Rwanda Genocide

Posted on June 21, 2014

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This is about our past and our future.
Our nightmare and dreams.
Our fears and our hopes which is why we begin where we end with the country we love.

This is the first thing you read when you enter Kigali’s Genocide Memorial. The visit is a harrowing experience and the testimonies and photos are both heart and stomach wrenching.

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More than 800,000 people were slaughtered in the 100-day massacre and hundreds of thousands more displaced as refuges, physically and emotional scarred as well as infected with HIV following gang rapes by known sufferers used specifically as a weapon.

Rwanda does not want to forget it’s past. Now it is about reconciliation. Survivors say it is crucial lessons that are learnt so that history does not repeat itself.

Walking around the city of Kigali is it hard to believe it was ripped apart exactly 20 years ago. It is very well developed, there are police everywhere, the roads have tarmac and there is relatively fast internet. It is quieter than Uganda and I would go as far to say feels safer. Great steps have clearly been taken to iron out it’s previous image. There appears to be a lot of aid money which has been pumped into the country. As UC said to me it’s probably through guilt from watching Rwanda drown in its own blood while the rest of the world stood by and did nothing.

(memorial gardens where hundreds are buried)

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The ethnic cleansing was brutal and anyone caught helping or harbouring Tutsis were attacked or killed by groups of Hutus on the rampage. The prejudice stems back hundreds of years to when the Belgians ruled the area and the Catholic Church peached that Tutsi’s were somehow a superior group. The tension between the groups of people continued even after Rwanda achieved independence.

The 1994 genocide that the world remembers was not the first time killings en mass had taken place in Rwanda. The propaganda/militant newspaper Kangura published the Ten Commandments of Bahutu – stirring up hatred and spouted disturbing rhetoric enticing violence against Tutsis.

Massacres in fact started in October 1990 and continued in January 1991; February 1991, March 1992 and August 1992.

But the catalyst came when the president’s plane was shot down on April 6th 1994. By 9pm that night road blocks had been set up and a death list prepared.

What is so horribly tragic is that a military general at the UN wired New York expressing his concerns and asking for just 5,000 troops which he believed would have quelled the violence. But the cable was ignored and a blood bath ensued.

While in Kigali I met with the founder of a football academy which aims to bring young people of all ethnic backgrounds together through sport. He lost his father in the genocide and went into hiding with his mother and his sisters. As a survivor he is adamant that Rwanda learns from its past and says the future is the hands of the next generation.

The interview is being used by Arise News later today. Link to follow.

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