Uncondemned": Filmmakers’ Screening and Educational Campaign to End Violence in Conflict, Rwanda, Africa

In 1997, a mismatched group of underdog lawyers went after rape as an international war crime for the first time. This is the story of their fight for the first conviction - and the story of the heroic Rwandan women who risked a wave of witness assassinations to testify.

"The Uncondemned" is a feature length documentary that traces the legal chase to a historic verdict, which included the first-ever conviction for genocide and for rape as a form of genocide. Shot in Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo, The Netherlands, and the U.S., the film includes interviews with the first women to testify about rape as a war crime, as well as the genocidaires-turned-militia that committed the crimes. It has been a crime of war since 1919, but was not prosecuted until 1997, when a group of young prosecutors, activists, and investigators went after that first conviction. Thanks to the extraordinary courage of the women of rural Rwanda, witnesses JJ, NN and OO (and their fearless leader Godelieve Mukasarasi), they changed history and formed a community to empower women and improve livelihoods. The documentary is directed by former investigative correspondent to Bill Moyers (PBS) and political anchor at CNN, Michele Mitchell, and co-director, Nick Louvel.  Their debut film, "Haiti: Where did the Money Go?," won the national Edward R. Murrow 2013 for Best TV Documentary as well as a Gracie Award for Best Investigative Feature.   

There will be a private filmmakers' screening of "The Uncondemned” in Kigali, Rwanda on June 17 including the opportunity to meet the incredible people who made the case possible: witnesses JJ, NN, and OO, and Godelieve Mukasarasi, Chairwoman of the SEVOTA Association.  A number of influential representatives from local and international development communities, government, and the private sector will be attending.

The team is in the final stretch to finish "The Uncondemned" and there are several opportunities to help support this groundbreaking film on the trial that made rape a war crime.  Despite this precedent-setting trial, rape continues to be used as a tactic of war in conflicts around the world and the perpetrators of this violence not being held accountable.

"The Uncondemned" is currently in post-production and we welcome exploring opportunities to help support this critical film to include sponsorship, host educational screenings, including alignment with the SEVOTA Association’s mission to help widows and orphans to promote self-sufficiency and livelihoods. "The Uncondemned" is a 501c3 through fiscal sponsor Filmmakers Collaborative.

We invite you to review the trailer ( and link to their Kickstarter campaign (  

About the SEVOTA Association:

"Out of Rwanda’s total population of 11.5 million people, 25% are orphaned and vulnerable children. The lingering trauma of the 1994 genocide, which took nearly 1 million lives, still leaves many youth with little hope for a prosperous future."

SEVOTA is a Rwandan organization that hosts forums for women who became pregnant because of rape during the genocide. The organization’s mission: Solidarity for the Development of Widows and Orphans to Promote Self-Sufficiency and Livelihoods.  


Please contact to support this critically important documentary and explore opportunities for alignment.


Sam Taylor, Founder of Reputation Dynamics

Conscious Commerce: Business and Social Innovation Trends for 2014


*Eradicating Poverty and Protection of Farming Communities Imperative for Improving Livelihoods*

The integration of ‘Doing Good in Society,’ new approaches and practices continues to evolve, becoming further embedded in business and throughout the supply chain,  raising the bar on industry performance and consumer loyalty.

In fact, according to a recent study, Profile of the Practice 2013, by the Carroll School of Management Center for Corporate Citizenship at Boston College, above-average industry performers are more likely to have a formal corporate citizenship department, led at the executive level, with higher budgets for corporate citizenship and charitable giving.  Today, almost 60% of companies now have an executive leading corporate citizenship - a 74% increase over 2010.

However, the companies that will be the most successful industry performers and maintain consumer loyalty will be those who have a hybrid approach to protecting the planet providing benefits to business and improving the lives of people in rural communities.

With increasing volatility of climate change, world disasters and emerging markets, fueling radical change in business and community response models, it is imperative to close the gap between consumer expectations and perceptions about corporate responsibility impacts to transform brands, manage reputations and motivate talent.

A recap of the top issues and realities we face:

Widening Gap between Poverty and Inequality:  Rates are high in the US and around the world with 46.5 million in the US and approximately 413 million in Africa.   These populations fail to meet their most basic needs with shortages of food, clean water and lack of access to proper education.     

 Vulnerable Children: There are more than 151 million orphans and vulnerable youth worldwide who are in need of a loving family and a prosperous future.

Climate Change: Increasing drought, flooding, and changing climatic patterns are at the route of hunger and poverty.  Deforestation is undermining the livelihoods of millions of people, requiring radical changes in farming practices and crop management.

Food Security and Agriculture:  The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that nearly 870 million people of the 7.1 billion people in the world, mostly living in developing countries, were suffering from chronic undernourishment in 2010-2012. This is due to not having enough land to grow, or income to purchase enough food.

Key predictions for 2014: Our ‘Knowledge-Driven’ Economy is Driving Market-Sector Relevance

Despite contributions from the private and public sectors, the social, cultural and environmental circumstances of populations in under-served markets remain complex and unsustainable requiring new approaches and investments to address poverty at the fundamental level.

Breaking down the systemic challenges of poverty is essential to protecting ecosystems to ensure the consistent provision of human needs such as food, health, shelter and education, while developing responsible goods and services in the marketplace.

The New Dynamics of Philanthropy:  Traditional models of giving are changing to motivate innovative change, ensure integration across multiple disciplines, supply chain, new market access and product development strategies. These models will increasingly align giving at the heart of ‘People Connection’ and protecting families.

Investment in Rural Communities: More correlation and alignment between trade, new and existing market access is the focus of community investment.  The co-creation of programs at the community-level with businesses, government and nonprofits aligned based on the market-sector needs of the economy is essential for growth and development:

  • Public-Private Partnerships: Community approaches are raising the bar on more inclusive partnerships to improve livelihoods and represents considerable benefits including co-creation of  community-driven and locally-owned models, provision of education, human needs, skills training and job creation;
  • Focus on Farming Communities and Agriculture:  A million ton cocoa shortage is anticipated by 2020 so supporting cocoa farmers in Africa and small-holder farming communities is key especially during times of drought;
  • Creating Jobs in the Supply Chain:  Investing in small- to mid- size companies in the supply chain to create jobs in rural communities;
  • NGOs: Aligning with NGOs to develop new standards for community measurement and impact.  Non-profits need help diversifying funding sources beyond individual donors, become less reliant on government funding, and seeking long-term partnerships and higher funding ranges with corporations.

Spotlight on Africa: More than 220 million Africans will join the middle class as consumers within five years, presenting opportunities to develop and sell more products and services.  Africa is the world’s fastest growing region after emerging Asia and fostering new approaches for development challenges, while providing opportunities to life millions out of poverty.

Story Telling: Companies must improve how they share, advocate and demonstrate their CSR commitments, inform and enlist participation from the public at large with authenticity and transparency.

In Conclusion: Corporations, supported by NGOs and governments, have profound shared values and our society cannot mitigate pressing social, economic and environmental issues without adapting to our knowledge-driven economy and increasing demands from conscious-driven consumers.

By: Samantha Taylor - Founder of Reputation Dynamics

It takes a Village to Raise A Child: A field report from Rwanda

DSCN1329In memory of Anne Heyman and acknowledgement of her contributions providing a future for Rwanda's children. May the legacy of her work continue to help orphans and vulnerable youth around the world. During the summer, I was fortunate enough to visit a community youth village in Rwanda on assignment for a client – Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village.  Not only an inspirational experience, it was educational and underscores the value of ‘Seeing is Believing’ as we tackle our complex global social, economic and humanitarian issues.

It was also no coincidence that I was preparing for new beginnings in my own life. I realized that nothing compares to what orphaned and vulnerable children have to suffer.  The reality is that there are still more than 151 million orphans and vulnerable youth worldwide who are in need of a loving family and prosperous future.

I invite you to read about my trip and learn more about Agahazo Shalom Youth Village (ASYV), a unique residential community and high school located in Rwanda, which is home to 500 vulnerable youth, many of whom were orphaned during and in the aftermath of the 1994 genocide.

DSCN1306Upon arrival at Agahazo-Shalom’s magnificent 144-acre campus with commanding views of a vast, lush green valley, one of the students who greeted me looked me straight in the eyes.

Piercing my heart and soul. I was struck by the confidence and vitality of these youth going about their activities around the village.

Founded and mostly funded by Anne Heyman and Seth Merrin in 2008, this remarkable community model has been developed based on ‘Restoring the Rhythm of Life,’ by providing a safe, structured environment in which they can heal and thrive.

Agahozo-Shalom means ‘a place to dry one’s tears in peace.’ It is indeed a place of peace and tranquility along with more than 100 species of birds.

The mission of the Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village is to enable orphaned and vulnerable youth to realize their maximum potential by providing them with a safe and secure living environment, health care, education and necessary life skills.

Anne and her Founders built everything from scratch. They bought the land, they built the houses and dining room, imported vehicles and equipment, established a health clinic, installed a water pump and IT services, hired local staff, built a farm – all major accomplishments in less than five years.   This is marked by the famous mango tree which is home to many visitors and meetings.

DSCN1284My visit coincided with the first ASYV Alumni event and celebration for the 103 of 118 students, just six months after graduating from Agahozo-Shalom, who journeyed from all parts of Rwanda to gather, present art, music and words of reflection in anticipation of their future and jobs.

Rwanda, home to the famous silverback gorillas, is an attractive destination for future economic and social investment in Africa.  However, out of Rwanda’s total population of 11.5 million people, 25% are orphaned and vulnerable children. The lingering trauma of the 1994 genocide, which took nearly 1 million lives, still leaves many youth with little hope for a prosperous future.

DSCN1410Rwandan citizens struggle to achieve an adequate quality of life with 76% living on less than a dollar a day and 70% of university graduates are unemployed.

The village includes a state-of-the-art school, residential facilities, a health clinic, a farm, sports fields, an art and science center and Amphitheatre.  The vast dining hall serves these kids and staff three meals a day from the kitchen.  DSCN1336Interacting with these kids in the dining hall signifies community, camaraderie and celebration.  They have discos on Friday nights and on Sunday mornings you can join them in Gospel singing and worship.  Music is everywhere in the village and if not in dining hall, the students listen to radios.  Where ever I went with Anne around the campus, the students flock to ‘Grandma’ full of thanks, hope and praise for a chance of a future.  And ‘Village Time’ always brought special surprises and talents of the youth in performance art under the magical African sky in the Lily Safra Amphitheatre.

We are reminded of the power of art and music to help with trauma and healing.

At 5.30 am, amongst the shrilling birds, I wake to hear the kids playing the drums to start another day in the rhythm of life.

These kids, selected from districts around Rwanda, come from challenging circumstances, living on or making a living from the street, had no food or shelter, suffer abuse and conflict.

DSCN1433DSCN1296After a full day of school, meals, sports and electives the day concludes with reflection and family time in one of the communal houses of 16 students headed by nurturing family mums.  I heard a moving story from one of the students and his personal circumstances.

I took drugs to forget about my problems, spent nights crying because I did not have money for clothes, did not love anyone and had no hope. When I came to ASYV, I thought it was a dream. I started to reconstruct myself and over time I gained respect, helped others, developed hope, and envisioned my future’

Kigali Genocide Memorial Museum

A trip to the museum tells the history of Rwanda leading up to the genocide and catalogues the 1994 massacre with personal testimonials, photographs and videos.  There is also a small room dedicated to children, innocent victims of the genocide which are just heart wrenching.

I hung out with the kids one night at the art center to do some beading on a pen.  I was not able to complete it as the electricity went out and left to retrieve my torch light.  Towards the end of my trip, a select group of students wanted to see me before I left, they presented me with a couple of gifts…the finished beaded pen and a bracelet.

Anne Hayman’s belief in and commitment to these youth is summed up in a remark she made at the Alumni event.

“We wanted to teach you how to be thinkers. You have already exceeded our expectations and I know that for all of you it is just going to continue to get better”

The Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village represents a model that can be replicated to enable vulnerable youth around the world to become responsible citizens and have a prosperous future.

We invite your support of ASYV’s upcoming end of year campaign to ensure the provision of food, health, shelter and education programs for the 500 youth.

To support this terrific nonprofit, further information can be found at –

A video link of Reputation Dynamics journey with Anne Heyman  to Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village can be found at -

Posted by Sam Taylor