Magazine article Anglican Journal

Genocide in Rwanda Happened to All of Us

Magazine article Anglican Journal

Genocide in Rwanda Happened to All of Us

Article excerpt

Shake Hands with the Devil The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda by Lt.-Gen. Romeo Dallaire Random House 562 pages; $39.95.

I HAVE LONG wanted to meet Lt.-Gen. Romeo Dallaire. Our paths briefly crossed in October of 1993. I was standing in front of the Mille Collines Hotel in Kigali, Rwanda, where he had just arrived as head of the United Nations peacekeeping mission there. He approached the hotel briskly, revealing the sense of determination related to his mission for which he was ultimately to become famous. Over the ensuing 10 years, I have wanted to hear his take on what happened in Rwanda since that sun-drenched afternoon in Kigali. Only reports of his fragile condition prevented me from contacting him. With the publication of his book, Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda, I now have his story.

I was then (and still am) the Primate's World Relief and Development Fund's staff person with responsibility for PWRDF's program in the Great Lakes region of Africa, including Rwanda. In 1993, I was in Kigali with Janet Dench, who is now chair of the PWRDF board of directors. We were on a partnership visit to the Episcopal Church in Burundi, Rwanda's neighbour. As we were en route, a group of soldiers seized Burundi's first ever democratically-elected president and murdered him. The borders to the country were closed as the killing of President Melchior Ndadaye gave rise to a slew of ethnic killings and reprisal killings. We made our way to Rwanda instead.

Stopping in a quickly-growing refugee camp in a local school, hundreds of people surrounded us, their faces showing the shock of their experience. Just one man spoke up--he asked that we tell the world what was happening in their country.

No such petition was needed in Rwanda in 1994. After the plane carrying Rwanda's President Juvenal Habyarimana was shot down on April 6, killing him and Ndadaye's replacement, President Cyprien Ntaryamira, the international media conveyed what unfolded. Over the 100 days that followed, Rwanda experienced a horrific bloodbath that ultimately surpassed what had happened in Burundi.

During those days, many Canadians turned the channel, finding the images too horrific to watch. I watched newscasts, seeking the faces of partners I worked with. I knew some would be targeted in the genocidal frenzy because they were Tutsis. Many nights I tried to telephone my friend Rev. Alphonse Karuhije. A Tutsi and then-dean of the cathedral (and one of the few people I knew with a home phone), he co-ordinated the development work in the diocese of Kigali. When I eventually got a lead as to where Alphonse was hiding, I contacted the Department of Foreign Affairs; they, in turn, I heard, contacted Lt.-Gen. Dallaire's troops who went to look for him. It was too late.

Despite the frenzy of media attention that Rwanda provoked in 1994, the press has fallen eerily silent about efforts to render justice for what happened ... except when Romeo Dallaire speaks. One would think that the media would consider the international criminal tribunal sitting in Arusha, Tanzania, to be high drama, even if its wheels turn so slowly that it has taken a decade for those accused of being the genocide's chief organizers to come to trial. We must wonder, why does the name Bagosora not merit the same public sanction as Milosovic or Eichmann?

However the media chooses to present the story, I am deeply grateful that Lt. …

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