Today, 25 years ago, I boarded a UN convoy to take me from the hospital in Kigali, Rwanda, to the Gregoire Kayibanda International Airport in Kigali.
It was a “bumpy” ride. If you saw “Hotel Rwanda” then you know what I mean by “bumpy”.
There were Christian crosses with severed ….. of women and children lining both sides of one short stretch road about one kilometer east of the hospital.
I had a handheld crank up radio with me from the Henri Durant foundation, the original Red Cross foundation from Switzerland. It was white with red crosses over it. Every time I turned it on to hear any news, all I received were these programs with really low and threatening monotonous voices talking, and creepily chanting, about killing everyone, either Tutsi, Europeans, doctors included.
Day in and day out, on a 24hour loop, Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines (RTLM) broadcast racist propaganda against Tutsis, moderate Hutus, Belgians, and the United Nations mission UNAMIR.
The station preyed upon the deep animosities and prejudices of an overwhelming majority of Hutus. Their hateful rhetoric was placed alongside the sophisticated use of humor and popular Zairean music.
It frequently referred to Tutsis as “cockroaches”: “You are cockroaches! We will kill you! We will kill your children and rape and impregnate your wives! The future will never see another Tutsi!”
They spoke in French and English. Over and over were the words, “Hutu Power, Hutu Power!”, were uttered, and black fists raised in the air in roadside posters and in paintings on the walls of houses cemented that conviction.
I do not know why it took the UN this long to intervene. I have a pretty good guess though: No one really cared about the dear people of Rwanda. Rwandan Tutsi’s were like the stray dogs of Morocco, kicked and beaten, only to be featured in some heart wrenching videos about the abuse of dogs in third world sh*t holes, without offering any viable possibilities of ACTUAL ways to help. Just finger pointing. No solutions.
Just like with other African genocides, Congo, Darfour, it’s much easier to fundraise from a safe distance, to speak about it with a dismayed look on George Clooney’s face in television ads, than to actually do something about it.
Democrats love this sh*t, and Republicans love to be outraged about the Democrat’s love of this sh*t. But neither side actually have ever done ANYTHING about it.
Help didn’t really show up until March of 1994, right before shit really hit the fan. General Dallaire came to the hospital where I was working and his words will forever be edged in my mind:
”Get out now, on one of our convoys, or stay and wait until it’s over and pray you’ll survive!”
Doctors Without Borders brought me there in October of 1993, because there was a crisis ”brewing” according to them. The “crisis” were racial tensions between the Hutu and the Tutsi, and everyone thought this wouldn’t go nowhere if ONLY da wyte man came in and regulated.
Little did they know. But there I was, working in the Psych ward of the Kigali General, as an “intern”.
Every morning the women in the Psych would form a circle and we’d start talking about issues… which was hard because those people do. not. like. to talk about feelings and especially not to white people. So it was really hard getting them out of their shells, almost impossible.
Of course there was always the clown in the group, the tough chick, and the one no one liked. So after two weekly group sessions, I started focusing on the new comer woman that made everyone turn their head in disgust when she was near.
I couldn’t fault them. She stank something awful. And she refused to take a shower. We only had group showers and she vehemently refused to step inside. She was barely there ten days and the smell eminating from her got worse by the minute.
I begged her to let a doctor examine her because, these were my words in French: “I feel like the smell coming from you is the smell of death and I’m worried that you are hiding a wound from us that is festering and you’re dying from the inside.”
She just shook her head, and walked away holding her belly. It dawned on me that she was pregnant! I thought, OMG her fetus died in there and she’s holding it in and it started to rot inside of her!
So the night right after my discovery, she had hidden her body well under lots of traditional Tutsi garb… the doctor came in while she lay there sleeping and he shot her up with a sedative in her sleep. The Doc started pulling up her clothes over her belly…
…and found the severed head of what looked like a young man around 20 years old, half rotten, flesh eating maggots all over it…
…and he waited until the woman woke up and asked her, is this your baby son? And she just nodded her head and cried and said she just wanted to find a dignified spot to bury all that was left of him.
So we buried her son’s head at the cematary and had a small funeral procession. She finally told us all the whole horrific tale of how the Hutu had raided her village about a two weeks hike away. How they had killed everyone in her family. Raped the children and shot them, same with the women. And how they had decapitated every male in the village and thfew their heads in a pile.
She told us how she pretended to be dead, and because she was older, the raiders didn’t care. When she was sure they were all gone, she said she had waited another extra day to make sure no one returned. Her village was completely destroyed. She dug through the pile of heads until she found her son’s, and put it under her garb. Then she started walking. To Kigali. Eventually she was picked up by an UN convoy and that’s how she landed with us at the hospital.
The evil that humans do to each other, and the length that humans go to in order to preserve some shred of dignity, it all came crashing down on me that day, and I knew I had to get out because everyone kept saying it’s going to get worse, much worse, and I couldn’t understand how? How could it get even worse than this? People persecuted for simply being who they were, raped and mutilated women and children, mothers with their sons’ heads hidden in their beautiful garb, cute little pigtailed girls with MP’s prowling the streets at night, bodies littering the roadsides…
But of course it could, and it did get worse. An estimated 1’000’000 slaughtered people, mostly Tutsi, Twa, and even moderate Hutus.
Yes, the genocide “officially” started in April of 1994. But in reality it started at least 6 months prior. However once it wsccalated it went really fast and within days it was full blown genocide. Within hours, actually.
Officially the genocide is listed as April 7, 1994. But the opening shots were fired the night before, on the night of the 6th. Experts agree. But no one seems to be interested much in changing history about this on the internet anymore.
Right after the plane carrying Habyarimana and Burundian President Cyprien Ntaryamira was shot down on its descent into Kigali, that very night Rwandan “journalists” Kantano Habimana and Noël Hitimana, who later were convicted of inciting violence, called on the Hutu to kill every Tutsi that night they could find.
That night thousands of Tutsis and moderate Hutus were murdered in their sleep in and around Kigali in a massive hunt and kill operation. Incited by a fucking radio station!
So why am I writing about all this. Because every so often when I get really angry about all that liberal bull crap here in this country, and I not only see them calling for censorship but to have their opponents literally wiped off the face of the earth…, I get reminded of how that’s all so fucking plausible too.
Just to be clear: I would never even DARE to compare our situation in any way to the plight of the Rwandan people. But they did not deserve this and neither do we. They did not deserve to be left and abandoned by everybody in the West. You know that we could’ve made a real difference there had only our Administration back then not refused to do the right thing.
And that’s what scares me. I’ve seldom seen an Admin DO the right thing.
It’s a complex fucking world and I just hope we get all this shit figured out some day, stop all the insane petty fighting and start collectively look at the bigger picture.
None of these fights have anything to do with race and everything with ideology. It’s about the human condition. You can’t choose the skin you were born into. But you can always choose the ideology you’ll submit yourself to blindly follow.
We’ve got something real precious going on here in the USA. Let’s not loose it.