Genocide – My Stolen Rwanda” by Révérien Rurangwa

Not in a long time has a book so deeply angered me. Not in a long time has a book so deeply shocked me either. In the course of my work at Dachau, and in my research for the documentary film, I have read many, many books on Mankind’s’ unique ability to do truly disgusting things. I read in depth of the Holocaust, the T-4 Euthanasia Program, of Genocide and Torture by the 19th century empires of the world, and by Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot and the rest. I have read of the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people by the despicable state of Israel, and of Bosnia (Genocide in modern Europe), but none shocked me as much as this book.

Normally, the books I read are packed full of my pencil scribbling’s, highlighted entries, quotes circled in pencil, and things to note for later. This book is unique in my collection, due to the lack of pencil marks after the first chapter or so. I just read. No taking notes. Just reading. Which is really not like me.

I now know I must meet Révérien Rurangwa, and thank him myself.

He is the single survivor of his family. But to be that, he had to witness, at around 4pm on the 20th of April 1994, 43 other members of his family – men, women and children – get hacked to pieces with machetes by their neighbours.

The Hutu Genocide of the Tutsi population of Rwanda happened as the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC was being opened, on the 50th anniversary of the D-Day landings. Cries of “Never Again” obviously didn't’t reach Africa. The Tutsi Genocide had already been recognized and labelled as such by this point, by the United Nations. And still the Holocaust memorial was being inaugurated as the fastest Genocide of the 20th Century was taking place. 800,000 murdered in 3 months, most of which were killed in the first month alone. The Nazi’s never even got close…

Révérien talks openly and honestly about those days, as he stumbled around his village, without half of his face, and an arm missing, bleeding to death as the Hutu murderers laughed at him. 90% of Rwanda is Christian, two-thirds being Catholic. Everyday normal people join in with the massacre. Men, women, children, the elderly, soldiers, priests, nuns, civil servants, people from all parts of society play a part in different ways.

"I have to tread on them [the bodies] to get to the skylight. I’ve nothing to vomit up, my head spins, but I’m conscious enough to notice the killers grab a woman who is running, who has a baby strapped to her back. They lie her down, cut her at the ankles and then the head (since they resent the Tutsis for being taller than them, the Hutus would take an evil pleasure in shortening Tutsis, bringing them “back to normal size”). As for the baby, one man seizes it, comes over to the hut where I’m hiding, and hurls it against the brick wall, smashing its skull."

Révérien also talks about his pain. His deep urge for revenge on those who killed his family, and his struggle to come to terms with what he went through. He even visits Auschwitz in an attempt to try an fathom how mankind can do this to itself, and still fights the Swiss Authorities (he lives now in the Swiss Alps) to gain recognition as a victim of Genocide. Along the way he also lost his faith, quoting at one point Herbert McCabe –

" We have good reason to be angry about death and anger is part of grieving. And we have good reason to be angry with God."

"The Hutus have cleaned up the churches, the fields, all the sites of the Genocide, but they cannot take my scars away from me. Memorials may display carpets of sculls, or carefully piled-up tibias and femurs, but survivors’ scars remain the living, bodily, palpable witness to the crimes against humanity. The Genocide is engraved in my skin, like the tattoos on the forearms of Auschwitz survivors."

His testimony is a stunning account of what human nature is, what governments and politics are capable of doing or condoning, of the worlds unique ability (despite obvious references to past recent history) to simply look the other way. Apathy roars its ugly head again. Kofi Annan of the U.N. was in charge of stopping the violence. For his total inaction and incompetence in not doing anything to stop the Genocide he was rewarded by being promoted to Secretary General of the United Nations. Its seems to me like giving Hitler a Nobel Peace Prize… They gave one of those to Annan anyway in 2001…

In the words of Révérien…

"I will never, ever rest. I will continue to fight for justice the rest of my small life in this world of madness. In the 21st century we do not have the right to shut our eyes… … I no longer sleep. I barely eat. I think of them. I simply want our people to be remembered, not forgotten."