From something worse than zero

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Phillip Gourevitch, author of We Wish to Inform You that Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families, and Joseph Sebarenzi, former speaker of the Rwandan parliament, talked with CNN last week about Rwanda’s development since the 1994 genocide, the upcoming election in August, 2010 and hopes and fears for the future. You can watch the discussion at CNN or if bandwidth is an issue, you can read the transcript.

While both Gourevitch and Sebarenzi are optimistic for the future of Rwanda, given the development the country has made since 1994, there are fears that a number of unaddressed issues might come back to bite the country in the butt. Gourevitch published a piece in The New Yorker in May which goes into greater detail about Rwanda’s recovery since 1994. Here’s a snippet from the excellent article,

I never did meet a survivor who spoke well of gacaca. “It’s awful,” a friend of mine in Kigali said, a gentle family man of enormous quiet strength, who had served for a time as a minister in Kagame’s government. For nearly a year, he had had to go back again and again to the village where his mother had lived, to attend the trials of her murderers. He was glad to learn the truth, but he said, “The arrogance of these guys, just standing there, telling how they killed my mother, where they threw her. It was nothing to them.”

But none of the survivors I spoke with thought that there was a better solution. Never mind reconciliation, Tutsis and Hutus had to coexist. Sagahutu, my translator, expressed the sentiment most succinctly: “It’s our obligation, and it’s our only way to survive, and I do it every day, and I still can’t comprehend it.”

“At the beginning, it is very fragile, but with time I think it holds,” Kagame told me. Then he told me a story. Every year, on 7 April, Kagame presides over a national genocide-commemoration ceremony at one of the major massacre sites that have been preserved as memorials to the victims. In 2005, a young man in his mid-20s got up to speak. “A survivor,” Kagame said. “Somebody who was killed, almost, and dumped in a mass grave of close to 4,000 people. Our forces arrived after they had just been killed and brought out 12 people from the grave who lived. They had been cut with machetes and were in very bad shape.”

Kagame told me that when the young man got to the end of his account he said, “Recently, some of those people who killed our families have been released… They are there in the village, living normally.” It was Kagame, of course, who had granted the killers their reprieve, so he called the young man over. “And I asked him, ‘How do you manage? When you meet them, what is your feeling?’ This young man looked me in the face and he said, ‘Well, President, I manage because you ask us to manage.'” Kagame repeated the man’s words in a tone of astonishment. “This is what he told me.” But it turned out that the released killers avoided the survivor in his village. “They would rather take another route,” Kagame said. “When he passes them, they always look down. You see, it’s like, ‘We are managing because… what else?'” link

Photo taken from the Kigaliwire Flickr account

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