Each time the Genocide commemoration beckons I try very desperately to come to terms with what happened. My basic understanding is that the 1994 Genocide was one of the most trying moments in the history of humanity during the last century.
It’s aftermath, just like the Jewish Holocaust, will continue being felt for many years to come. That is my understanding as a student of history.
I also try to understand it from the perspective of a Kenyan. While working in the media I have tried as hard as I could to research and acquaint myself with this very tragic event that visited Rwanda’s rolling hills.
While working for the last two years in Rwanda I have taken time to study and talk to some people who survived the horrors of the Genocide.
Personally out of sheer disbelief I have been unable to visit the many Genocide Memorial sites. I simply cannot muster enough guts to stand in front of the remains which stand as testimony to the rape and torture that some Rwandans endured.
Each time I gather the courage to visit, say Gisozi, some feeling engulf my senses that are very difficult to explain. These strange feelings make me postpone my visits. Personally it is very difficult to come to terms with what happened.
Kenya my country is a society with its own set of challenges. Pockets of unimaginable violence are known to visit Nairobi city dwellers once too often. I will not talk about the post election violence that visited Kenyans in 2009.
However what I want to share with my readers is that in Nairobi there are some incidences that just pass as normal. Such similar incidences cannot pass as ‘normal’ in Kigali specifically and Rwanda generally. I will illustrate my point.
Just last week on Easter Friday as I was on a bus coming to work as we drove down to Sopetrade I noticed that very many cars and ‘motos’ had stopped.
These cars and ‘motos’ had actually, in the spirit of the Good Samaritan, come to the rescue of two motorists who had an accident early in the morning.
In the bus passengers craned their necks to catch the scene and you could here most of them crying out loudly at how ‘tragic’ the accident was. I have since noticed that this kind of great concern is actually the norm in Rwanda.
For us in Kenya, such incidences cannot attract the attention of more than two passersby. Perhaps it is only horrendous acts by say marauding machete wielding gangs of Mungiki that can attract the attention and sympathy of Kenyans. But not a ‘normal’ car accident as is the case in Rwanda that Easter Friday.
But that observation had me thinking. How come Rwandans are so caring about a simple ‘Moto’? If that is the case then really what happened in 1994 during that fateful 100 days?
How come people never came to the rescue of those who suffered at the hands of murderers and rapists? What really happened to the humanism and compassionate brotherhood that I see around?
Is it that because of what happened in 1994 that Rwandans are now such ‘Good Samaritans at the moment? Honestly speaking as a Kenyan whenever the Genocide Commemoration beckons I find myself asking some of these questions.
I will try very hard to visit the Gisozi Genocide Memorial this time around. I hope I will muster enough courage.
Fred Oluoch-Ojiwah is a journalist with The New Times