Marked for death, and not by strangers

In 1994 I had just joined high school and being a sucker for current affairs I recall three major occurrences in that year; the first multiracial elections in South Africa that saw Mandela become not only the first black, but also the first democratically elected president.

Malawi held its first multi-party elections, and the shooting down of a plane carrying then Rwandan President Habyarimana and his Burundian counterpart Cyprien. Events that followed the downing of that plane will forever be etched in the history of Rwanda.

 

I was in Kenya and Rwanda being closer to home, my heart bled for its people. The 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi went on for 100 days, it was painful to watch on TV and hear of it on the radio, the death toll kept rising. Eventually the Interahamwe militia were overpowered and peace was restored.

 

Rwanda did all it could to emerge from this horrendous experience. I prayed that humanity had learnt a lesson from this. I remember crying telling my father that human beings were worse than animals.

 

In 2007 in Kenya it felt like deja vu; this time, hurting so much because it was at home and over an election. I wondered why mankind never learns from history. It was written somewhere that the main lesson we learn from history is that we don’t learn from history. We read about it, we don’t learn.

In 1994 people would be picked from their homes and forced out of cars and be hacked to death. They would be singled out from groups of people and marked for death. Now in 2007, after we had voted in Kenya it all started like a rumour that there was ethnic violence.

This was not new during an election only that we did not know that it was going to be like nothing we had witnessed in the country before. Along Eldoret-Nakuru-Naivasha road public service vehicles would be stopped and people from either of the two warring tribes would be killed depending on who had put a roadblock.

There were other areas like Kisumu where it was the Luos and Kikuyus. A church was burnt somewhere near Eldoret town and the story is told of a woman who was trying to run for safety with a toddler who was grabbed from her hand and thrown right into that fire.

I’ll never forget a woman in a village near ours whose granary was burnt to ashes and her house demolished. People lost their properties, some lost their loved ones while others survived with injuries, until today there are still people living in IDP camps.

As opposed to 1994 in Rwanda where I was watching on TV, 2007 was happening in my backyard, anyone who was deemed to be politically different was bound to be dealt with. I was frightened. I cried. I prayed. I hated mankind.

Who could be so heartless to burn the house of someone they had sold land to a few years before, someone whose children went to the same school as their own? In 1994 I cried for Rwanda wondering why humanity could be so heartless. How could anyone master the courage to kill their spouse, children or neighbour just because they were of a different ethnicity?

I recall a story of a young boy who ran to the neighbour’s house for refuge but he was chased away from that house where he had had a meal countless times before. He was thrown right into the hands of the Interahamwe militia by ‘family friends’.

As Rwanda marks the 26th commemoration of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, we continue to pray that it will never happen again. May the rest of humanity learn from Rwanda’s history and strive to make the world a better place.

editor@newtimesrwanda.com

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