When death is just deserts

Speak no ill of the dead. If you had any intention, better keep mum. Wish them no harm, even if they had done enough evil to earn them eternal damnation.

That is the unwritten code of behaviour towards the dead among Rwandans and I suppose most other people. We generally keep to this social convention.

It is perhaps a concession to the fact that the dead have no right of reply and so cannot defend themselves. It is therefore only fair to let them be and go to their resting place with all their baggage intact.

Besides, death usually causes sorrow and when people are in a state of sadness, they have neither the energy, nor the inclination to speak ill of others.

Among the superstitious, it may be a way of avoiding the wrath of the dead. The malevolent ones may still haunt the living from the other side.

There used to be rituals to appease the spirits of such people, ward off any threat from them and so ensure the safety of those left behind.

This code of behaviour generally holds for normal circumstances. When people carry themselves as they are expected to, with decency and restraint, recognising the humanity of the other, and according them the respect that is due to them, they are given the same when they pass away.

But when one behaves worse than a monster, when they have been defined their entire life by the most vile deeds, when they are evil incarnate, they forfeit the right to be accorded the deference we reserve for the dead.

And so it was like that with one Sylvestre Mudacumura. He was the commander of the misnamed Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) and was killed a week ago today in the jungles of eastern DRC.

Few in Rwanda shed a tear for him. I dare say not many in his genocidal outfit did either. They probably felt a sense of relief for he had also terrorised them to stay in line.

Most people actually wished him the worst. I read messages on social media such as these: May Satan receive him among his own, or may his soul rest in hell. Some of these came from pastors who were accordingly chided by their friends for unchristian prayers.

Others gave him unkind names: the Spoon General, Spoon Man, or that he had gone to hell on a full stomach and will not feel the pangs of hunger for quite a while. All of this on account of a spoon seen near him in the photograph taken just after he was killed.

When pastors pray for the damnation of a soul, not its salvation, it is not that they have abandoned their calling. It must be because that soul is beyond redemption.

The person to whom it belonged must have committed such atrocities that even God had given him up. And so the code not to speak ill of the dead was justifiably suspended in this instance.

Mudacumura had done a lot of terrible things to earn this suspension and that it was near universal is a measure of the evil that he and others like him perpetrate.

He participated in the Genocide against the Tutsi in 1994 and was sworn to continuing it. He gloried in murder on a massive scale, rape, pillage and other crimes against humanity.

He had made this his philosophy of life and sought to inculcate it into others. He had caused untold pain to hundreds of thousands in Rwanda and DR Congo.

In short, Mudacumura had abandoned his humanity and the right to be treated as a human being. He deserved what he got that early morning a week ago and in subsequent days.

Rwandans may respect the dead, but they also abhor evil and have choice words for people they judge to have committed abominable things. They wish them the worst misfortune and pestilence.

For example, they may wish one to die without issue (aragapfa atabyaye). It means to leave no trace in this world, to be cut off and erased, go into oblivion as if one had never existed.

I don’t know if Mudacumura had any offspring, but whether he did or not, I wouldn’t be surprised if someone had expressed this wish for him.

Or they might say of someone, arakicwa n’amacinya (wishing them to die of dysentery) – not a particularly pleasant way to go. Again, it would be quite normal in the circumstances to wish Mudacumura such a death even after he had already been dispatched in a different way.

That is the extent of the man’s evil. Decent people who wouldn’t normally hurt a fly will pray for the most horrible death for him and even a worse existence in the afterlife. Just deserts you might say, for him and others of his ilk.

The views expressed in this  article are of the author.

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