Good people turn evil


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Africa » Rwanda » Province du Sud » Butare
November 24th 2011
Published: November 24th 2011
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The pictures would be too brutal and heartbreaking for many people so we have decided not to put any photos from these places but just from Huye. It is something you need to see on your own and not pictures shown by others.

It is hard to imagine the horrors that happened in Rwanda 17 years ago but after our visit to Huye we have come as close to what happened as possible. How? Two reasons, 1st is the visiting the Gikongoro Genocide Memorial you still see and smell the remains off 800 odd bodies that still lay around the rooms of the secondary school, 50,000 people killed in eight hours here. 2nd we stayed with a family who were deeply effect by the events of what happened and were more than willing to share their stories.

We got to hear the stories behind the scenes, how the French were even involved in the training of the military (and were playing games on the mass graves), and how the mother (and her two sisters who are living here as well) of whom we are staying with witnesses the bashing and beheading of their father. It was rather bone chilling to sit as they casually tell us of how it all unfolded, how Belgium split the country into Hutu and Tatu all those years ago, putting the minority Tatu the higher rank and then swapping it over creating a mix of hate and fear.

Mothers killing their Tatu children (if they were originally Hatu and married a Tatu man the children become Tatu) because of the fear that when the child become older and the apparent risk of Tatu power allowed it. Also children murdering their mothers for the same reasons, it is so hard to comprehend and consider why this all happened.

Originally we thought that Hatu and Tatu tribes have been identified for centuries but as we found out it was divided by Belgium by a state of wealth. If someone had 10 or more cows they were Tatu, less they were Hatu. We also found out that even brothers were then divided by wealth and in the end when the killing started and fear spread they were able to kill each other. The harmonic life style disappeared and the tension was growing between these two tribes for every day. The tribal conflicts took place much faster when it was expected and many Tutsi were killed brutally already in 1950.

This disagreement continued through many years and the days of darkness began 6th April, 1994. Rwandan president’s airplane was shot down (it is not known who done this still) over Kigali and the news began to spread around all over the world. After shocking news nobody was expecting that the situation will become worse and Rwanda will turn to a horror movie. This small country in East Africa became remember able for the bloody mass killing and has left deep imprints in whole world, and especially in the locals.

The government encouraged Hutu to kill Tutsi because they are like ‘cockroaches’ in this country and they have to distinguish them all in direct or indirect way… but the main idea is that they have to suffer until they will die. Unbelievable but this is reality that the government provided the machetes, clubs with nails, axes, knives, piles, grenades and guns to Hutu.

Fear and mob mentality are driving forces behind it, created by the government but what takes one individual to turn on their neighbor, friend or family member is something we don’t quite understand. Thinking more about it more deeply, is it possible that each and everyone one of us would do the same? Genocide has happened several times, in several forms but not one nation turning against each other and before answering ask yourself, ‘would I do the same’, with the same pressures, fears, risks. As Zimbardo said ‘the answer may not be encouraging’. He has written a book called ‘The Lucifier Effect. What turns good people to evil’ and is a good but haunting read when travelling through this country and with some very in-depth testimonials.

We hear of survivors who are blaming themselves for what happened to their family. Such as a girl, now 20, who were three at the time was told by her mother to be quite as the Hatu entered the house so not to find the hiding place. Unfortunately she cried and her father, mother, brother and sister were killed in front of her and she has not spoken a word since.



A boy who was left alone among the corpses for a long period of time got hungry and needed to eat the bodies to survive. Now if he gets hungry he either tries bite at himself or anyone who is around at the time.

Some Hutu said that the French military taught them to catch their victims and detain them. This happened at a military base in central Kigali where people were torture. This genocide contains many involvers from different nationalities and it is maybe why Rwandans still heartbroken that they didn’t get international support directly.



One of the worse places the genocide occurred is in Murambi (21st April, 1994) or today the place is called Gikongoro Genocide Memorial. In this place around 40 000 – 50 000 Tutsi had their lives cut to short in eight hours of brutality (around 100 people per minute were killed). Many Tutsi have lost beloved family members, friends and own happiness to continue the life. There are many mass graves where Tutsi have been buried in a proper way. Until today for the family which is left, it is hard to look forward the future and the hardest is to forgive like Rwanda government encourages Rwandans.



This place is an old school where 848 bodies are still preserved (with lime powder) and some tourists are coming to face the reality which has happened just few years ago. The locals haven’t found strength to come back and see own dead families. It will take a few generations to talk freely about this inhuman behavior. We have been visited few concentration camps around the world but this is the worse place on the earth so far. It is like to walk through a graveyard and see unburied bodies everywhere. The hair and cloths have remained, and it is also bones and skin. Almost every skeleton has a foot off cut because Hutu made sure that before the death they would suffer and wouldn’t have a chance to escape. On the bodies you’ll notice what kind of torture they have used, for example gun shots in the skulls. It was hardest to see the children room with tiny and innocent bodies. Oh the smell is unbelievable and terrible it is like walking through a town with dead bodies everywhere.

This horror full and uncomfortable place definitely isn’t for everyone to visit. We have faced to the reality and how bad Rwanda genocide has been. We have never heard before that a family member, friend, best neighbor can kill each other because they belong to a different tribe. It is mass brainwash and fear to be killed by themselves, and this shows how it is possible that good people turn evil.

Psychologist help has increased radically and developed in this small country and it is hard to compare with other East African countries. Unfortunately people don’t know what a psychologist is and what it is good for, and in their opinion just dumb people are searching for the help. It is lack of knowledge about this important and necessary area.

Finding out about how the justice system worked after the genocide is also very interesting. 800,000 were imprisoned after the genocide happened which is a very large amount of people for such a small country. Jails were overflowing of course so they came up with an idea which can help both the incident and the guilty. They came up with the idea that the murder can go to the family members of who they killed the family member, tell them how you done it and where they buried the body and ask for forgiveness. If you are forgiven your sentence will be reduced and the murdered are able to have a proper burial. But this didn’t happen all the time, many murders felt to guilty themselves to seek forgiveness for what they done and will remain in prison for the remainder of their lives. Other was not forgiven and remains in prison.

Forgiveness is a big part of this country, acts of the individuals will be forgotten. Learning from, not remembering the past is a way for this country to move forward. Rwanda is investing a lot money to higher education for the youth and survivors of genocide are getting a free education in whole country. The government encourages a free, harmonic and friendly atmosphere in the country but it is possible to block out the past?



We have visited the biggest university of Rwanda (‘National University of Rwanda’) and we were surprised the educations students are getting there. There are signs that Rwanda is turning towards the future with hope and optimism. Strolling through its campus is a pleasant diversion, it is peaceful and surrounded by forest, and the perfect place to learning. Just two years ago they have began to encourage teaching in English and not in French anymore. Rwanda is trying to come closer to the Western world and accomplishing the possibilities to students go aboard to study as well, they are doing the best of situation to build a new country with a positive attitude towards life. Actually they are doing a great job on the surface but what people are feeling inside, it won’t be told.

The consequences of the genocide have been left and won’t be unseen. We have visited a psychiatric hospital and an orphanage with mental problems orphans after genocide in Huye. In the psychiatric hospital with met some doctors who told us about the situation. Before the genocide almost nobody knew what a psychiatric hospital is and the number of patients increased at least three times, and we don’t think it is really strange. Most people are suffering of psychoses and depression, and every day the number of posttraumatic disorder increasing as well. It will remain unknown how many Rwandans haven’t searched after help either. They have around 170 patients, and they classify them in two different groups: indoors and outdoors. The indoors group is getting 24 hours support and treatment in the hospital, and the outdoors patients are getting temporally treatment in the day time. It was a surprise to get know that they have just one psychologist in the hospital and the explanation we got that the family members still think it is a shame and embarrassment to have a family member who is getting consultations of psychologists. The psychiatric is a doctor and they have lack of knowledge what kind of specialist he/she is… but the main think that it is a doctor and it is normal to get medical treatment. Right now the main university have a little over 600 students of psychologist and we can hope that the view to a psychologist will change with time.. but we are really doubting about it. However to face the reality in the psychiatric hospital has been hard. We saw people lying around the floors, grabbing and trying to break your arm, happy people (mania disorder) and well everything what is mentally abnormal. This hospital is using different therapies like music, dance, art, play therapies and we were lucky enough to attend some. But this psychiatric hospital reminded a movie ‘Shutter Island’ and it describing the location and patients.

We also met some orphans (they are 26 in the orphanage) who are permanently living in an orphanage. They are between 6-45 years old and they are suffering of more serious disorders which cannot be fixed with time. They have somatic and mental disorders and living like a big family in the house. We were surprised in how good condition the house is and the possibilities for the orphans. These orphans have lost their parents in the genocide or just have died recently, and they are getting support. We have seen the changes of this people before the arrival and after departure… well we had our eyes full of tears to see the changes… of course the changes have occurred just in a good way. We won’t ever forget a picture of a young girl who suffering of mental and somatic disorder, it is a birth trauma and her mum died after that. The hospital took care of her and since she is disabled, to be ‘normal’ they have left her to die in a cruel way – the main needs weren’t satisfied. The orphanage took care of her and they did show a picture before and after…. Well before she arrived to the orphanage she looked like one of preserve bodies in Gikongoro Genocide Memorial, and now she looks so much good as she can be.

This has been really intense, horrible, and heartbroken experience and you are facing to the consequences after genocide… and many individual stories won’t ever be told but we are have had enough how much we got to know and we packed a backpack of knowledge about the genocide in Rwanda.

A story from a survivor of genocide.

Athanase Bugirimfura:

‘I fled to Murambi after they burnt our house. We spent the night in the forest nearby. We woke up early and came here. Even when we arrived, no one could get firewood no one could get water, when you went to fetch water, you got killed, and when you went to go get wood they killed you. Therefore we looked ourselves in here.



I guess it was around three o’clock in the morning when they arrived. We started hearing people throwing grenades so people started saying ‘wake-up, wake-up, we are being attacked’. We started collecting stones and threw them. But because they had guns and grenade, we fought until the cries cleared and we could see we were defeated. Those who could run, ran, and those who couldn’t run lay there until they found them and killed them.



I continued down into the valley and reached a place called Nhyaro where those with who we were together were killed one by one. Only a boy and I survived.’



Remember the bad times as you struggle to build a better world!


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