One Teenager's Experience of the Rwanda Genocide

President, then General, Paul Kagame, on his satellite phone as he led the Rwandan Patriotic Army's advance on Kigali. Professor Michel Chossudovsky, Law Professor Peter ErlinderICTR Defense Attorney Christopher Black, and Professor Ed Herman and author David Peterson, have all documented U.S. complicity with the advancing army of the Rwandan Patriotic Front led by General, now President Paul Kagame, in pursuit of its geopolitical agenda.

This is a more personal account.  In a recent Facebook discussion of the trial of Rwandan opposition leader Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza, Jean Pierre Mbungira shared his own experience of the Rwanda Genocide at the ages of 14 and 15.  I found this to be one of the most emotionally credible accounts of how something like the Rwanda Genocide could have happened, as mass panic became mass psychosis.   -Ann Garrison

 

I was living in the capital city: Kigali. I was 14, turning 15 in a few months. But the whole thing was crazy! Now when I look back, i realize that the worst nightmare of any system is infiltration! The whole political landscape was almost non-existent. The president Habyarimana had little authority. He was very weakened by the war plus very active opposition.

Even the army (ex-F.A.R.) had rifts in their ranks, to the point that when the president died, some did not go on with defending the country.  Some went on pillaging, others just did not take the duty as their concern.   On the top of that, the interim government had the "brilliantly stupid" idea of arming the ordinary citizen.

Try to picture this:

Suppose your neighbor has sent his boy in the RPF [Rwandan Patriotic Front, the Tutsi refugee army invading from Uganda], and that your brother, who is a soldier, died on the battlefield. Then someone arms you, (typically with an AK47) , without training whatsoever, in a tense situation where, a few days previously, grenades were exploding in bars and taxis, where political parties (ethinically divided) were at each other's throat, and the president, who was barely holding all that mess together, has just been assassinated.

On that, add that you have a history of ethnic tension that goes back some centuries. And, you have no education and no military training, except they showed you how to shoot your gun and how to reload it. And you know APR [Rwandan Patriotic Army, Tutsi rebels], most part of it, are advancing.

Now, imagine little knowledge, no formal education; many have not even finished the elementary school, have no TV, and are cut off from the rest of the world, with radios like RTLM [extremist Hutu] and Muhabura [extremist Tutsi] competing to fan all that fire and add as much oil as they can.

Now, put all that together, and tell me what my "ordinary citizen " will do with his new gun! That was in Kigali City, where they could afford modern weaponry.

Now, replace the gun with a machete, and you have the picture of what was happening in the countryside."  -Jean Pierre Mbungira

Follow Ann Garrison on: