Fear as Thousands of Killers Come Home ; Rwanda: As the Nation Remembers Those Who Died in the Genocide 10 Years Ago, Survivors Say That Forgiving Is Impossible
Walsh, Declan, The Independent on Sunday (London, England)
It is a hill like any other in Rwanda. Curvy-horned cattle ramble along the dirt road. Lush banana groves cling to the slope, nestled between rows of simple, mud-walled dwellings. Some house the survivors of the genocide that blazed across these hills a decade ago. Others hold the killers that carried it out.
Virginie Mujawayezo, a 25-year-old Tutsi, lost her entire family to machete- wielding Hutus. Now the militiamen are her neighbours again. Two "genocidaires" live further up the hill. They were released from prison after pleading guilty and claiming repentance. Virginie does not believe them. "It's impossible to forgive," she said in her front room, her infant baby suckling at her breast. "It has been 10 years now. They should have asked for forgiveness a long time ago."
Fear and frustration tinge the immense sadness of the genocide commemorations, which take place this Wednesday. Diplomats and a handful of heads of state will join Rwandans for a solemn reflection on the orgy of murder that swept across the tiny central African country, and the West's shameful failure to stop it.
The Tutsi-dominated government preaches ethnic reconciliation. On the surface, the message seems to be taking root. Rwanda has become one of Africa's safest countries, and ethnicity is something of a taboo subject, at least in public. But on hilltops like this one, in the southern province of Gikongoro, the wounds remain raw. "Everything looks good but it's a pretence. There is still a lot of anger and fear. Rwandans are very good at hiding things," said Fr Nicky Hennity, an Irish missionary in the area.
Gikongoro was the scene of some of the genocide's earliest and most brutal massacres. Town officials, soldiers and simple farmers conspired to butcher tens of thousands of Tutsis. Today the victims' remains are on public display, stacked on shelves in the deserted classrooms of Murambi school in a grim memorial to the slaughter. Across the valley more than 3,000 suspected perpetrators are crammed into the local prison, awaiting trials that may never take place in the swamped judicial system.
Last year the government released 28,000 prisoners to relieve the pressure. Among them was Vincent Seruvumba, 54, who returned to his hilltop house above Virginie Mujawayezo. The farmer denied killing anyone. "I saw a baby being killed at a roadblock. They used a hoe. But I didn't take part," he said, eyes darting back and forth as he spoke. And these days his Tutsi neighbours had nothing to be afraid of, he added. "Things are much better. There are no more problems. We can even drink together in the bars."
The survivors are unconvinced. Down the slope Florien Mukarubuga said she feared men like Vincent, and their hoes. A decade ago a Hutu gang cut her husband and three children to pieces. She knows the killers used hoes because when the police forced them to exhume the bodies, they re- enacted the murder, blow by blow.
Many Tutsi survivors feel let down since 1994. Promised compensation has failed to materialise. …