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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Le Rwanda, entre travail de Mémoire et désir de vivre

by Rosa Moussaoui

Rwanda: Between Memory Work and the Desire to Live

Translated Tuesday 29 April 2014, by Henry Crapo

Rwanda is learning how to live with its ghosts. The nation commemorates the 20th anniversary of the genocide of the Tutsi. The French authorities are absent, fleeing their responsibilities.

Rwanda is rising from the terrible ordeal of the genocide. In two decades, reconstruction has changed the face of this landlocked country in the heart of the Great Lakes. The youth dreams of a country in which hatred between the communities and "ethnocentric" divisions, inherited from colonialism, will be banished.

Rwanda, by 
Special Envoy

The ochre waters of the Nyabarongo river tear away at the sumptuous green landscape dominated by the hills of Kigali. This river, one of the sources of the Nile, still carries the history of atrocities committed during the genocide of Tutsis started April 7, 1994 by Hutu extremists in the aftermath of the attack against the airplane of President Juvenal Habyarimana. This is the bridge spanning the river, a few kilometers east of the capital, from which were thrown mutilated bodies or heads of victims of the racist outburst. By their instructions to throw the bodies into the water, the ideologues of genocide meant to convey the message to "Send the Tutsi back to Abyssinia," the land that the sorcerer’s apprentices of the colonial era and of the racist regime had invented as the Tutsi land of origin.

Twenty years after the "Apocalypse", as most survivors call it, Rwanda wants to offer, despite the ghosts of the past, the face of a new country in which the ’ethnocentric’ distinctions and ideas of hatred and division would be banished. Like so many warnings, the stigmata of the last genocide of the twentieth century are everywhere. At the heart of this memory work undertaken by the country, the genocide memorial in Kigali reflects the many years of hate-mongering that led to the worst. A word chanted during the visit, which slaps as the symbol of a business-like extermination, methodically planned: ’Inyenzis!’ cockroaches in the Kinyarwanda language. In this way the theorists of ’Hutu Power’ referred to Tutsi. We remember here that moment when ’the world backed away’, the passivity of the international community, the complicity of France, which armed the genocidal regime, trained killers, and covered their escape. Outside, among the rose gardens, the vast gray mass of graves barring the hill reminds us of the scale of the massacres: 268,000 victims in Kigali, nearly a million across the country. The Tutsi, many children, but also Hutu Democrats opposed to unbridled hatred. "Periods of commemoration always revive injuries. All survivors retain psychological sequelae. In fact, the entire Rwandan society is affected: the survivors, witnesses, children of executioners. Even those who were born after the genocide are still traumatized because of family stories or what remains unspoken. We live with the weight of this story and all its consequences. This is very heavy", says Naphtal Ahishakiye of the association Ibuka, which brings together the associations of genocide survivors.

Economic success

From this terrible ordeal, however, the Rwanda is rising. In two decades, the reconstruction is adorned with insolent success. This small landlocked country in the heart of the African Great Lakes shows a growth rate of 8% on average over the past ten years. Momentum barely hampered by the suspension of financial aid decided by donor countries after the publication of the report by experts of the UN accusing Kigali of supporting the rebellion of M23 in the eastern neighbor, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

These economic successes, combined with a resolute fight against corruption, have helped to change the lives of people with unprecedented investments in the areas of health, education, and infrastructure. Birthplace of Kigali, Nyarungenge Hill, bristles with towers and gleaming buildings that give the Rwandan capital of false air of Johannesburg. The new class of consumers presses upon Union Trade Center, the commercial center with shops, supermarket and trendy café.

Founder of Radio Contact, one of the first private radio stations in the country, Albert Rudatsimburwa measures progress since his return to the country in July 1994. This former refugee, who studied and lived in Belgium, does not hesitate to speak of ’miracle’: "There was nothing. One had to rebuild everything, with the impossible burden of million people killed and half of the population an accomplice in genocide. Rwanda has had to invent its own solutions, like the "gacaca" (pronounced gatchatcha, traditional assemblies - Ed) which permitted, with few facilities, to judge the killers. Today, the country has recovered from the virus of genocide. We still bandage our wounds, but we do not open new ones."

The ultra-liberal regime of Paul Kagame, who runs the country with an iron hand, is coupled with a willingness to tackle social inequalities, the soil of divisions and conflicts. Yet the Rwandan economic miracle has its downside and its left - outs. Behind the appearance of modern capital that adorns Kigali, power outages and water shortages are frequent in working class neighborhoods. As for the injunction to create employment by founding one’s own company, this can turn into a nightmare, with interest rates customarily at 20%. At twenty- seven years of age, Angelique Mukeshiman, a genocide survivor, recites the obstacles that prevent her from achieving her dream of becoming a fashion designer. "Without seed capital, it is impossible, even if some are associated in cooperatives in order to build their business. Life is hard. Now we have universal health coverage, but the rents, food, transportation became exorbitant for those who, like me, are without a job. Sometimes I wonder what will become of me," she says in desperation. On the immaculate arteries, no strollers or small canteens or street vendors of fruits as found in all African capitals. The government declared a ban on these small informal businesses, which nevertheless provided vital resources to the poorest families.

Musanze, northwest of the country. gateway to Lake Kivu, the former Ruhengeri is perched at 1800 meters above sea level on the volcanic soil of Virunga. Fields of potatoes, beans and sorghum that climb up the hills testify to a commercial pressure likely to produce new conflicts. It is Sunday. The crowd of parishioners in quaint elegance flows toward the Pentecostal church, from which rise exalted songs. Near the Shrine stands the Pharaonic site of the new church. Albert Sanzimana, deacon, made ​​his calculations." In twenty years, we have come from 400 to 4,000 worshipers".


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