I sat back in confusion. I came to listen to a story to tell the world, but the story was told and summarized in a wrapper full of tears.
By Catherine Tamale
“They kicked me, they dislocated my hip joint, and they called me a cockroach! I was a stranger in my own home. I had one meal a day, eaten behind my bathroom door, with a suckling baby on my back. “Why don’t we rape her first before we kill her?” I had the Interahamwe murmur to each other.” Nyiragunga narrates to me her ordeal. With eyes blurred with tears, she looks away and for a moment she seems to be lost in thought.
She bites her lips, trying to gather strength, but tears betray her. With trembling hands, she pulls her wrapper trying to wipe her eyes. She gives up to pain and begins to cry. The moment when she remembers how her dignity was becoming a thing in the service of a stranger. I began to think of noble words of consolation to comfort her, but her grief was so grave for comfort. I endure the seemingly longest 10 minutes of deafening silence. I sat back in confusion. I came to listen to a story to tell the world, but the story was told and summarized in a wrapper full of tears.
This is the moment dreaded by every genocide survivor. The moment when they to turn to the pillow of a painful past and lay on it. Victims of a sad fate they did not choose.
Nyiragunga was interviewed during the Citizen Forums to commemorate 22 years after the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi, organized by Never Again Rwanda, was 32 years old when the genocide happened.
Judith Lewis Herman, a psychologist put it this way: “The conflict between the will to deny horrible events and the will to proclaim them aloud is the central dialectic of psychological trauma.”
In April 1994, Rwanda registered one of the worst genocides in the 20th century. The 1994 genocide against the Tutsi claimed an estimated number of about a million Tutsi and moderate Hutus in killings that were planned and orchestrated by the then Hutu government.
The crime of genocide has been recognized, however, the obvious facts have been denied. For Rwanda to constitute genocide preventions, the genocide ideology should not be denied, but ought to be accepted by not only Rwandans, but also the world and other international bodies in question. Denial will not only perpetuate trauma, but will also incite genocide. It is important to explode the myth surrounding the Rwanda genocide against the Tutsi.
Denial is characterized by the rewriting of the history of the genocide, criminalizing the victims and clearing of the killers. The root cause of the Rwandan genocide lies in the extent to which collective identities have been mythologized and manipulated for political advantage. The Hutus were not only ethnic labels, but rather social categories that carry an enormous emotional change. When deaths have been dispensed so massively and cruelly, one wonders whether the wounds would ever heal.
The legacy of horror casts a long shadow on the capacity of the Rwandan society to rise from its own ashes. It raises the question about the chances of reconciliation among the Rwandans and how another genocide can be prevented. In seeking answers to this question, we have to embrace the fact that the genocide against the Tutsi happened in the first place. Therefore justice ought to be served in order for reconciliation to take root.
As we celebrate the 22nd Kwibuka commemorations, we remember the genocidal massacres and the lives that were affected. Rwanda lights a candle and mourns the people who lost their lives, families that were distorted, property that was lost and most importantly the trauma that still looms over the lives affected.
Rwanda cannot forget what happened, but rather we choose to heal, reconcile and ensure another genocide does not happen again.
The writer is a communications specialist
Never Again Rwanda