Rwanda owes a lot to its strong women

Genocides have occurred in parts of the world at different times before, but the genocide against Batutsi has a gruesomeness all its own. Last Saturday I was jolted by a BBC’s report into remembering that hardly anybody talks about the lives of rape victims after those horrendous hundred days.

Genocides have occurred in parts of the world at different times before, but the genocide against Batutsi has a gruesomeness all its own.

Last Saturday I was jolted by a BBC’s report into remembering that hardly anybody talks about the lives of rape victims after those horrendous hundred days.

I doubt if many people have taken the time to imagine it. Take a church like the one in Ntarama, about 20 kilometres south of Kigali, on this day, 16th in April 1994. It has been attacked countless times but, against all imaginable odds, there are still children, women and men breathing, albeit weakened and hungry.

To finish off the besieged victims, Interahamwe lob grenades into the church. After that, they go in to mop up and make sure that no one has survived. In the process, however, a number of crazed Interahamwe find a 15-year-old girl who is wounded but still breathing.

They fish her out from under the dead bodies and drag her into the woods behind the church, amidst her passionate pleas to be finished off. They gang-rape her and then the last of those maniacal monsters gives her the last blow with his nail-studded bludgeon, leaving her for dead. Miraculously, she is not.

By the time Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) fighters discover her, she is all spent and practically empted of blood.

They take her to the only existing health facility that is functional (though ‘functional’ is a grand word) and leave her to go on with their battle, after instructing a surviving family to care for her.

Imagine no more, for Claudine is such a one. Claudine survived in similar circumstances and has come out to tell her story.

The family nursed and catered for her, good souls, until they noticed her expanding middle and guessed. Poor Claudine, of course, she was too young and it had not occurred to her that she was pregnant.

The family explained the abomination to the sixteen-year-old and gave her the only advice they could think of: terminate the pregnancy. To Claudine, that was killing a life and her consent meant that she would be the perpetrator of that death. That was more imponderable than mothering the blood of Interahamwe.

She fled and sought sanctuary with another family, but the new family could not imagine such a birth, either. Nor could any of the other families that she attempted to settle with, after that. Even after giving birth to a daughter, the best advice any family could think of giving her was for her to abandon the daughter.

Claudine continued to roam the land, looking for temporary abode wherever she could, knowing no one would bear the shame of permanently sheltering her. Finally, she was helped by her government and also found a new charity organisation, SEVOTA, which was founded in 1995 by a genocide widow, Godelieve Mukasirasi, to help similar victims.

There are close to 5,000 such women in the country who are mothers to an equal number of beautiful 15- and 16-year-olds now.

They have borne the agony of being mothers to the blood of the mass-murderers of their families in a genocide whose nature and scale confounded human imagination.

They faced rejection and bewilderment from a community of their surviving relatives because at first these latter could not fathom the import of such a hitherto alien situation.

Still, the rape victims soldiered on and slowly learnt to lend love to their innocent offspring, showing example to the community they lived in.

In turn, the community of Rwandans has learnt to appreciate them and in the process has learnt another cog in a wheel that must speak to the mistakes of the history of this country.

It is these collective cogs that inform the laws of this land and that have given birth to such innovations as the gacaca community court system.

It is no wonder, then, that all those who have not been part of this painstakingly patient evolution find the governance of Rwanda a puzzle.

Nor is it any wonder that the vocal ‘mockery mongers’ (Abacuruza gukoronga!) and compulsive hecklers of the West, and the misguided nationals clinging to them, hasten to denounce the Rwandan style of rule.

We know, after all, that to these bigoted know-alls of the West all is sham which is not fashioned in the West. Not that some of these home-grown laws do not bear semblance to ones that they are familiar with.

Why shout wolf at ‘the law against genocide ideology’, for instance, when ‘anti-Semitism’ is all but too clear to you?
Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, Reporters Sans Frontières, The Committee to Protect Journalists and other ‘human rights terrorists’ must give Rwanda a chance to stay her course of evolution.

No one said there was anything wrong with re-inventing the wheel, if there is no other that fits the home engine.
From the ashes of the souls of the strong women of this land, and from the ashes of the souls of all Rwandans herein, has risen a new Rwandan that has forged, and is predicated on, the hard bedrock of unity.

Let the body of Rwanda reject they who attempt to derail that unity!

pbutam@yahoo.com

 

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