Encounters with conflict and peace


"I can only remember the face of one man. He had wild matted hair, his eyes were red, and he reeked of beer and old sweat.

He scowled at Plate and then slowly moved his barricade of beer crates. Tony's voice hissed in my ear again: 'Can you just imagine what it's like to be a Tutsi coming up against a roadblock with the likes of that bastard on it?'

I couldn't imagine what it would be like. The stomach-churning fear and then, as your identity card was seized, the certainty of death. In the preceding weeks tens of thousands of Tutsis had spent their last moments of life at such roadblocks."
Fergal Keane
The singling out... the humiliation

I remembered the stories of what happened to Tutsis at the roadblocks on this road. The singling out, the beating and humiliation and then the killing. Women who were seized at these barricades were frequently raped before being murdered. I knew that somewhere near each of these barriers there was a mass grave, perhaps several graves holding the bodies of the local Tutsi population.

A pathological hatred

rwanda mob on bikes
"These men really did believe that they were about to be returned to the dark ages of Tutsi autocracy. All the stories of oppression and humiliation that had been handed down from their parents, all the conspiracy theories of the government, and all the fear caused by the RPF incursions since 1990 had been whipped up by extremist politicians to produce a pathological hatred of the Tutsis. I asked one of the men what would happen if a Tutsi came up to the roadblock. He simply smiled.

They eventually waved us on our way with handshakes and smiles. I did not know what to feel about them. Revulsion at their warped psychology certainly. But also pity. These were people who lived in wretched poverty, who had been recruited to do the fighting and killing for people who were now safely in exile.
At Rwandan genocide roadblocks
Very soon the RPF would come and rout this rabble, either killing them or driving them into exile. The knowledge that they had almost certainly been part of the genocide prevented too deep a sense of pity. But I could not help feeling that they were the lesser part of the evil that had been unleashed." 

from Seasons of Blood: a Rwandan Journey by Fergal Keane
Images are screengrabs from the film Shake hands with the devil. The journey of Romeo Dallaire

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