“STEVEN – OR THE HIDDEN FACE OF GENOCIDE”
– A report from Rwanda –
The further the bicycle taxi drove me along the dilapidated street surrounded by green banana plants and out of down town Kigali, the more the Central African countryside became apparent. We were galloping through a chaotic mass of huts, small houses, and bikers carrying loads of goods for the market that were packed together in a topsy-turvy. The surroundings were a conglomeration of small and big hills that render the name of this tiny portion of the African continent – The Land of a Thousand Hills - even more palatable. All along the road there were lots of people carrying goods on their heads. Time and again we came across other people transporting wardrobes and other such material on their bicycles.
A white man wearing glasses, and being transported on a bicycle was of course an attraction for the kids who played around the huts and houses that allayed the road. They waved delightfully, and I could hear them cry out a friendly “Hello Mzungu !” – Hello white man. We drove across a river from which women were loading water into their tins to take to their village that probably lay beyond the next hill. The glamour of this scenery, the amazing greenery of the flora were a total contradiction to the events that took place here in 1994, which a year later led to the creation of the so-called United Nations Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in Arusha, neighbouring Tanzania, through the famous “Resolution 955” of the UN Security Council. And as I was driven through the African landscape, I was rehearsing the facts that have gone to the books of history.
Rwanda, a country with an already bloody pre-and after-colonial history was first colonised by the Germans, and later by the Belgians. The plane crash that occurred on the 6th of April 1994 not far from the Kigali Airport, killing both the presidents of Burundi and Rwanda, was reported to have been a coup of the Tutsi, albeit without any verifiable evidence. This incidence, however, sparked off the “hot phase” of the conflict. The country was plunged into a gruesome campaign of ethnic cleansing that lasted for three months during which the long developed plan to exterminate the Tutsi was attempted to be executed. Parts of the Hutus, who make up 85% of the population, took up hate sentiments that were being lubricated by propaganda through e.g. the so-called “Radio Television des Milles Collines” (RTML), as well as politicians, military officials, and even religious leaders. Armed with long machetes and clubs, they set out on a systematic killing spree that was to see the deaths of about 1.000.000 (one million) people of the Tutsi minority group, and also so-called moderate Hutus. These included neighbours, clients, patients, and at times even Tutsi family members. After about a hundred days of gruesome murder, the Tutsi army, the “Rwandan Patriotic Front” (RPF) was able, by evading the country coming from their hiding places mainly in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), to bring the situation under control, and to stop the atrocities. The United Nations, the international community had failed to intervene. Crucially, the interests of the influential countries in the UN Security Council were not favourable to risk lives of soldiers in a strategically irrelevant country.
I was on my way to a small village in the outskirts of down-town Kigali, where a traditional “Gacaca trial”, which has been introduced in every small conglomeration of the country, was taking place that day, in an attempt to deal with the almost 120.000 people who are still being held in prison in the aftermath of the genocide (at 2002).
About a hundred meters down the road there was an open meadow on which a big, burned remains of a house was standing. In the courtyard of this house there were chairs, benches, tables as well as a big plan of the UN Refugee Organisation (UNHCR) that was providing a shade. At this time only a group of elderly men who made up part of the 19 traditional judges had arrived at the scene. I followed the three hour process itself with the help of a translator and friend, Emmanuel, a young Rwandan journalist.
As the approximately 250 village inhabitants were taking leave at the end of the session, I was also thinking of parting, but at this moment one of the traditional judges, a rather friendly, tall and lean gentleman of about 45, came over to me. We took seats alone, as he spoke very good English and we did not need a translator, on a nearby bench a bit removed from the villagers who were still standing all around the place. In the meantime Emmanuel had caught company of an old friend, with whom he stood around the dilapidating door frames, just a stone throw away from us.
- Quote paper
- Master of Arts in Diplomacy, Law and Global Change Gabriel Vockel (Author), 2002, Steven - or the hidden face of Genocide - A report from Rwanda, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/66216