There is fortifying power in revisiting our past agony

The season of sorrow is upon us. And we must go there where we dread, for the twenty-fifth time. “Dread”, all despite our ever-pressing reminder that go there, we must.

The anguish of remembering is omnipresent on our conscience. It’s inescapable. Yet how we need it!

Let’s remember then, because there is cathartic and fortifying power in revisiting our past agony. That is, hoping you can bear the pain of the graphic nature of that past savagery.

So, much as we may fear the pain of the memory, let’s by all means force it upon ourselves.

It’s early January, 1995. The place: Nyamata shopping centre, a few km south of Kigali.

In Nyamata Church, in front of the altar, by its side under the gaze of Mother Mary, baby Jesus fondly held to her breast. There lies the rotting skeletal bodies of a mother and her baby, baby held in the fold of her left arm. Both their necks are half-severed.

The legs of the mother are tied separately to pews, one on the left, the other on the right. A jagged piece of tree branch sticks out from in-between.

That whole spectacle, what did it mean?

The crazed and demonic Interahamwe, after mass-raping the woman, facilitating their ghastly enterprise by securing legs to pews, had half-severed those necks.

And they did not spare Mother of Jesus and her baby, either. They cut off their noses for being sharp like those of their hated victims. The unearthly brutes, it’s a wonder they didn’t pull down the statuette of Mary for a round of raping.

Today, those skeletal remains, with myriad others, have been decently buried by today’s leadership.

Then there was the little girl who, on her way from the water well, happened to see these monsters butchering her parents and siblings. She climbed up a tree in their compound to hide in the branches. At dusk she escaped, physically unharmed but had to flee from the home she knew.

Playing cat-and-mouse games with roadblocks mounted by Interahamwe, from the south somehow she managed to reach Kigali, exhausted but miraculously still breathing. There she met a ‘Good Samaritan’ who hid her in his house that he always kept locked.

Only to turn out to be Lucifer himself.

Every night after day-long work (dirty euphemism for their heartless slaughter campaign), he subjected her to raping that left her young body completely shattered.

Still, with crumbs of left-overs he threw to her, she managed to survive and, at her tender age, even got pregnant. When later weeks passed without him showing, she screamed for attention and finally got it. The RPF/A had liberated the country.

The fiend, none knows where he ended up.

Today, his victim enjoys modern accommodation in a modern housing estate, courtesy of the First Lady’s caring foundation. Unfortunately, for being too long in the dark, she lost the sight to see her now grown up daughter and furnished house.

Needless to say, she can hardly walk.

In south-western Rwanda, where the so-called ‘humanitarian’ Zone Turquoise dwelt, there was the case of a young boy so repeatedly and for so long sodomised that the French soldier keeping him captive threw him out of his tent for dead. But against all odds, he managed to crawl along the local path till a merciful old woman took him home, to nurse his frail body.

Alas, today he lives in a home for the mentally disturbed, with others similarly permanently damaged.

We could go on and on. But, in the confines of this page, how do you recount the torturous experiences of 1.04 million-plus cases, and counting? Counting, as there are still more remains being unearthed in hitherto unknown mass graves.

And then these genocide deniers the world over can insultingly dismiss the number as simply a mere “more than 800”? How callous can you be, to denigrate these victims’ memory thus?

Foetuses that were cut out of wombs and killed while mothers bled to death. Babies that were smashed against walls, many by their own mixed parents. Whole families that were buried alive. Worse, if worse there could be, those buried up to their necks and left at the mercy of vultures, wild beasts and dogs. And the catalogue of ghastly cases goes on.

These victims are, and have always been, part of us, of course. But we who were gored by this barbarity, after the fact – not really going through this gruesomeness – can hardly feel the loneliness and anguish that excavates into the insides of survivors of this hell.

Surely, what magnanimity must they be enamoured with, that they can go over all this and get the heart to forgive? Just forget your selfish preoccupations for a minute and imagine it!

Of course, this should never be lost on us, either. A leadership that can navigate through the complexities of persuading survivors to stretch their hearts and perpetrators to bend theirs in a campaign to weave them into unity of purpose is no run-of-the-mill leadership.

Friend or foe, they cannot but admit. This leadership is a once-in-a-life-time occurrence.

It’s the sheer possibility of all this that toughens this society’s resolve to say “Never Again!”

And enables it gallop towards the table of respected nations.

butapa@gmail.com

The views expressed in this article are of the author.

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