Monday, June 13, 2011
One of my co-workers and I had a 4 day week end and made the 8hr buss ride to Kigali, Rwanda for the week-end. On first impression Kigali is a beautiful city, - one of the most beautiful in Africa,it is clean,friendly and well organized. We decided we wanted to visit some of the memorials that were made in remembrance of the genocide that happened in 1994 between the Hutus and the Tutusis. Prior to visiting these memorials, I had not had much exposure to the genocide beyond watching "Hotel Rwanda."
We visited 2 catholic church memorial sites outside of Kigali and the Kigali memorial. I remember the movie being quite horrific, but actually visiting the memorial sites was truly sobering. Hutu's and Tutusi's used to live together, marry each other and were friends for a very long time... then in the late '50's with the help of Catholic missionaries and French, a separation of the two tribes became prevalent and people were required to Carry ID cards differentiating the two tribes. Tutsi's were generally more wealthy and more favored by the missionaries and governments. The Hutu's stirred by propaganda began small genocides on the Tutsi's in the late '50's,this continued until the largest one, which killed over 1 million of the * million people in Rwanda in 1994. People fled to the catholic churches for sanctuary, believing that they would not be killed if they were in a holy place. The Hutu's carried out brutal murders when they were killing the Tutsi's,torturing ,dismembering and raping victims before they killed them. In one small church that we visited over 1,000 people were killed inside the church and another larger church over 10,000 people were killed. Hand grenades were thrown into the church to break in and soldiers would get on the roof and shoot down into the crowd of people below. Once they broke into the church people were bludgeoned with clubs and machetes. Women were brutally raped over and over from men and with objects. Small children were slammed against brick walls. People, clubbed, but still alive were thrown down pit toilets on top of each other until they were smothered.
Our driver shared that he was a Tutsi and had escaped his village and hid in the swamp for 2 months. He had no idea what had happened to his family. He had nothing to eat for 2 months. When he learned that the killing had subsided he returned to his village, finding dead bodies covered with flies and dogs eating them everywhere. He found his mother and sister thrown into their pit latrine with their breast cut off.
The tail of genocide is horrific and the stories go on.. I could not help but cry in sadness and wonder why... ? The U.N. deserted Rwanda at this time stating that this was a tribal war and not wanting to get involved. It is estimated that it would have taken 500 troops to stop this slaughter. Paul Kegale-a Rwandan, led troops from Uganda to stop this madness, and was able to -3 months this went on. He has since become the president of Rwanda and has taken a strong stand in stopping the tribal tension. All of the ID cards were destroyed and it is now illegal to differentiate between Hutus and Tutsis- You can be thrown in jail for even suggesting this. The government is mixed and al efforts are made to integrate the two tribes for peace. On the outside Rwanda looks like it is moving forward and beyond the horrific past. Many suggest not enough greiving has been done or was allowed...
The other part of Rwanda that we saw was the 5 volcanoes Park, which is home to Dianne Fossey the woman who studied and lived with the gorillas. We went past where she was buried and her favorite silver back gorilla Digit,buried near her. It turns out we were about 500 meters from a family of gorillas but they would not let us see them, as it costs $500 USD t see them and they try to limit the numbers of people to 48 per day who see the gorilla's for 1 hr! Oh well, very interesting to be in that area. It is truly a very beautiful place and my friend Anand and I climbed to the top of a volcano instead and looked into the crate lake it had formed.