A Country Remembers

April 7, 2019—Marks the 25th year since the start of the Genocide Against the Tutsis. In my village, among many villages, there is history and it is recent. While the international community stood by and watched, decided what to do from 7,000+ miles away, in Rwanda, what were once safe havens became places of mass genocide.

Being a foreigner in a small town where such histories run deep, it is absolutely a different story to participate in the “Kwibuka” (Commemoration Events). The recent news and press coverage of Rwanda has highlighted survivors and their stories, stories of sexual violence overcome, of coping, of healing, and of reconciliation—a memory of Rwanda’s darkest point in history.

I attended several town hall meetings, mandated on the national level. In these meetings, the sector officials read a very basic timeline of the history of events, highlighting the longer history before the events of ‘94, and asking the villagers questions about what it means to say “never again”.

For those over the age of 25, they will have had a least some recollection of the genocide or at the very least the challenges that faced Rwanda post ‘94. There has been a major emphasis on the terminology. The official lingo is the Genocide Against the Tutsis. It has been tough to live in a village, knowing that my neighbors and friends, colleagues, mourn the loss of one million people.

I also recently watched Hotel Rwanda. While I think it’s important that this movie was made, I take issue with many of the plot lines, and the way that the Genocide was portrayed. The history actually predates ‘94. There have been tensions and colonial ties that reinforced such tensions and hierarchies, in addition to several key events, that provide a more informed view of what had happened. The movie shows one story, one hero, and has a very positive view of international forces. In reality, the world stood and watched for 90 days before they decided that an intervention was necessary.

I cannot imagine what it was like to live in Rwanda during this time. I am currently reading Philip Gourevitch’s history on Rwanda titled “We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families: Stories from Rwanda".” I highly recommend it, as I think it provides a better explanation of the Rwandan context. He also wrote an interesting piece for the New Yorker in Dec of 1995. Here’s is the link:

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/1995/12/18/after-the-genocide