The healthy but weighty burden of forgiveness

The national Genocide against the Tutsi commemoration week may have ended last April 13 but we’ll never cease to remember. Not only during the full bloody hundred days before its halt but for all the days after. And as we continue to remember, so do we, to be amazed.

The manifestation of the genocide ideology, it still dares rear its ugly head?

 

Take this piece of a police report: “Fifty-five cases of genocide ideology and other crimes were recorded” during commemoration.

 

55 cases of twisting a knife in the collective wound of genocide survivors, doesn’t it gall your inside?

 

Indeed, cynical perpetrators and sympathizers continue to scoff at the genocide ideology crime. Not considering genocide ideology with the gravity it deserves alone should be a crime.

Because, consider one case of what was reported: “… a genocide survivor ….was raped in Ruhango district…”

What is behind such evil, if not genocide ideology? Pray, in these times of agony for survivors, is there any worse way of tormenting survivors?

And Rwandans, as witness and kinfolk, who is so cold-hearted as to have been left untouched or not to be sharing their pain today, except the foreign-based genocide fugitives?

Foetuses being knife-gouged out of wombs; babies’ skulls cracked open and lifeless against walls; women gang-raped after which jagged wood pieces were inserted into them to wait for excruciating death; old men buried up to their necks and their bleeding heads left at the mercy of vultures; whole families meeting their death in flooded, frozen swamps under unceasingly torrential rains…..

Oh, the hideousness and goriness of what besmirched this land make the stomach turn!

38 suspected criminals have been arrested and, knowing the efficiency of our police, those still at large will soon be nabbed.

Problem is, only to serve a few years, if not months, in prison and that’s it. In no time then, they’ll be back among us, laughing with us.

Which tempts you, doesn’t it, into entertaining the nostalgic thought of the abolished punishment of death by hanging….

But then again, let’s sober up and think back. Only then will how “we continue to be amazed” reveal itself to us.

Personally, to think back, I am aided by an interview a friend shared with me. It was in a French newspaper, Le Figaro, of November 22-23, 1997.

“So,” the interviewer opens, “Paul Kagame, you are this [Napoléon] Bonaparte who chased the French away from central Africa?”

True to his character, then Vice-President and Minister for Defence Paul Kagame dismisses that comparison (at heart, I guess) and goes on to explain how the cause of the armed struggle was not about the French but solely to liberate Rwandans from the forces of division.

That, though, doesn’t feed the journalist’s curiosity, which is the true thrust of his purpose for interview.

To summarise the journalist’s interview, its aim is to bring out the “strong man’s” (as he’d been dubbed) rage when, in January 1992 French police burst into his room and shouted: “You are under arrest!”

When the VP nonchalantly pleads that he’d not like to be drawn into it in case anybody thinks he harbours any grudge or rancour, the journalist is deflated. “When you were there at the officials’ invitation, whom you had talked to?” The journalist’s incredulity is palpable.

Yes, the VP calmly answers, he had thought it would be a chance to explain how the struggle was about Rwandans liberating their country and didn’t concern the French, but he was received with threats instead. “If you don’t stop the war, if you seize the country, you’ll never find your brothers and families,” they pressured, “they’ll all have been wiped out!”

And no bitterness at all, even after, on top of that, spending 12 hours in a detention cell, isolated from the comrades he visited with?  The journalist is flat dumbfounded.

This ‘busy-bee’ “strong man”, by an official invitation plucked from the frontline where he led a thinly armed and hardly provisioned guerrilla force, only to face threats and be thrown into a cold cell. Now here the man was as VP, and not a ‘morsel’ of resentment?

The journalist knew about Opération Turquoise, of course. About how the RPA fighters had captured French forces on a mission to wipe them and their “families” out. And then let them free, with just a message for their commanders to leave Rwandans alone!

Space constrains us, otherwise a lot can be said about that interview and what it foreboded.

Suffice it to say that as the journalist continues to be amazed by such unimaginable forgiveness, so do we, as Rwandans. That that VP had led a force so harmonised that revenge was far from anyone’s mind, even at the sight of their own families freshly massacred.

That he could lead Rwandans all, including perpetrators and survivors, into regaining their long lost unity of purpose, devoid of any ill feelings.

And that for affording to be weighted by that burden of forgiveness, Rwandans are today the true African turnaround society of modern times.

Yes, we’ll continue to be amazed!

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