It’s the end of March. The rains are here and the sorrow kept at bay, sets in.
Twenty years ago, around this time, with hate radio RTLM warning of ‘a little something coming around Easter’, no one could have expected the little something would become the decimation of whole families.
In a less than a week, we start the official mourning period in commemoration of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
Twenty years ago this April, the tilling of land, the bustling sounds of business, the dancing to music on the radio – stopped. In its place came the sounds of betrayal, agony and death.
There is an old Negro hymn “Wade in the water” where it goes, “Wade in the water…God’s gonna trouble the waters”. The song pleaded with God to end the curse of slavery. Troubling the waters was a sign of deliverance.
A song of hope that one day, things would change. In Rwanda, that hope existed as well. Despite the evidence that the hatred of Tutsi was growing, families believed that it would get better.
Hope short lived.
And the world? It turned away. Who likes to watch such gore anyway? Just a few Africans killing each other. In the words of former French President François Mitterrand, “In such countries, genocide is not too important” before he sent troops to provide safe passage to the killers who now languish in France.
The Americans, on the other hand, played words games in the hope of not having to intervene, and refused to jam RTLM radio, which called out the locations where Tutsi were hiding and encouraged the killers saying the graves were not yet full; the US cited high costs and legal constraints.
Abandoned from the outside, hunted from the inside, death was assured. Tutsi hid wherever they could. Sometimes hidden by brave Hutu who preferred death to murder.
The rains are here and the denial begins.
I was reading an article in a publication known to glorify genocide denial and was surprised how often old arguments are recycled. I guess the simpler the lie, the easier it is to repeat.
For deniers, the Tutsi brought it on themselves. They say the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) shot down the plane of former President Habyarimana which sparked the genocide. Forget that French judges called Marc Trevedic and Nathalie Poux based on technical research said the likely launch site was in an area located within the heavily fortified ex-FAR camp (former army base near airport) confirming an earlier released Mutsinzi report that said the same.
Also, genocide is not spontaneous, it is planned and executed with precision. So no, the downing of the plane is neither the cause nor the justification for genocide.
If that doesn’t work, then well, the RPF is guilty of killing Hutus so it was a double genocide. Again, genocide takes intention and systematic implementation. There was no genocide against the Hutu. Those who did take revenge, were punished before all, many times with their own life.
If that doesn’t work, well the genocide didn’t happen at all. It’s a figment of our imagination. Forget the bodies that littered Rwanda’s thousand hills or the bones in memorials all over the country. Forget the testimonies of perpetrators that have allowed some to have a decent burial.
Those bones have names. Kalisa. Karangwa. Uwilingiyimana. Mukabalisa. Umutoniwase. Ndekezi. Rudahusha. Ndegeya. And over a million others – some whose bodies have yet to be found.
Ntimugashinyagure. Do not mock us.
Especially when the so called sources for these articles are none other than the perpetrators defended by relatives.
The rains are here but there is also hope.
Rwanda is a phoenix that rose from the ashes, not on the back of the dead but on the wings of their memory.
We will never die again.
Nathalie Munyampenda works in communications in Kigali. She formerly lived and worked in Canada before moving back to Rwanda. Follow her on Twitter @nathmunya