Molly in Africa

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Rwanda

I am writing this from an internet cafe in Mbarara (western Uganda) in hopes that I can write only about Rwanda right now and write another entry next week about western Uganda when I have more time.

First, let me just say that Rwanda is BEAUTIFUL! The hills are gorgeous and the streets and cities are much cleaner than Uganda. The people we met were quite friendly as well. Ok, now onto the real stuff...

In preparation for our time in Rwanda, we watched Sometimes in April (which is a movie I own and highly recommend so mum and pops- please feel free to let people borrow it- it's on my bottom shelf). It's a good movie about the Rwandan genocide that I believe is better than Hotel Rwanda.

Here's a VERY BRIEF backround on Rwanda: First Germany, then Belgium came and colonized Rwanda at the beginning of the 20th century. At the time Rwanda was fairly unified- one language and one ethnic group. There were different classifications for people (Tutsis, Hutus and Twa), but the tutsi and hutu titles were not biologically inherited- it was completely dependent on one's profession so the titles didn't mean much and people could easily change titles. When Belgium came in, they decided to legally require identity cards to be carried everywhere you went starting in 1932. Soon, the Tutsis were getting special treatment from the European colonizers and that went on until 1962 when Rwanda gained independence. From then on, tensions were very high between the Hutus (who were the majority in Rwanda- 85%) and the Tutsis (who were in the vast minority- 14%... the Twa made up the remainder 1%). There were many different instances of mass killings of Tutsis and there were lots of Tutsis who fled to surrounding countries for refuge. In 1990, the RPF (Rwandan Patriotic Front- tutsi supporting army) began a war with the Rwandan army (which supported the hutus). Making little headway, the RPF often had to retreat back into other countries. In April, 1994, the Hutu supporting president of Rwanda's plane was shot down by Hutus for two reasons- 1) the president had been backing down from his extreme hutu stance and 2) the hutus blamed the tutsis for the death and were able to use that as an excuse for the implementation of their mass extermination plan. Within 100 days, over 800,000 Rwandans were killed- both tutsis and moderate hutus. There was VERY little help from the international community.

Ok, so when we got to Rwanda, we spent the night at a hotel and then spent the next day at a memorial museum and two genocide memorial sites. The museum was really informative and reminded me of the Holocaust museum in D.C. a bit, although it was a ton smaller. At the museum there were mass graves in front and we were told that 256,000 people were buried there, but they only had 10,000 names because there was no way to identify them. The two genocide memorial sites were very hard to be at. They were each churches. At the first church, there were seven shelves of skulls and bones right at the entrance of the little brick church. Then, as you walked farther in, you could see that the place had not been cleaned up other than to remove the bodies . In between all of the very low benches (pews), there was debris and small bones. The walls had large gaping holes which explains how the Hutu armies were able to enter. Behind the church, there was another small building and it had two large piles of bones and then there was clothes hanging everywhere. It was unreal. Standing outside of the church, I was able to picture the event that took place- people squished into this church because it was the only place they felt offered a sense of security, hearing the hutu army coming and realizing they had no where to go, trying desperately to hide in between these low benches but not being able to hide from this army which surround the building. From the skulls on the shelves, I could tell which ones had been smashed into the walls, which ones had been hit with machetes and there was even one with a spear head still stuck in it. Sorry for being graphic, but this description doesn't even give you an accurate picture of what I saw. At the second church, there were more mass graves, but at this one we went down into them. The first was just filled with coffins and we were told that 4 or 5 skeletons were in each coffin. In the second mass grave, there were no coffins and there were just shelves and shelves of skulls and bones. In the two mass graves, there were 3,220 people. It was simply unbelievable... except that it really was believable because here we were looking at all of these skulls.

The whole experience was so draining emotionally and mentally. Emotionally I was so sad that this happened and it was hard to see all of this evidence in person. Mentally, I was just trying to comprehend what happened. How could people have such hatred? How could so many people have committed such atrocities? How could the international community not have stepped in? Will the international community ever be able to truly mean "never again"? And SOOOOO many more questions have been racing through my head.

I hope that this gives you some idea of what I experienced, but I know if can never give a fully accurate description. Please feel free to ask me more questions because I definitely will want to talk more about this!

8 Comments:

At 2:08 PM, September 23, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh my gosh, Molly! I sit here without words.

I don't think I can comprehend what it must be to actually be in your shoes, or more so in the shoes of the Rwandan people. Incredible! How do the Rwandans keep hope? Or do they?

Thanks for sharing. I would like to borrow your movie. I'll check with your parents.

Love you,
Janet

 
At 7:46 PM, September 26, 2006, Anonymous Aunt Katy said...

Excellent background on the peoples of Rwanda. Thanks for the history education. See, it's working! Keep well, dear. I'll write soon. Lots of love, Aunt Katy

 
At 9:47 PM, September 26, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey there Mols!! Ok so first let me just say I didnt read it all yet but I will soon... but I wanted to tell you THANK YOU for your letter!! It was amazing and just what I needed! AND your Metanoia dad says hi and hopes your doing well and I gave him a hug for you so when you get back you have an extra hug from him to me to you coming your way!! I love you and hope you are doing as well as you sound!

 
At 9:48 PM, September 26, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh shoot I forgot to tell you that who thats from... I love you-Kathryn

 
At 12:22 AM, September 28, 2006, Anonymous Kevin said...

Ok Molly, I’ve been having some thoughts recently. Because of the popularity of my last comment, I thought that I would share them with you. Now, if you are like any warm-blooded, Bush-loving American such as myself, there is obviously one part of American society that angers you the most; the lack of technological advancement in the past forty year in the field of jetpacks. Years ago in the age of James Bond, the Russian Commies and hippies, the American public was promised the new and uber-cool technology of jetpack transportation. WHERE HAVE WE GONE WRONG!?! When the future was promised to us patriotic American, we envisioned cities in the sky, plastic clothes that can not be spilled on, and most importantly…jetpacks. Of course I am not one to stir up trouble for the hard working government officials, but I have been pushed for the last time. I just watched a show on the discovery channel showing the real use of jetpacks, and all I thought was, “Why not me!?” So Molly, next time you’re having your usual meeting with top White House officials, make sure to let them no what you really think of the state of the jetpack technology. Hope you’re staying safe, having fun, and Rwanda sounds amazing. Hope this didn’t ruin the graphic nature of your post. Love you

 
At 12:04 PM, September 28, 2006, Anonymous Kathryn... said...

WOW. I just read through the whole thing and I can't imagine trying to comprehend all of that... I wish I could be experiencing some of this with you so that I could know what it's like. When you come back I'd like to watch the movie(s) you talked about here and the ones we never got around to before. I miss you and am keeping you in my thoughts and prayers! I love you! Looking forward to hearing from you... XoxO

 
At 10:02 AM, September 29, 2006, Anonymous Jeffrey Shepard said...

Molly,

Jolly good blog! very interesting and compelling. I have read about the massacre but your testimony somehow makes it more real to me. There is a chapter on Rwanda in Jared Diamond's book Collapse that you might find interesting. I'll e-mail it to you if I can figure out how. Jeff

 
At 11:42 AM, September 29, 2006, Anonymous Katie said...

Molly,
dealing with past genocide is never easy. when i was in germany i was at three different concentration camp memorials, and each was overwhelming. the rwandan genocide is so recent- to actually see skulls: i can't even imagine how overwhelming that must have been. you're right, sometimes there is so much running through your mind and heart that you can't even put words to it all. know that you are in my prayers.
peace,
Katie K.

 

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