Sunday, May 1, 2011

Nyamata Memorial Church

This short clip let me see a glimpse of the Nyamata Memorial Church. Today the church in which 10,000 people died still stands and is an unwavering sign and memory of the terrible acts that occurred during the genocide of 1994. The Catholic Church is located in the town of Nyamata and thousands came from near by areas to seek refuge within the holy walls of the church.  In past violence the church has always acted as a safe haven for anyone who entered.  No one would dare kill under the eyes of god, but this genocide was different.  On the tenth of April 1994 the Militia entered and broke down the padlock on the iron door that was there to protect the Tutsis.  Once the Interahamwe (Hutu Militia) entered the locked doors of the Catholic Church, they killed thousands of people. Not only the innocent men women and children within the Catholic Church were killed, the fleeting survivors from the church also were killed.  Any houses near by were searched and the Tutsi residences were brutally slaughtered.  These men who were once the neighbors of these Tutsis stood before them carrying their rifles, grenades, machetes, and clubs to kill every last one of them. 
            Watching this video clip is astonishing.  Seeing all of the belongings left behind by the souls of innocent people is something I will never forget.  I can only imagine the brutality of the murders and the helpless feeling of the Tutsis.  I will never be able to understand how someone can pick up a weapon and kill people who you have never met and who have done nothing to harm you.  This is shocking to me…    


The Tutsis Role in The Genocide of 1994

The 1994 Genocide in Rwanda was one of the most awful massacres the world has ever seen.  No other genocide has matched the fast paced killings that the Hutu’s accomplished in those dreadful one hundred days.  This Genocide like most others started from a widely believed prejudice that had been passed down for generations.  There are three main ethnicities in Rwanda, the Hutu’s who were a majority in Rwanda (85%) and were more commonly short and round.  The Tutsi’s who were an elite minority (14%) and were tall, thin.  And finally the third ethnic group was the Twa, a minority of 1% they were a tribe Pygmies who were found in the forests of Rwanda. The main conflict was between the Hutu’s and the Tutsi’s and ultimately they were the two groups of people who were involved in the genocide.
This picture shows the three main ethnic groups in Rwanda.
Far left is a Tutsi, the middle is a Hutu and the far left is a Twa.
Through out history the Tutsis were always a minority in comparison to the Hutus.  They were believed to have come over from the southern highlands of Ethiopia in the 1300’s and migrated over into Rwanda as conquerors.  They were cattle herders and warrior similar to the Massai tribe in Kenya.  When they came over to Rwanda in the 1300’s they brought a new type of cow, a “hump-less” cow from the south. 
This picture shows the “hump-less”
cattle that the Tutsis brought from Ethiopia.
At the beginning, before the Belgians came to colonize Rwanda, the Tutsis and Hutus married one another and so their different biological traits varied and mixed into the generations to follow.  The stereotypical traits that each group carries can some times be very hard to distinguish.  A genocide survivor named Eric Irivuzumugable says “the truth is, it is difficult to tell who is Tutsi and who is Hutu just by outward characteristics.”    Although it may have been common for the two groups to intermarry and have relations with one another, once the Belgians came that was not only impossible but was no longer something many in either group wanted.
The Belgian colonists arrived in Rwanda in 1916.  And the way that they colonized Rwanda created unnecessary social and tribal differences between the Hutus and the Tutsis.  One of the main factors of this are the identity cards created by the Belgians.  These cards were used to classify the people according to their ethnicities.  The two groups were distinguished by their nose size, their height and their eye type. The number of cattle they owned also distinguished them.
This is a picture of an identity card. 
This is a picture of a Rwandan having his nose
 measured in order to distinguish his ethnicity.
The Belgians always had considered the Tutsi’s more favorable because they thought they were more “white” and were more capable of being rulers than the Hutus.  And for the next forty-six years of their rule they provided the Tutsis with more opportunities then the Hutus. Giving them better jobs, education and places in the government.  This of course angered the Hutus, and hatred towards the Tutsis began to bubble up.  Even when the Rwandans got independents from the Belgians in 1962, the Tutsis remained at the head of government in both Rwanda and Burundi.   
This picture shows early Tutsi leaders in Rwanda
     On June 6th 1994 the Tutsi president Jouenal Habyariman’s plane was shot down above the Kigome airport and he was killed along with a few other colleagues.  This was a climax in the Hutu and Tutsi conflict.  After this major event, the genocide lasting three months began.  It is not to say this event was the only thing that triggered the genocide, but it was in fact the tipping point.  Today it is still a mystery as to who shot down the president’s plane but it is suspected that either Paul Kigame and his close associates or Hutu extremists caused these deaths.            
During this one hundred day period mass murders broke out among Hutu and Tutsi neighbors and full villages were being killed off.  No matter what age, sex or economic standing, the only thing that mattered was weather or not you were a Tutsi, and if you were, you would most likely be killed. Hutu citizens were told through Hutu extremist radio and from other Hutus around them to wipe out any moderate Hutu and Tutsi that they lay their eyes on.  They were told it was their duty because the Tutsis were their enemies.  Most if not all of the genocide was carried out by hand.  Hutus used machetes and clubs to mutate and slaughter any Tutsi or moderate Hutu they could find.   

This is a picture of a mass grave in Rwanda.
The inhuman brutality of these murders were shocking, and the survival stories of children and adults hidden under the dead decaying bodies of their loved ones were even more incredible.  While thousands of bodies were thrown in the Kigara River to float down stream eventually ending up in Lake Victoria, there was a story of young Tutsi child who survived.  Hutu men with machetes threw her in the water while she was still alive.  Her body floated with the dead and eventually a Hutu who was near by on the bank of the river saved her.  This small act of kindness reminded me of how although these heartless people are killing everyone that crossed their path, there is still hope that people want to do good and create peace between the two ethnicities.   

Eventually the genocide died down, once the Hutus were running out of Tutsis to kill.  After the one hundred day genocide the RPF (Rwandese Patriotic Front) took control of Kigali on July 4th and took control of the whole country by July 18th 1994.  The government was then taken over by the Tutsis and today Paul Kagame is serving his second seven year mandate as president of the Republic and the Cabniet.  
Paul Kagame, President of the
Republic and the Cabinet.
Today national understanding has been difficult to reach especially because of the 80,000 people in jail awaiting a trial to see weather or not they plead guilty or not guilty for contributing to the mass murders in the genocide of 1994.  Many trials will take place in local community tribunals called Gacaca, but most serious cases will take place in Arusha, Tanzania by the UN’S International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.  These trials are definitely going to take some time to sort out but it is a major step forward in finding the people accountable for killing innocents.  
(This is a video clip of a "Gacaca Justice"
 trial held by the peoples court in Rwanda.)
Today there are also major steps forward in the restoration of the economy.  Although the progress in the economy may seem small for the rest of the world, in sub-Saharan Africa it is well over average.  There is a more than fifteen per cent annual growth between 1995 and 1999, and 7.4 per cent in 2000 to 2002.  For the most part Hutus and Tutsi have also learned to live and work with one another.  Cyangugu provincial Governor Musa Fazil Harerimana told a Swiss news agency that the town is building itself back up.  It is doing so by building new schools, hotels, and markets.  Although this city was nearly emptied after the Genocide loosing thousands of Tutsi residence, it seems as though today there is a glimpse of hope.

These glimpses of hope appear in many villages, towns and cities as people start to move on with their lives and even forgive the past.  Dwelling on the past only makes life hard, and although survivors will never forget the awful events that happened in 1994, they have started to smile and laugh and bring life and love into Rwanda instead of death and hate.  The prejudice between the Hutus and the Tutsis may never go away but there is always hope in the few who pass down morals of equality and love to the younger generations.  


The Muslims role in The Genocide Reflection

During the Genocide of 1994, hundreds of people hid in the Muslim mosques.  They hoped that they would be safe within the religious walls of the Muslim’s prayer place.  A place where many Hutu’s believed was evil, and seldom entered for this reason alone.  But the Tutsi’s were wrong, the Hutu’s did enter, just like they did in the hundreds of churches that scattered the Rwandan landscape.  In one instance a women named Alfonsine and her family were all hacked with machetes until the ringleader ordered the rest of the killers to get out before the Muslims found them.  A man named Rashid, who was a Muslim Hutu himself who had been supplying these Tutsi’s with food and water for weeks and came and saved this women and made a vow that he would protect the Tutsi’s even if need be he would die with them. 
The Muslims were considered less human then even Tutsi’s; they were not given even the lowest forms of education and were not aloud to own land.  Many Hutu’s grew up believing that Muslim Mosques were filled with the devil and the Muslim homes were also filled with devil.  The churches told them that if they opened a Quran they would go mad and that shaking hands with the Muslims is like shaking hands with the devil. 

Today the church rejects institutional culpability for the genocide.  This is shocking to many because of the tens of thousands of Tutsi’s whose lives were taken within those very holy places.  Christianity is the central religion in Rwanda, and to see that the lowest acts of humanity were acted upon within the churches is unforgivable.
I find it inspirational to see someone who is a Hutu himself, rise above the pressure of ethnic loyalty and act upon his religious values to save hundreds of lives. during that time i can only imagine the loss of hope among the Tutsi people and to see at least one sign of hope within the Muslim mosque must have been a small comfort to hundreds of people.  


Friday, April 29, 2011

Reaction to Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village (ASYV)

Agahozo Shalom houses over 100 survivors to the Rwanda genocide in 1994.  Agahozo means “a place where tears are dried” in Rwandan and shalom means “peace” in Hebrew. Originally this concept was used in Israel to shelter thousands of orphaned children who survived the holocaust.  This residential high school started in Rwanda thanks to an American woman who is the mother of three children of her own.  She raised $12,000,000 to start Agahozo Shalom and raised this large sum of money in only two years.  The goal of this high school is to prepare these survivors for the world outside Agahozo Shalom.  They supply the students with therapy and an education that will prepare 500 of them to continue on to a higher education to.  They are taught the importance of serving their community and helping others.  Teaching the next generation that peace is the way and that helping the people around you is of the upmost importance.  If the mindset of the upcoming generation changes, and the prejudice towards their neighbors is turned into love the world will be a better place.  Although this school is just one small step to mend the minds and hearts of survivors it is a major step for each of these student’s lives.  The provided education and safety for these children will allow them to reach their dreams which looked like a dim future for them during the genocide. This school creates opportunities for these children that otherwise would not be available for them.    

Friday, April 22, 2011

Seven year old Christine Uwayezu, whose parents, two younger brothers and three older sisters were killed in Kigali, is recovering from machete wounds at the MSF hospital in Byumba in northern Rwanda. Photo by Mary Jane Camejo


Friday, April 15, 2011

Ghosts of Rwanda Notes

General Romeo Dallaire: head of the UN peacekeeping in Rwanda.

800,000 people were killed in Rwanda.

Hutus- ethnic majority- perpetrators
Tutsis- ethnic minority- victims

Paul Kagame- leader of the RPF, Tutsi rebels.

25,000 lightly armed troops to keep the peace (all of them knew little about the Hutu and Tutsi past).

Interrehamway- Hutu army that leads genocide.

January 1994:  Dallaire gets information that genocide is being planned.
Dallaire then informs the UN.

Kofi Annan- the head of UN peace keeping.

Dallaire ordered NOT to use force.

Magadishu, Somalia.- two black hawk planes were shot down, and 18 US marines were killed most of the deaths were a product of torture. 

US does not want to get involved in ethnic conflicts in Africa again.

Carl Wilkens:
   - American missionary, only american to stay in Rwanda during the genocide.

April 6, 1994: The Hutus president's plane was shot down (no one knows who fired the shot)
there was a crisis meeting that night.

Col. Bagasora:
   -lead Hutu extremists genocide.
Mme. Agathe:
   -acting Hutu PM (moderate)

 Hutu extremists kill 10 Belgium pulls support from UN peacekeeping mission.


In the convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, rasial or religious group, as such:

1. killing members of the group
2. causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group
3. delibertly inflicting on a group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part
4. imposing measures intended to prevent births within a group
5. forcibly transferring children of the group to another group

Following acts shall be punishable:

1. Genocide
2. Conspiracy to commit genocide
3. Direct and public incitement to commit genocide
4. Attempt to commit genocide
5. Complicity in genocide

Every UN member nation has promised to intervene and stop genocide. Wherever and whenever it occurs: 1948