I almost forgot. How could I forget? My friend and cinematographer Noel Donnellon who has worked in Congo and Rwanda reminded me that my friends in Central Africa were in mourning. They will be in mourning for all of April. But I forgot. My "adopted" children saw their parents murdered and I forgot. Such is self-absorption in the modern world--but we must never forget. Our ex-pat friend and mentor, Rosamond Carr is buried there and we miss her still. She survived hell in the garden of Eden and Noel reminded me of her words of sixteen year ago...
When my cook came in with my breakfast, I said, " President Habyarimana's dead.' His face turned a completely different colour, he put the breakfast tray down and he looked at me and said, "Madame, this is the end of the world.' It was." - Rosamond Carr
The historical event is straightforward and easily summarized. The plane carrying Hutu Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana and Burundi President Cyprien Ntaryamira was shot down on April 6, 1994, on approach to the Kigali airport. Their assassination sparked the Rwandan genocide, which lasted for 100 days. Up to one million Tutsis and moderate Hutus lost their lives. In the initial bloodshed a majority of the dead were Tutsi.
A French judge has since blamed current Rwandan President, Paul Kagame, for orchestrating the rocket attack. Others still hold to the theory that it was members of Habyarimana's inner circle who ordered his assassination.
In 1994, Kagame was leader of the Tutsi rebel group, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), which was training in Uganda. Kagame led his troops into Kigali in July, the Hutu government fell, and over 2 million Hutus fled into neighboring Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo). Among the refugees were members of the Interahamwe, and their presence in Congo has resulted in continuing bloodshed. This tension is exploited by multi-national interest in the wealth of Congo.
The images in this report are atrocious and in some cases obscene. But, they speak the truth of what happened during 100 days in 1994, and how the repercussions of those events of fifteen years ago have led to the deaths of six million or more in Congo.
Incredibly, just as happened in the years following the Holocaust, there are some who say that genocide never took place. Most Americans cannot visit the memorials depicted in this article. It is reason enough to show the photos.
In the United States, if a rapist or child molester is released from prison, the perpetrator is hounded from civil society, driven from neighborhoods and ostracized forever. Every American has access to databases that indicate the residence of every known child abuser and criminal.
Imagine having the world community tell you that you must live side by side with individuals who murdered millions, including your loved ones. To say "we are all Rwandans now," is a public relations attempt to mask the undercurrent of rage and despair that still permeates Rwandan society. This is a lie and the world press continues to paint Rwanda as a miraculous post-genocidal society that has somehow risen from the ashes of recent atrocities. Our collective guilt has given Rwanda a free pass.
Ask the Hutus in Ruhengeri how they feel about millions in foreign aid going first to Tutsi President Paul Kagame's vision for his modern city of Kigali. Ask the poor who are being moved from the outskirts of Kigali to an already overburdened countryside so that modern high rises and apartment buildings can replace their wooden shacks. How they will feed their families?
Ask the Tutsi survivors of 1994 if they still feel hunted and afraid if they live close to the Congolese border, or even in the Hutu community of Ruhengeri.
Ask the Hutu survivors in Rwanda and Congo about the retaliations forced upon them and their families by Kagame's victorious RPF in 1994 and 1996.
Ask the Congolese Tutsi, known locally as Banyamulenge Tutsi, and other villagers of Kivu province how they feel about the FDLR remnants of the Hutu Interahamwe--acting in collusion with Mai Mai, and with tacit approval and support of the Kabila government-- murdering raping, burning, and pillaging.
The same accusations have been made against Tutsi Bosco Ntaganda by an international war crimes tribunal. Yet, Rwanda, the United States, the United Nations and the Kabila government of Congo have put him in charge of troops in eastern Congo.
Any political discussion of these worries is done quietly and never in public in Rwanda. The feeling is that the government has eyes and ears everywhere and that "nothing happens without Kigali knowing about it." The same is true in Congo. Discussions in public are whispered, cell phones are turned off, and even hotel rooms feel unsafe.
The fingers of blame point in all directions.
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