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Rwanda Genocide Fifteen Years Later

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Of the 5,000 or so who sought refuge from the U.N. near here, roughly 100 survived, according to Venuste. He lived only because he laid still under dead bodies, overlooked by the killers searching the carnage for signs of life.

Impressed by the economic development of Rwanda, Abramowitz sees no traces of the atrocities experienced 15 years ago:

As I first-time visitor to Rwanda, it’s hard not to be mystified by the mismatch between the ferocious events of just 15 years ago and apparent calm and prosperity in Rwanda, which aspires to be the hub of an economically vibrant East Africa. As we drove out of town to one of the churches where you can still see the skulls and belongings of murdered Tutsi, we passed by workers digging up ditches on the side of the road to lay down new fiber optic lines. A newcomer thinks: How can this beautiful country, routinely described by Africa hands as one of the better functioning countries on the continent, have experienced such savagery?

 


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Colette Braeckman [Fr], a Belgian journalist and author of several books about Central Africa, was also present at the anniversary ceremony in Kigali of which she writes:

Depuis la foule amassée devant le « jardin de la mémoire » et le monument consacré au génocide, des cris jaillissent, perturbent les discours officiels. A tout moment, des corps convulsés ou immobilisés par les syncopes sont emportés par des ambulances. Lorsque Venuste Kasirika s’empare du micro et raconte son calvaire, son récit est ponctué par les sanglots qui secouent l’auditoire.

From the crowds gathered before the “garden of remembrance” and the genocide memorial, cries are bursting out, disrupting the official speeches. The whole time, convulsed or fainting bodies are taken away by the ambulances. When Venuste Kasirika takes the stage and tells about his ordeal, his story is punctuated by the sobbing that shakes up the audience.

Walking around modern-day Kigali, Braeckman makes a similar observation as Abramowitz about the disconnect with the horrible past:

Dans cette cité moderne, ambitieuse, dont les quartiers populaires ont été rasés et les habitants transplantés plus loin, au milieu de ces immeubles abritant des banques, des commerces et des bureaux, au vu de ces parterres taillés au ciseau et de ces espaces verts qui ressemblent à des jardins anglais, comment croire que, voici quinze ans, les bennes de la voirie ramassaient les cadavres à la pelle et les déversaient devant l’hôpital, comme des tas d’immondices ? Au vu de ces gens bien habillés, portant tous des chaussures de ville (les nu pieds sont interdits) comment se souvenir de ces tueurs au regard halluciné, ivres de bière, de chanvre et de haine, ceints d’amulettes, qui brandissaient fusils et longues machettes et traquaient, comme du gibier, leurs voisins tutsis débusqués dans les faux plafonds, les fossés et les fourrés de haies vives ?

In this modern, ambitious city, where the low-income neighborhoods have been razed and its inhabitants have been moved further away; amid these buildings with banks, stores and offices, seeing these perfectly manicured flower beds and these green spaces that look like English gardens, how can we believe that, fifteen years ago, garbage trucks were collecting corpses by the loads and were dropping them at the hospital, like piles of refuse? Seeing these well-dressed people, all wearing city shoes (going barefoot is forbidden) how can we remember the killers with the lunatic gaze, drunk with beer, with pot and with hate, adorned with amulets, brandishing shotguns and long machettes and were hounding, like you hound animals, their Tutsi neighbors that were forced to hide in the double ceilings, in the ditches and in the hedgerows?

Yves Zihindula [Fr], a Congolese blogger based in Goma, remembers the genocide as seen from the other side of the border:

Voici 15 ans jour pour jour, que des centaines de milliers de gens (réfugiés) se sont déversés en République démocratique du Congo. Cette date me rappelle les images abominables des femmes et enfants affaiblis par la faim dans les rues de Goma. Je me souviens avoir vu des cadavres d’homme dans le lac Kivu, jetés depuis la partie rwandaise du lac et emmener par la vague vers les bords du côté congolais. J’ai vu à l’époque des camions à benne transporter des corps humains et déposer dans des fosses communes.

Des souvenirs pas du tout bons. Ça me fait toujours bizarre de réaliser cette tragédie. Des humains s’entretuer. Quand bien même chez les animaux, ces genre des situations arrivent rarement. J’ose espérer que ça ne se répétera plus jamais et que l’Afrique entière (pourquoi pas le monde entier) en a tiré les leçons.

Exactly 15 years ago hundreds of thousands of people (refugees) poured into the Democratic Republic of Congo. This date brings back the appalling images of women and children weakened by hunger on the streets of Goma. I remember having seen human corpses in the Kivu lake, thrown from the Rwandan side of the lake and brought by the waves to the Congolese side. At the time I had seen garbage trucks transporting human bodies and dropping them off in mass graves.

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Born a month before Pearl Harbor, I attended world events from an early age. My first words included Mussolini, Patton, Sahara and Patton. At age three I was a regular listener to Lowell Thomas. My mom was an industrial nurse a member of the (more...)
 
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