Always Rwanda

This started as my on-line journal while I was living, working, and conducting my master's field research in Rwanda in 2003. I returnedto Rwanda as an Assistant Director for an educational program and decided to pick it up again.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

The 12th Anniversary

Rwandan leader to critics: 'You kept quiet' during genocide
Ceremony to bury remains marks 12th anniversary of genocide
KIGALI, Rwanda (Reuters) --

Rwanda's president denounced on Friday critics who accuse him of using the 1994 genocide as an excuse for autocratic leadership, saying their inaction in the face of the slaughter gave them no right to condemn.
President Paul Kagame spoke at a ceremony to mark the 12th anniversary of the genocide, at which more than 100 victims were exhumed from the mass graves where their ravaged bodies were cast, to be re-buried at proper memorial sites.
"You kept quiet ... when these victims wanted your help to survive the slaughter," Kagame told a crowd of thousands gathered in the southern Nyamasheke district.
"Now you begin criticizing us when we are struggling to sort out this mess caused by divisionism and sectarianism -- your unfounded criticism is not welcome," Kagame, a Tutsi, said in a speech broadcast on state television.
Critics say Kagame has clamped down harshly on political dissenters in the name of stopping divisiveness -- which he says was a cause of genocide in which 800,000 Tutsis and their Hutu sympathisers were hacked, burned and shot to death.
In Nyamasheke and the capital Kigali, decomposed skulls and other body parts gathered from mass graves hidden in valleys, hilltop jungles and pit latrines were placed into wooden coffins and buried in concrete crypts.
Up to 45,000 bodies are believed buried in the former stronghold of Hutu militias who carried out the killings.
Survivors' stories draw tears
Survivors -- including one who hid under a pile of bodies for days and survived by drinking blood oozing from the dead and his own machete wounds -- recounted their ordeals and moved many in the crowd to tears.
The ceremonies are the beginning of a week of mourning during which bars and nightclubs will be closed, flags will fly at half-staff and radio and TV will broadcast remembrances.
Kagame led a Tutsi-dominated rebel army across the small central African country in 1994 to stop the killing, overthrowing the Hutu-led government behind the slaughter.
Human rights groups accused some of his soldiers of carrying out atrocities of their own in reprisal.
In Kigali, a survivor who had come to bury remains of her two brothers said she saw no chance for peace between the Hutu and Tutsi survivors because some 54,000 culprits have been pardoned and released from prison.
"How do you expect me to swallow that bitter pill of reconciliation when I see people who killed these two brothers of mine walking freely on the streets of Kigali?" Claire Uwineza told Reuters.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Shooting Dogs

It's been a while since I have been in blog editorial mood, so forgive me if I am rusty. I just want to quickly comment on the most recent Rwanda film to hit the big screen.

Despite having made plans to see the film Shooting Dogs with friends next week, I found that my Rwanda obsession got the better of me and I slipped into a viewing on the very first day the film was released in the UK, which was last night. There have been a number of films on the Rwandan genocide to emerge in recent years, including Hotel Rwanda and Sometimes in April (in my estimation, the best at helping outsiders understand the complicated circumstances of the genocide, avoiding many of the cliches of Hotel Rwanda), and there are more to come. Although I am pleased to see the wider world taking interest in Rwanda's story, I remain an interested critic.

While the film succeeds where others have failed (Hotel Rwanda comes to mind), I still have to wonder why the West needs a white hero(ine) to stir our outrage and sympathies. Shooting Dogs centers its story around a British priest (John Hurt) and a young British teacher (Hugh Dancy), therefore our view of events comes from their perspectives. So we are thrown into the difficult choices to be made by mzungus during the genocide, distancing us from the Rwandans. They did throw in a young beautiful Rwandan woman, a promising runner, but her story was more of an appendage, linked to her crush on the handsome young British teacher. I just have to wonder when the stories of Rwandans be enough?

The film was shot entirely in Rwanda with Rwandan crew. This is no easy undertaking in a tiny country still coming to terms with it's history, where people's wounds remain open. What I found most touching at the end, and just prior to the credit roll, there were clips of Rwandan survivors among the crew. This put the human face to today's reality for many Rwandans who were themselves hurt, raped, infected with HIV/AIDS during the genocide and who naturally lost unthinkable numbers of family and friends.

The film premiered in Kigali last week at the National Stadium- The Guardian wrote the following:,,1740443,00.html

To link to the film's website: