Monday, 25 February 2008

Lessons from Rwanda VI: Account of the genocide

A while back I wrote several accounts based on Shake hands with the Devil: The failure of humanity in Rwanda, an account of the Rwandan genocide by Lt. Gen. Romeo Dallaire. For some reason I never got round to posting this final extract.

In the previous five posts, I had only mentioned the horror in passing, partly because the true enormity of the horror was hard to describe. Instead I offer this extract as a microcosm.

The following is the account that Colonel Isoa Tikoca, the Fijian Chief Military Observer, gave of the situation in Gisenyi, a border town on lake Kivu opposite the Congolese town of Goma:
“…by noon on the 7th [the first day of the genocide] they were going from house
to house… they killed some people on the pot but carried others away to a mass
grave near the airport where they cut their arms and legs and finally massacred
them, as observed the by UNMOs [UN Military Observers]. The [Rwandan] Army and Gendarmerie did nothing to stop these killer-groups… they closed the border with Goma, Zaire. The UNMOs were threatened and they regrouped at the Meridien hotel where foreigners were massing for protection. Stories of massacres all over the
region were reported by these eyewitnesses. A priest assembled in the church with about 200 children for protection, after prayers the killers opened the doors and massacred all of them… another chapel was burned with hundreds of people inside. Children between the ages of 10 to 12 years old killed children. Mothers with babies on their backs killed mothers with babies on their backs. They threw babies into the air and mashed them on the ground. At Rsumbura, 3 Belgian teachers, 2 males and 1 female, and 3 local priests were killed. On the night of the 8th, an expatriate convoy was allowed passage to Goma. On the 10th, Madame Carr, famous because of the movie Gorillas in the Mist left her house for the first time. She has been in Rwanda for more than 45 years. The 85-year-old woman said that what she saw was terrible…
“Were able to conduct some patrols but the streets too littered with roadblocks and dead people. Ordered to evacuate on 13th, spent two nights between Rwandan and Zaire border posts. Finally made way to Mkumba and moved to Kigali. Communications very bad.” (Shake hands with the Devil: The failure of humanity in Rwanda, Lt. Gen. Romeo Dallaire, pp313-4)
The slaughter covered the whole country and lasted three months. The above describes one town over a single week.

1 comment:

ali_wood said...

Horrible book, but very powerful. We said never again, but we have allowed genocide in Darfur and now we are not equiping the UN mission there to stop the slaughter. A new recent wave of violence has made thousands more refugees. Genocide should ring alarm bells and make us take action. But we have been silent.