COMING SOON HOUSE ADVERTISING ads_leader
“It’s time to cut down the tall trees…” and with these words on 6 April 1994, a genocide of brutal ferocity and speed was inflicted upon the people of Rwanda. "Tall trees" was the code word for a carefully calculated campaign that saw one million people butchered by the crudest of weapons - mostly the machete - within 100 days. With the exception of the only two agencies that remained in the country throughout the genocide - The International Red Cross and Medecins Sans Frontieres - the world deserted Rwanda in its darkest hour.
Throughout rural Rwanda you will espy men dressed in dark pink overalls working on farms and other projects through the countryside. These people are considered category three prisoners (category one being planners and organisers, category two being those who oversaw the massacres) and they committed acts of murder during the genocide. However, there are several Westerns leaders (particularly the Belgium and French) and the highest levels of the UN that knew exactly what was occurring. Their complicity in failing to intervene means that some former Presidents and high-ranking UN officials should be wearing the pink uniform and working in the fields of Rwanda. It was as
if these leaders had personally handed machetes for the murderers to do their worst.
One of the most potent reminders for visitors are the numerous genocide monuments that scatter the country. One cannot travel far without seeing a memorial that recalls those terrible days. The most visited is the Kigali Memorial Centre, which is a sobering display on the planning, execution and resolution of the genocide. This was an event meticulously planned, and despite the warnings emanating from the country from informants who alerted the world community before the event, nothing was done to prevent these horrors. A visit here fills you with sadness, anger and a degree of guilt.
However, the more powerful memorials are those of the sites themselves. Ntarama was the location of a church where 5000 people huddled to escape the surrounding violence. Despite the brave efforts of the menfolk of the region, the padlocked doors were eventually breached on 10 April 1994, and almost every woman, child and elderly person was murdered amongst the low wooden and concrete pews. Nowadays, the tattered clothes of the deceased hang in clumps around the walls and the stench of decay is sickening. Skulls and other bones
lay in rows at the back of the church, whilst the front contains the belongings of the victims including their shoes and schoolbooks. The scale of the genocide is almost incomprehensible, for though one can visit this church where 5000 were killed, one would need to call upon another 200 sites like this to fully understand what transpired.
But worst was yet to come - for the most awful of sights greeted me at the genocide memorial in Murambi, which was once a technical college near to the town of Gikongoro in the south of the country. Here, some of the most depraved atrocities of the genocide were perpetrated. After seeking shelter at the college from the massacres by remaining in the close company of stationed French soldiers, these armed forces callously departed on 17 April 1994, and by sunset on 21 April, 50,000 people had been brutally slaughtered by machete - most of them within a period of several hours when truckloads of men armed with weapons arrived in the predawn darkness.
As a tribute, some 800 of the murdered victims were exhumed and their bodies coated in lime to preserve them for the world to see
what occurred. These white withered bodies, laid in rows upon rows on pale slated wooden platforms are frozen at the time of their final moment. One could see people who had raised their hands to their face at the time of death to vainly protect themselves, whilst others wore contorted expressions of horror and pain. There are the corpses of adults still clutching their frail children - both bodies huddled together in a shared anguish. The manner of their deaths is also evident - as one could clearly see crushed bones caused by machetes across throats, chests and abdomens. Some had initially suffered broken ankles so that they could not escape their ultimate fate. The most upsetting corpse was that of a young child, probably about eight-ten years of age, whose small abdomen was totally crushed by the full power of a machete.
This memorial was extremely distressing, thus requiring me to leave the rooms several times to clear my head and vision, for it was not only the sight of these corpses, but also the overpowering stench of lime that evoked such emotions. Another group of foreigners on a healing pilgrimage were visiting at the same time, and
one could see some of their number slumped on the grass and openly weeping or standing numbly in disbelief. Whilst in one of these rooms, another Australian sagely commented in a wavering voice; “How can you kill so many helpless women and children and still call yourself human?” Though I clinically detached myself from the surrounds and took photos of these rooms and remains, upon reviewing the pictures later, the full shock of Murambi struck me, and many of these images are just too graphic to display on this blog.
In order to conclude the journey to Rwanda on a more positive tone, I visited the Hotel des Milles Collines, or what is more commonly known as Hotel Rwanda. This is a place, as Lonely Planet so eloquently described, “where horror and hope collided”. I wandered through the foyer and enjoyed a meal at the famous pool, whose water was used for drinking as supplies ran low within the hotel. Interestingly, there is not one plaque, notice or any other reminder of the noble and brave acts that occurred here in 1994 - acts that saved the lives of over one thousand people. I even spoke to residents of
One of many - Kigali Memorial Centre, Rwanda
250,000 people are buried within the Centre's grounds.
the hotel who scoured the place in its entirety, but could also find nothing.
The final chapter of this story is recounted from Arusha in Tanzania, where I attended a day’s hearing of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. Here I witnessed the trial of four former Rwandan government Ministers who were allegedly key organisers of the genocide. After the usual security clearances, one could normally choose from three concurrent trials, though one was being conducted in closed session. After entering a long enclosed viewing room, you could wear headphones that would translate the current language being spoken into either English, French or Kinyarwanda by just switching radio channels. Listening to the legal argument and the presentation of evidence was such a sterile and detached environment when compared to the visceral memorials in Rwanda.
This Tribunal is a large part of the healing process, and certainly Rwanda has made significant progress towards reconciliation and discarded many of its troubles. There are now numerous international groups working throughout Rwanda facilitating the rebuilding of trust throughout the land and the changes in the intervening years has been remarkable. However, time does not heal all wounds, and one can still sense
a terrible sadness underlying some sections of the community. Though many words will be stated in courtrooms, and many hands of assistance will be offered from caring foreigners, there will still be many tears shed for generations to come. Please be aware that some graphic photos are displayed below.
COMING SOON HOUSE ADVERTISING ads_leader_blog_bottom
Tot: 0.163s; Tpl: 0.018s; cc: 16; qc: 41; dbt: 0.1195s; 1; m:domysql w:travelblog (10.17.0.13); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.2mb
Deni, Dax and Ella
That was very impressive. It is very hard to try to understand why some "human" beings get to the lowest levels of behavior. I felt something similar when I visited Buchenwald concentration camp in Germany. It was completely covered in snow and that only helped to give a little idea of the conditions in which these poor souls "lived" there... what touched me the most was to see the pictures of some of the people who were there, I couldn't help but cry which was a bit strange as I felt a bit "macabre" for being there looking at their faces... but I'm glad I went, as I learned so much... We should learn from our mistakes so we won't repeat them... I'm just afraid it's not that "easy" and some people will never learn...
I still cant believe what happened. Still, what are your personal thoughts on Rawanda? The people, the area now, what has chaned Thanks
A true view .....
Thanks for a great article again Shane. You really reflect the truth well ....... thanks for caring and taking the time to write this. Hey bro ... if you ever travel Mozambique ..... my house is open.
Rawanda: Tale of terror
Shane writes with full force of conviction. Each of his words on the genocide memorial and preserved skull hill creates picture of horror and hope at the same time. It's moving, engaging and tear-jerker. Despite being far removed from the African Tragedy, I could feel the ferocity of butchering innocent humans. In Indian, low-scale genocide has been taking place in its course of history, as the present one underway in certain pockets of Indian state of Orissa where Christians are being roasted and nuns raped in broad-daylight and pre-dawn swoop, but something of the scale of Rawandan rapacious killing is unheard of and unbelievable here. What makes bone more chilling and shivering is the realisation that everything happened just a decade before when the world was breaking free, and the America was a sole superpower. Alas, even London, Paris and Washington could also not put a brake on maniac dancing of machetes. I love the way Shane weaves his narrative. He is a master storyteller. I would like to see his experience in a book sooner Best to you, Shane!!! Keep writing!
I'm in Rwanda at the moment, and have visited many of the sites you describe and I have talked to survivors. In fact, I'm currently in Huye and battling with whether or not to go to Murambi. While I am wondering if I could stand it, I am also rebuking myself for indulging in my ability to CHOOSE whether or not I go - it's not as if those there had any say in the matter. I am also fascinated that you got to attend a trial in Arusha. I spent a morning at a gacaca court in Gisenyi - very moving, even with the language barrier. Thank you for writing so eloquently about your experiences here.
this was a very bad time for everyone im really sorry and i want everyone to know i support them all the way
I visited the kigali Memorial centre last week and was saddened,unable to comprehend how evil the heart of man can be.Although the Bible describes the heart of man as being extremely wicked above all things,these genocide planning and execution couldn't have been a better manifestation of this words,as also exhibited in all the other world's genocides exhibited at the memorial. The same also would have happened in such magnitude in my country Kenya during our 2007 General elections where we had tribal violence and near ethnic cleansing occurrences and I think some divine intervention stopped a replication of the Rwanda scenario. We all have got to realise that our hearts need redemption from God.I say this because,we in other countries in Africa and outside of it are immune,our hearts are human hearts,extremely wicked above all things...Rwandese people did not do anything to deserve what happened to them...we are not immune...let us pray for ourselves,our leaders and our people.
so many emotions run thru thank you for making sure that i never forget..
Sad and Angry
It brings great pain in my heart and soul, I can't help but to cry and yet angry with those who started this thing - Life is not about power it is about love
i always wanted to visit Rwanda to see for myself the atrocities of the human mind to others, i hope other generations will learn the bitter lesson of the past and love humanity and spread good will to all people.
Oh my God..this is realy sad...never seen this photo before..
Too shocking for words
I have pondered as to what kind of diabolical frenzy would like a community to turn on itself and commit such atrocious acts. How neighbors could turn on neighbors, how husbands could turn on wives and children. Perhaps more importantly how such tragedies could be avoided in the future. I am concerned that the anger and deep resentment, in other words the emotions that may result from such a tragedy would, god forbid remain festering for years and even centuries only to rear its ugly head again sometime in the future.
Its my Prayer that the perpetrators of the1994 genocide in RUWANDA that led to the dead of amost 800000 human beings found and punish severely. I suggest that if they can not be killed then they should be sentence to life in prisment.
Why doesn't democratic countries do something when genocides occur?
Way Forward for Rwandans
I wish President Paul Kagame would lead Rwandans into a reconcilliation and peace settlement for the sake of humanity. Most African countries resolve power struggles in very uggle ways but if, I am a South African and I can see that the ruling government has got party members who believe in killing to have them in power. I wish Africa day would concentrate more on how to resolve conflicts because one day it seems that all of Africa will be dead because of love for power. If you are weak you will fear to compete with yuor opposition in politics and the only way you will resort to is to eliminate your opponent. Leaders in Africa treat are not democratic, they want to be in power at any cost and their masses fear to lose power to anothe opposition as if they will be killed. What happened in Rwanda is happening in Zimbabwe, Kenya, Libya, Somalia etc and leaders of AU do not deal with issues head on they establish friendship and compliment each other even when they are wrong. I am with you people of Rwanda, Iwatched a movie called "shooting dogs" and "hotel Rwanda" and I see these pictures one day I am coming to Rwanda and pray that the souls of the victims rest in peace.
The Travel Camel
Current reflections on the Rwandan Genocide
Almost four years after making this journey to Rwanda, I have noticed a disgraceful pattern relating to foreign intervention in internal conflicts. My belief is that if Rwanda had substantial oil reserves, this 1994 genocide would never have occurred. It is the same reason why the conflict in Syria is allowed to continue, and these two situations should be compared to the decisive intervention in the oil rich countries of Iraq and Libya. Another genocide is inevitable whilst this appalling attitude prevails in world politics.
it s a pity to those innocent pple who died during the genocide