Here There and Everywhere

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Where is Rwanda and How Do They Celebrate a Genocide Anniversary?

Today the church prays for the diocese of Byumba, in Rwanda. There is Rwanda, below, right in the heart of Africa, nestled between the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and Burundi.

 

 

Screen shot 2014-04-11 at 8.09.26 AMRwanda was in the news this last week for something very special. Most of our western news stations gave it zero coverage, but you could catch a glimpse online. This, from the Christian Science Monitor: on an amazing event just twenty years after one of the worst genocides in my memory. To me, it is wonderful and inspiring that they forgive one another and love one another to live in peace with one another. It gives me hope for our world.

The Monitor’s View

What to celebrate in Rwanda’s genocide anniversary

The 20th anniversary of the Rwanda genocide should focus as much on how the African nation worked toward reconciliation through forgiveness as on the mass slaughter itself.

 

This month, Rwanda marks the 20th anniversary of an event that its name is most associated with – the 1994 mass slaughter of the Tutsi minority and many in the majority Hutu. Over 100 days starting April 7, more than 800,000 people were killed, many by neighbors incited to ethnic hatred by a political elite. It is a genocide often cited since then to justify military intervention in similar ongoing atrocities.

This type of reparative justice in an intimate setting could prove useful in countries that will need post-conflict healing, such as Syria, Colombia, andMyanmar (Burma). It might also help prevent a cycle of revenge and retribution in those countries, as it has in Rwanda.

Most of Rwanda’s main perpetrators in the genocide have been tried in regular courts, either in Rwanda, Europe,, or the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, set up by the United Nations. But for hundreds of thousands of others who were charged with killing, the Rwandan criminal-justice system was too weak and its jails too full. Legal trials would have taken decades. The country had to fall back on a form of community-based traditional justice known asgacaca.

Other post-conflict countries in transition, notably South Africa, have relied on a similar process with their truth-and-reconciliation commissions. But the bodies have usually been more formal and national in scope. Rwanda’s gacaca are far more personal, designed to achieve the end result of allowing people who knew each other to resume living in the same community. They also bring together an entire village to witness a confession, attest to its sincerity, encourage forgiveness by the victim, and agree on some reparation, such as helping till a victim’s fields for a time.

It hasn’t worked in every case. Many Tutsis who killed Hutus have not been tried. Many victims could not bear the trauma of hearing how their loved ones had died. And many Hutus disappeared or were able to hide from the truth.

The government under President Paul Kagame, despite its drift toward authoritarian rule, has encouraged the process by outlawing formal use of ethnic identities. “The divisionism of before is gone. All of us now have equal access to opportunities,” a young Rwandan told The Christian Science Monitor.

The gacaca rely on the guilty to listen to the stories of their victims with empathy, admit their acts with repentance, and rethink their self-identity within the community. For the victims who forgive, the process can lift feelings of rage and bitterness. Much of the justice lies in the restoration of relationships as much as in material reparations.

Rwanda is not yet a “post-ethnic” African nation. But the possibility of a future political class inciting Hutus and Tutsis to take up violence now seems slim. More Rwandans have a higher sense of identity.

As the world helps Rwanda mark the 1994 genocide, it should also spread the lessons of this post-genocide reconciliation. Dispute resolution is a common technique in every society, whether in families or courts. But when almost every village in an entire nation goes through it, the lesson is worth repeating elsewhere.

 

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April 11, 2014 Posted by | Africa, Charity, Circle of Life and Death, Civility, Cultural, Events, Faith, Leadership, Living Conditions, Political Issues, Relationships, Social Issues, Values | , | Leave a comment

Confessions of a Sudanese deserter

“Khalid”, a member of the Janjaweed tells about the Sudanese scorched earth policy in today’s BBC News:

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The International Criminal Court is set to announce whether or not it is to issue a warrant for the arrest of the President of Sudan President al-Bashir, for alleged war crimes in Darfur.

The Sudanese government has always said the accusations are political but now one of the country’s former soldiers, who served in Darfur, has been telling his story to the BBC’s Mike Thomson.

Khalid (not his real name), a polite and softly spoken man from Darfur, seems reluctant to talk about his past. It is soon clear why.

“The orders given to us were to burn the villages completely,” he says.

“We even had to poison the water wells. We were also given orders to kill all the woman and rape girls under 13 and 14.”

Khalid, who is of black African origin, says he was forcibly recruited into President Omar al-Bashir’s Sudanese army in late 2002.

He and several other men where he lived were taken to the headquarters of his regiment which was based near the north-western Darfur town of Fasher.

He admits to having taken part in seven different attacks on Darfur villages with the help of Janjaweed militia.

The first one was in the Korma area in December 2002 several months before the conflict in Darfur officially began.

He claims to have been extremely reluctant to carry out the savage orders he was given.

“When they asked me to rape the girl, I went and stood in front of her,” he said.
“Tears came into my eyes. They said: ‘You have to rape her. If you don’t we will beat you.’ I hesitated and they hit me with the butt of a rifle.

“But when I went to the girl I couldn’t do it. I took her into a corner and lay myself on top of her as if I was raping her for about 10 to 15 minutes.

“Then, I jumped up and came out. They said: ‘Did you rape her?’ I said: ‘Yes, I did’.”
Khalid says that soon after this he and the other soldiers went back to base.
When they got there he was told to join another patrol immediately.

When he refused they beat and tortured him, inflicting severe burns on his legs and back.

He spent five weeks in a military hospital recovering from his injuries.
Before long, he said, he was ordered to join other brutal raids on Darfur villages.
I asked him what he was told to do with unarmed civilians who did not resist in any way.

“They told us, don’t leave anybody, just kill everybody,” he said.

“Even the children, if left behind in the huts, we had to kill them,” he said. “People would cry and run from their huts.

“Many couldn’t take their all their children. If they had more than two they had to leave them behind. If you saw them you had to shoot and kill.”

Khalid insists that he always fired over the heads of civilians and didn’t kill anyone himself despite the orders he was given.

He says he could do this without his fellow soldiers noticing but he admits that there was no way he could avoid carrying out orders to torch peoples homes.

The six-year conflict has spawned more than two million refugees

“I did take part,” he admitted. “They forced me. We had no choice. If you didn’t they would kill you.”

Did anyone refuse?

“Two of my colleagues refused and they were shot dead.”

You can read the entire article by clicking BBC NEWS: Dharfur

March 4, 2009 Posted by | Africa, Bureaucracy, Dharfur, Political Issues, Sudan | , | 11 Comments