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Freedom's Fidelity

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Survivors Blog

This isn't exactly the easiest stuff to read, but here is a blog featuring testimonials from survivors of the Rwandan genocide.

On 6 April, we made our way to the Ecole Technique Officielle (ETO), where some people had already sought refuge with the UN. We had protection and felt safe, but on 11 April, the UN troops drove away. As they left, the Interahamwe and government soldiers came. They told us we would be taken to Nyanza. They made us run. Some people were praying, others singing. As we ran, some people were hacked with machetes and others killed. Many Interahamwe had come and there were buses full of soldiers behind us. It was evening and it had rained. We arrived at an open field in Nyanza, and could tell it was over. As we all stood there, we kept asking our father what would happen. I remember my oldest sister asking Mum if we would see each other when we got to Heaven. Mum didn't say anything; she was overwhelmed. Father kept on giving us hope that nothing would happen. They started shooting and we fell to the ground. After that, I never saw my father or mother again. Bodies fell on top of those of us who had fallen down first. They threw grenades into the crowd and kept on shooting for a long time until it was very dark. The Interahamwe started walking around hacking people if they were alive. I was with my older sister, younger brothers and some other young people. We had all agreed to keep quiet and pretend to be dead. They picked me up, wondering if I was alive or not. They hit me with something - I don't know what. I was hurt but kept quiet, so they threw me onto the ground thinking I was dead. They kept on going, hacking people. People were crying, calling for their mothers, shouting out, close to death. Eventually they realized it was too dark and left.

Next morning, we could see the Interahamwe coming. They started asking each other whether we were dead or not. One said, "Let me just show you." He started hacking people. There were about 15 of us. My little brother Bertin gave up and asked for forgiveness. They hacked him with a machete, and he died immediately. I was cut on the neck and leg. Felix tried to fight them and they cut his neck, fingers and feet. My older sister, Fifi and Bertin died immediately. Then they left.

Perhaps the UN can start setting up a blog for the testimonials of those who might survive the current genocide in Darfur.

UPDATE: Nicholas Kristof, reviewing two new books on Darfur, writes:
During the Holocaust, the world looked the other way. Allied leaders turned down repeated pleas to bomb the Nazi extermination camps or the rail lines leading to them, and the slaughter attracted little attention. My newspaper, The New York Times, provided meticulous coverage of World War II, but of 24,000 front-page stories published in that period only six referred on page one directly to the Nazi assault on the Jewish population of Europe. Only afterward did many people mourn the death of Anne Frank, construct Holocaust museums, and vow: Never Again.

The same paralysis occurred as Rwandans were being slaughtered in 1994. Officials from Europe to the US to the UN headquarters all responded by temporizing and then, at most, by holding meetings. The only thing President Clinton did for Rwandan genocide victims was issue a magnificent apology after they were dead.

Much the same has been true of the Western response to the Armenian genocide of 1915, the Cambodian genocide of the 1970s, and the Bosnian massacres of the 1990s. In each case, we have wrung our hands afterward and offered the lame excuse that it all happened too fast, or that we didn't fully comprehend the carnage when it was still under way.

And now the same tragedy is unfolding in Darfur, but this time we don't even have any sort of excuse. In Darfur genocide is taking place in slow motion, and there is vast documentary proof of the atrocities. Some of the evidence can be seen in the photo reproduced with this essay, which was leaked from an African Union archive containing thousands of other such photos. And now, the latest proof comes in the form of two new books that tell the sorry tale of Darfur: it's appalling that the publishing industry manages to respond more quickly to genocide than the UN and world leaders do.

Never again?


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