Breaking the culture of generational indifference from 1959-1994

In our discussions with different people on the subject of genocide, the failure of generational ac- countability has been a recurrent theme. This failure is mainly due to some sort of “generational indifference” which has nurtured impunity and has numbed ordinary people to the extent that they accept the unacceptable. President Kagame has recently observed that as a result of this, even doing the bare minimum of what is expected of us has been turned into heroism. That’s how low our society has sunk. Generational accountability, therefore, is needed to confront generational indifference. In this article, we reproduce some of the discussions and testimonies around overcoming generational indifference and building clarity around genocide.

 

 

“Every generation has a contribution to make in bringing clarity to genocide and fighting denial. People need to take responsibility for their cowardice. It is unfortunate that people watch survivors struggle to explain that the genocide was planned and choose to keep silent. Yet, we have elders who are still with us. They saw Tutsis being killed since 1959, houses being burnt, lists of Tutsis to be killed being sent out, Tutsi children being discriminated against in schools, etc. Everyone should say what they saw and when they saw it. I hope that people will feel responsible to contribute to building clarity around the genocide at home, at school, at their workplaces, and at all gatherings, especially during Kwibuka. Parents have the responsibility to give facts to their children because the Parmehutu ideology is like an autoimmune disease. In the end, everyone loses.”

Dr Abdallah Utumatwishima

 

As Utumatwishima reflected on the indifference of people who saw what was happening in 1994 and before, I remembered something that, to date, saddens me. Between 1990 and 1992, I was in secondary school. I remember when I went home for the holidays; I found a 10 years old boy living under my mother’s bed. Fortunately, he is still alive. He lives in Nyabihu and is now a grown man. His name is Olivier Mutuyimana.

In the evening, as we were all going to have dinner, mom sent us to go tell the boy to come to eat with us. I was curious to know why that child lived under my mom’s bed. Then mom explained: The reason why I am hiding this child under my bed is that all the men in his family without any exception have been taken to what was then Nkuri District, currently in Nyabihu, on the pretext that they were going to be jailed. But they ended up being taken to Nyabihonga where they were killed and their bodies thrown away.

So, what saddens me is that, at the time, I saw Olivier live under my mother’s bed, heard about what had happened to his family, and went back to school as if nothing had happened.

As I reflected, I realised that some people were being mistreated, discriminated against, and killed and we kept going about our business as usual. I can’t even blame that on a child’s ignorance because I was grown enough and should have known better.”

Hon. Marie Rose Mureshyankwano

 

“I decided to come to Rwanda to see for myself so I could know the truth about this country because I had the impression that a lot of what we were told, especially in relation to the country’s history, was not true. Indeed, what we knew about Rwanda was from the accounts we had from people who had participated in the genocide against the Tutsi; they were genocide perpetrators. These accounts were filled with genocide denial. They could not understand my decision because my father was a local leader, the bourgmestre of the Maraba commune, and he was among those accused of having participated in the genocide against the Tutsi. Because of this, they would tell me that if I returned to Rwanda, I would be killed. I told them that if indeed he had committed these crimes, then he was the one responsible for the crimes and he should have been punished.”

Mr. Innocent Habumugisha

 

I am standing before you to ask for forgiveness for the crime of genocide I committed in April 1994. I trained many people to kill, some of those I trained are here. I taught them how to kill Tutsis; they went ahead to put into practice what I had trained them to do. During my trial, I pleaded “not guilty,” denying that I had committed any crime. I denied my crimes for a long time while in jail. But then came Prison Fellowship Rwanda; they took time to explain to me the crime of genocide; that it was the most inhumane and heinous of crimes. I would also like to acknowledge the role played by the leadership of the Rubavu correctional facility in that journey to reflect and accept that I had committed the worst of crimes. Lastly, a testimony by a fellow convict named Kayitani of what he did helped me to come out; it was a wake-up call for me; it was like a mirror reflecting the crimes I had committed; so, I decided to ask for forgiveness.

I am here asking for forgiveness from God, the government of Rwanda, all survivors, and all Rwandans. I would also like to apologize to my family for having lied to them this long, trying to deny the crime of genocide that I had committed.

I would like to also request all to be courageous and honest enough and to ask for forgiveness for the crimes they committed. I know from experience that it is the only way to make peace with your conscience.”

 Gacaca Convict Joseph Karorero

 

Our wives and children were witnesses to the atrocities we committed, so they shouldn’t wait for us to come back and tell them to do the right thing: asking for forgiveness and telling the story of what happened. This is something that should have been done long ago.

Not telling the truth or the facts as they are is like giving poison to our kids. Did our wives think the goats and cows we brought home were gifts? My son should be the first to say, “I ate the meat of the goats you had stolen from your victims” and immediately denounce the ideology that made me commit those crimes.

Dear wives, lies about our crimes are the poison that will destroy our kids and lead them to commit the same crimes we were convicted for. These jail clothes I am wearing are not given to heroes, but to people who hurt their communities (imyambaro y’ububwa)

Why would you continue to hide the truth from our children when we are not? Burya umwana udahaniwe kuziko ntahandi azahanirwa. It is still unbelievable that some of our children come to visit us in jail and they innocently ask why we were convicted.

Some of us are old and are left with just a little time on earth. It would be unfortunate to have committed the most heinous crimes and, on top of that, leave children carrying the same poisonous ideology that made the genocide possible.

Our wives and some of the men who are today out of jail or were never convicted, don’t you all remember the roadblocks and where they were positioned? Don’t you know or remember the people that were killed at each of them? Why would you claim that we were jailed for no valid reason? If it wasn’t for this government of unity, what would have happened to us, to you?

I still don’t understand why cars and security guards still have to escort us as we go to show people where the bodies of the Tutsis we killed were buried when we buried them while all of you were watching. Why don’t you stop betraying survivors?

If you are 60 and avoid going to kwibuka gatherings to tell the truth, and fight genocide denial when you know where the bodies of the victims are hidden and buried; that is pure hypocrisy. How on earth can you claim to be a Christian? Only clarity and the truth will afford us genuine unity and reconciliation.

A sincere apology to those we betrayed entails telling all the truth and telling them where their loved ones were buried.”

Gacaca Convict Ndererimana Kayitani

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