Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Romain Kabahizi

I grew up in Kicikiro. We had a good childhood and played with the other kids with no problem, but once we got into school, the teacher started asking questions like, “Which of you are Hutu? Which are Tutsi?” All your friends went to one side of the class; you had to go to the other. That was a slap in the face. It felt like, “You're not one of us.” In 1990 the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) attacked. Things got worse and worse. Multiple political parties were allowed then; there was a demonstration every other day and you couldn't go out when they were happening. Killings would often happen at night.

The UN had a camp nearby, in the ETO high school. On 6 April, we went there because we thought we would be in good hands. About a week later, they left. People tried to lie down in front of their trucks, but the soldiers kicked them away. I knew we were going to be killed, so I hid. I saw the Interahamwe jumping the fence. I saw them chasing women and children and I could hear kids screaming. I saw them hacking, kicking and hitting with the butts of their guns. One woman was screaming, “Please, please, don't kill me.” They just said, “Shut up.” One child was crying and they cut him, but didn't finish him off; he was dying, and I could hear all those things.

My parents, my brother and his pregnant wife, and many of my family and friends were killed. Every time I go to Kigali, everywhere I walk, I remember. As long as I live it will be impossible to forget. I can forgive, but I can't forget. I can forgive because that's the way to heal myself, to get over the anger, but even if I forgive it doesn't mean I want to see them walking the streets free as they are doing now. I think the UN failed to prevent genocide in Rwanda simply because we Africans were not that important. The international community could still help with justice. And the International Tribunal in Arusha is very slow. I think people should learn that as long as you acknowledge a problem exists, you can solve it. As long as we ignore things, they are going to keep on happening. I think there is hope for Rwanda. Reconciliation is something we have to achieve, but reconciliation and trust are two totally different things. I can have my Hutu friends again, but I have lost my trust in them. But in the next generation, I want my children to have the trust I have lost. For me, the scars are too deep to heal. It's going to take generations of healing to regain that trust.
-Romain Kabahizi

Thursday, March 23, 2006


Taken from the BBC News website
Written by Jonah Fisher

The African Union is faced with the most difficult decision in its short history.

Created three years ago with the idea of "African solutions for African problems" at its heart, it must decide whether to handover its first major peacekeeping operation to the United Nations.

Seven thousand AU troops are deployed in Darfur but they have failed to end a conflict that has so far killed more than 100,000 people and left millions in overcrowded camps.

The last year has seen a steady deterioration on the ground with militia attacking civilians, rebel movements splintering and the arrival of armed groups from neighbouring Chad.

Given the mess they were sent to resolve many feel the AU never stood a chance.

Originally deployed to observe a ceasefire that existed in name alone, the force was strengthened on a piecemeal basis until it reached its current size.

In a few areas the peacekeepers have made a difference - keeping the parties apart and encouraging some people to return.

But until recently they had to rely on pick-ups for transport leaving them vulnerable to attack and reluctant to step in when trouble flared.


On those occasions where AU forces have found themselves in the midst of things it has gone badly.

In October 2005, four Nigerian soldiers and two contractors were killed in an ambush.

The very next day, 38 AU soldiers were taken hostage without a shot being fired. It was clear they were losing the respect of the warring parties.

Maj Gen Collins Ihekire is the Nigerian Force Commander of the AU in Darfur.

"If someone hasn't got wings and you say he has failed to fly - I don't think you can call that failure," he said when asked how he assessed then achievements of the AU mission.

"If we're given what we request for then we'll get the job done." Maj Gen Ihekire would like to see AU assault planes and more troops but that now seems unlikely.

The United States and the European Union, who have funded the AU until now, are reluctant to give any more and want the UN to take over.

A UN mission they say would be bigger, better equipped and more capable of aggressively responding to Darfur's myriad armed groups.

Its estimated budget of $1bn would also be funded directly by all UN members.

About turn

Having regularly criticised the AU mission throughout its one-and-a-half years in Darfur the Khartoum government has suddenly become its biggest supporter.

Sudanese diplomats have toured the continent lobbying African leaders and looking for the funds to keep the mission going. They have even threatened to quit the AU if things do not go their way.

On the domestic front, Khartoum's newspapers have led a government-backed anti-Western campaign.

Bounties have apparently been put on the heads of two Western diplomats and international journalists were labelled terrorists by a government minister.

President Omar al-Bashir has promised to make Sudan a graveyard for foreign intervention and government-backed militia say they are preparing for a holy war. The message they are trying to send is clear - Sudan is not safe for the UN.

"We don't want intervention in our internal affairs," Jamal Ibrahim, the foreign ministry spokesman said.

"We don't want it to lead public opinion into not respecting its own government."

Saving face

The irony of the Sudanese government's position is that it already has a large international presence.

Ten thousand mainly Asian peacekeepers are being deployed to southern and eastern Sudan and the UN's gleaming white four-wheel-drive vehicles can be seen all over the northern capital, Khartoum.

In Darfur, the AU has scores of international observers and advisers, and at least one American in every camp.

But with money running out AU foreign ministers must either find $200m a year to keep the mission going or handover responsibility.

Any UN takeover is likely to take between six and nine months - and the transfer would initially involve little more than a change of hat colour for the soldiers, from green to blue.

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has approached the US and Nato for assistance but it is likely that Western help would be logistical and the bulk of troops remain African.

Having waged such a high profile campaign against UN troops a mechanism may yet be found to enable the Sudanese government to save face.

Western diplomats, however, are convinced that in the long-term, Khartoum and the AU will have little choice but to accept a bigger and more robust UN mission in Darfur.

-Jonah Fisher
To see the full report - click here

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Isaac Mugabe

An orphan’s story of survival and hope for the future.

Before the genocide, I lived a happy life with my parents. My father was a contractor in the construction business. Mum was a housewife although she was educated and qualified as a nurse. Problems started in school after 1990 when people’s race had to be entered in their student files. If you were a Tutsi student, you’d have no peace; there was always someone bullying you. My father worked with men who helped young people to get to the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF). I remember when the RPF troops came as part of the Arusha agreement, my father was very excited and took me to see them.

When the genocide began on 6 April 1994, some of us ran to St Charles' church in Nyamirambo. There were bodies in the church. Next day the soldiers and Interahamwe came to remove them. I heard them saying that they didn't want the bodies to be seen or found. We realised we would be caught, so we went to the school just behind. Soon the school was surrounded by the Interahamwe, who climbed the walls and came in, slaughtering people. I jumped over a wall and ran home. By luck, I found everybody alive at home. When our neighbours were killed, however, we knew we would be next. Father sent me to a family friend named Ally Kamegeri. He hid me, along with the younger children, even though our parents couldn’t come. He hid about 20 kids in total. That’s how we lived until the end of genocide.

Father was killed. An attack group made him walk all around the neighbourhood naked. That was because before the genocide, he wouldn't take their nonsense. I heard that he was beaten badly and never made it alive to the hole in Gatare which they intended to throw him into. They dragged his body there. His remains are still in that hole. I haven’t yet been able to exhume him and give him a proper burial. Three days later, my mother was rescued by the RPF. In our hiding place, we had no news of Mum, but we knew that Dad had been killed. We just thought they had both been wiped out. After the genocide, we ran into Mum by sheer luck.

Mum was never the same after the genocide. She seemed depressed and discouraged, unhappy with life, and as time passed she developed ulcers and had stomach problems. My older brother developed mental health problems after the genocide as well, which destabilised her even more. Her stomach problems got so bad that if she tried to eat, she would vomit. I thought Mum was only sick, but she died. At first my brothers and sisters lost all hope. I lost hope as well, but as the oldest, I had to calm them down and I showed them examples of other people orphaned before us. It made them see that they weren’t the only orphans. And they're not completely orphans because we are still together. At the moment I’m studying in the Université Libre in Kigali. In my daily life, I do my best to ensure a good life for my brother and sisters. I can't take the place of our parents, but I try to do most things that parents would do. I am like their parent.

-Isaac Mugabe

Friday, March 17, 2006

Rebuilding Rwanda after the genocide

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

The Archbishop of Birmingham sees Shooting Dogs

Below is a letter from Vincent Nichols (Archbishop of Birmingham)

Thank you very much indeed for your letter of the 22 February and for sending me a review copy of the BBC film Shooting Dogs.

I would like to express my appreciation of the film and to say how very moving I found it. It has clearly been made with great sensitivity, indeed affection, for all those caught up in the tragedy at the Ecole Technique Officielle. The film portrays the dilemmas faced by many people with perceptiveness and respect. I was particularly appreciative of the fact that if anything the film understates not only horrendous nature of what occurred, but also the human dilemmas. In this it leaves space for the viewers own imagination and reflection.

I was particularly impressed by the way the characters of Father Christopher and the young English teacher were drawn. The crises that they faced were not minimised nor over dramatised. I think everyone who sees this film will always retain a vivid memory of the terrible events that took place. They will also be drawn into a profound reflection on the limitations of human nature as well as the demanding summons of the Christian faith.

I am grateful to have had a chance to see this film and I look forward to its general release from the 31st March.

With every good wish,

Yours sincerely

Vincent Nichols
Archbishop of Birmingham

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Help to end genocide in Darfur

This site is a voice for the survivors of the Rwandan Genocide of 1994 but we must not forget that acts of genocide are still occurring in the World today even though we hear little about it.

Like the Rwandan Genocide of '94, we will look back on the genocide in Darfur and once again ask why we didn't do anything.

Save Darfur Campaign

Darfur: A genocide we can stop

Monday, March 13, 2006

Ndamyina Gisanura

A horrific account of one man’s struggle during the genocide.

'The genocide didn't exactly start in 1994 - we could see signs of it earlier. There were car bombings, students were beaten up; there was a bad atmosphere and it seemed as if something was being planned. But 1994 was the grand finale.

When the attacks started, along with my father and some other men, I escaped to the mountains of Bisesero and Kirongi where we could fight back. We resisted the militia, so they sent the presidential guard. It was hard, but we were really motivated to resist, hoping that some of us might survive. They used heavy ammunition, grenades and rockets. We used stones, arrows and sticks. We'd mix with them, hit them with rocks, tackle them with their guns. Then they would be ordered to move back to re-organise. By the end, official figures say that 85,000 people were killed there, but I think there were 160,000 or 175, 000. I come from a big family; 188 people descended from my grandfather, but by the time the French arrived they had all died except me and my uncle.

I returned to my neighbourhood in the valley of the Kirongi mountain, but an attack group found me. I asked them why they were going to kill me when I had never wronged them, when in fact I had lived in harmony with them and their children. They told me to ask God because He was the one who created Tutsi and had abandoned them. I knew they were going to kill me. I had seen death and was no longer scared. I asked them to let me pray, and they agreed. While I was praying, they started complaining that my prayer was taking too long and they needed to go somewhere else to find people to kill. They hit me on the head with a club. I fell down unconscious and don't know when they hacked me, but I have four machete scars on my head. For four days I lay there unconscious. I woke up after a dream about being killed. I decided to go to Kibuye town. I would go to the hospital and they would either kill me or treat me. I was really looking for a place for a nicer death. It took me two days.

When I got there, a crowd started to beat me. They asked me why I had come there, and I said, "To be healed or killed, one of the two." One woman stood out and shielded me. She took me inside the hospital and treated me. She gave me antibiotics, washed me, fed me and even gave me clothes because what I was wearing was very dirty. I'd been wearing those clothes since 8 April. She also hired Interahamwe to protect me. She paid them not to kill me. I spent the entire month of June in the hospital. When the Interahamwe went out to kill elsewhere, they used to leave a notice saying that if they found me dead when they came back, it would be best if my killer was dead as well before they got there. Those were the terms on which I survived, while other people at the hospital were being killed on a daily basis, especially the many girls who had survived at the stadium and were kept to be raped.

The nurse who saved me is still alive today. Sometimes I visit her. I feel overwhelmed by all she did for me. I have nothing to give her in return. She didn't even know me when she saved me. She just saw people torturing me and made a decision on her own to rescue me. So I put that lady in a category of humane people with a true human heart. When I'm in Kibuye, I feel very sad, it's immeasurable. Even though I was lucky to survive, it's still a problem because I cannot forget it. From the first day, I saw people dying bad deaths for no reason. Those scenes frequently replay in my head like a film. It's all kept somewhere in my head. Wherever I go in this world, I will not forget Kibuye. I had a good life and a bad life there; I lost all those people, but it still remains my home. It is a marked place inside of me.'

-Ndamyina Gisanura

Friday, March 10, 2006


SHOOTING DOGS screened to another full-house last night. This time at The Amnesty International UK Headquarters in London. The Director of Amnesty UK Kate Allen introduced the film and then joined the distinguished panel members for the question & answer session that followed the screening. SHOOTING DOGS director Michael Caton-Jones was joined by cast members John Hurt (Father Christopher) and Clare Hope Ashitey (Marie) to discuss the genocide and their experiences shooting the film in Rwanda.

It was an emotionally charged screening that left the audience stunned. The audience were moved to question the underlying motivations of the genocide, as well to discuss the experiences of the panel on making the film.

John Hurt remained philosophical, saying "There are no good people, there are no bad people. What happened in Rwanda isn't reserved for one specific element of humanity. We're all capable of terrible things. Hopefully this film will help make us all aware."

Michael Caton Jones described making the film as "a truly humbling experience".

The Q & A overran with many people talking to the director personally afterwards to try make sense of what they had seen.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Murambi Memorial Centre (Rwanda)

The Murambi Memorial Centre was set up by the Aegis Trust in memory of those who died during the genocide of 1994

Inside the Murambi Memorial Centre

Monday, March 06, 2006

Eugénie Musayidire

A Rwandan living in Germany witnessing genocide from abroad.

I grew up in the village of Nyanza and have happy memories of my childhood there. My father was a doctor and was killed in 1959, but my mother didn't marry again, and I grew up with my mother and brother. In 1973 when I was in my 20s, I found my name on a list of Tutsis who were going to be arrested. I escaped overnight to Burundi. Four years later I sought asylum in Germany, where I raised a small family. My mother used to come and visit me every year for three or four months. She would talk and laugh with my German neighbour; she tended the strawberries and beans in the garden; she went to church services, to the parish fete; she was part of the community. Her last visit was from May-September 1993. I should have kept her with me. My mother thought that nothing would happen to her in Rwanda – she was an old lady, the oldest in the village, the lively and cheerful granny of orphan children. Who would dare to harm her? She was mistaken.

My mother died on 22 April 1994, in Nyanza where all the Tutsi were killed on that day. In all, 29 members of my family were killed then: my mother, my brother, his four children and his wife, my aunts, uncles, cousins, godchildren and friends. The only members of my family who survived were already living in Europe before 1994. Now I have nobody living in Rwanda. My trauma and pain in experiencing the genocide from Germany were indescribable. I would watch the television news, searching for the faces of my mother, brother and friends, hoping against hope to recognise my loved ones amidst the mass of refugees. But they were nowhere to be seen. My anguish was doubled by the fact that I knew my mother's murderer. His name was Eugène Nsanganira and he was one of our Hutu neighbours, long known to the family. He and I had played together as children. My mother taught his wife to sew, prepared his daughter for her wedding, looked after the two little ones when they were young. She used to take his family presents from Germany: soap, lotion, chocolate, biscuits, exercise books and pencils for the children. How was it that he gathered up those innocent people and marched them for an hour to prepared mass graves?

I went back to Rwanda in January 2001 to meet my mother's murderer. His sister didn't understand what her brother had done. His mother felt the same. She took me in her arms and we cried and cried together. It's difficult to explain my feelings about meeting the person who killed my mother. I can't pardon him. I don't want vengeance, but I need time and distance from him. I could possibly forgive him but he has refused to admit his responsibility for the genocide and for my mother's death. He doesn't show remorse. Yet he was my neighbour and he lived just beside us. Forgiveness is a two-way process. I am the victim and I feel sadness and mourn, but the killer must show remorse and sadness for what he or she has done.

-Eugénie Musayidire

Friday, March 03, 2006

Tuesday's Screening of Shooting Dogs

Tuesday night saw yet another hugely successful packed screening of SHOOTING DOGS at The Everyman Cinema in Hampstead. Arranged in association with leading Human Rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson QC and The Doughty Street Chambers, the film was screened to a full-house of lawyers, politicians and NGO representatives. These high profile events are proving hugely successful as platforms through which we can raise awareness of Shooting dogs. The Guardian even decided to report on the event. All that attended the screening remained in their seats as the film concluded, keen to discuss the issues raised by the film in the pursuing Q&A session. A number of interesting and important issues were raised in the discussion lead by a host of leading panelists: Geoffrey Robertson QC, Claver Gatete (The Rwandan Ambassador to the UK), Oona King (founder of The All-Party Parliamentary Group on The Great Lakes Regions and Genocide Prevention), Steven Crawshaw (UK Director of Human Rights Watch), and Guy Vassall-Adams (Barrister at The Doughty Street Chambers and author of the OXFAM report on the genocide).

Shooting Dogs won high acclaim from each of the panel members, described as the best and most important film based on the Rwandan genocide to date. These sentiments were echoed by President Kagame who watched the film in Kigali last week.

It was of the shared opinion that the film was capable of going a long way in raising awareness. Oona King pointed out and emphatically supported the central message that the film articulates as the most important factor in preventing future genocide - the importance and responsibility of the individual. To point blame after such a humanitarian crisis is of no consequence. It is the responsibility of the individual to be aware and to utilise all the power and influence within one's own personal sphere, however great or small that may be, no matter how far away from the crisis one may be, TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE.

The failure of the media at the time was brought up on a number of occasions, as was the fact that even today people are still unaware of the atrocities that took place there in 1994. Steven Crawshaw of Human Rights Watch talked of how the media constantly seems to avoid the current important issues until it is too late. The example he drew upon was of particular interest. He described how during the week of the 10 year commemoration of the Rwandan genocide in 2004, the papers were full of retrospectives on the Rwandan genocide. At this very point when the media was looking back at the world's failure in 1994, there was at that very moment, genocide taking place in Darfur. Darfur of course had no coverage.

Other topics covered were the successes and failings of gacaca as a way of bringing stability to Rwandan society, the culpability of Europe and King Leopald in initially installing the division between Hutu and Tutsi, and of course, the involvement (or lack of) of the British government in 1994.

If you would like to comment of any the issues raised at the event, please post your comments below. An audio file of the Q & A session should be available on the blog soon.

To read a PDF version of the event handout, click here.

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