Bisesero resistors embody values to protect human lives, says author Oscar Gasana

Bisesero comprises nine hills that make up the zone that formed the 1994 battlefield where Tutsis fearlessly tried to defend themselves against the militiamen.
Dr Oscar Gasana (R) the author of Les collines se souviennent and Dr Jean-Damascène Gasanabo, the moderator, at the book launch by the former. / Courtesy

The story of Tutsis in western Rwanda’s Bisesero hills who resisted their slaughter during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi holds a lot of message for those who want to promote values of human dignity and resist genocide ideology.

The highlight was made Thursday evening by author Oscar Gasana, a Rwandan based in Canada, during the launch of his new book in Kigali.

Written in French, the book is entitled: “Les collines se souviennent: Les rescapés de Bisesero racontent leur résistance, deux décennies après le génocide des Tutsi”, roughly translated “The hills remember: The survivors of Bisesero tell of their resistance, two decades after the genocide of the Tutsi”.

By collecting testimonies of the survivors of Bisesero, the book documents how the Tutsis of the area organised themselves into a strong fighting group and resisted their killing by Interahamwe genocide militia, until they were overpowered by the genocidal forces.

For Gasana, that resistance spirit needs to be nurtured across the Rwandan and global community to promote values of protecting human lives and fight against the forces of genocide ideology.

“These are values that can help in the moral reconstruction of our country,” he said of the values of resistance to evil and the fact that it happened during the genocide in Rwanda.

He added: “Human life was extremely trivialised in this country and values of sacredness and dignity for human life need to be promoted and protected”.

The book launch was made under the Café Littéraire series organised by the National Commission for the Fight against Genocide (CNLG).

It attracted many in the audience, including First Lady Jeannette Kagame.

Bisesero, which is currently part of Western Province’s Karongi District, is known for the bravery of Tutsis who had sought refuge in the hills during the Genocide and organised one of the toughest and heroic resistances against Interahamwe militia killers.

Bisesero comprises nine hills that make up the zone that formed the 1994 battlefield where Tutsis fearlessly tried to defend themselves against the militiamen.

From April to June 1994 in Rwanda, the Basesero fiercely defended against the government army and heavily armed Interahamwe militiamen. From a community of 60,000 people, only 800 survived, after three months of human butchery.

Gasana’s book analyzes the resistance of survivors of Bisesero from the perspective of the sociology of resistance as a collective action by which individuals collectively express their basic needs and deploy appropriately to satisfy them.

He says that the book shows that even under conditions as dangerous as those of Bisesero, resistance remains an option that embodies values for the future.

The author argues that by affirming their dignity facing the killers and building a sense of pride and self-determination in the face of adversity, values embodied by the Tutsi of Bisesero can still serve as a foundation for the moral and socio-political reconstruction of a people.

Many participants at the book launch, including Rwandan playwright Kalisa Rugano, agreed with the author that Rwandans need to keep a resistance spirit, especially against the terrible genocide ideology.

“Yes, we have to resist because promoters of darkness are still around,” Rugano said.

Café Littéraire, which is a session at which literary works are discussed, is organised by CNLG as part of efforts to educate the young generation about the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi and how its denial can be prevented.