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Rwanda, the art of rebirth

This article appears in Vanity Fair issue 24-25, on newsstands until June 18, 2024.

“How old are you?”. In Rwanda, this is not an easy question. The answer always comes after a moment of silence, a kind of sigh unlike that of the rest of the world. «I was ten years old. That night we fled by car to Kenya”. “I was twenty years old. We hid in a ditch for weeks.” “I was one year old, I lost my whole family in the first days here in Kigali, I don’t remember anyone.” “I was twelve years old, everyone who survived later went to their homes Wandering children, old ladies, friends who were suddenly left alone in the world. New families were born, not by blood, but by relief.” As you regret the indelicacy of asking, you see that instead they all answer and go on narrating. Every story opens a memory, almost every encounter ends with “I don’t know how it happened to us”.

The the genocide thirty years later is still the “before” and “after” of Rwanda. From the dawn of April 7, 1994 in this African country as big as Lombardy In three months, 800 thousand people were killed, maybe 1 million (new mass grave, 200 victims, several found
weeks ago renovation of a villa). Many died with machetes and at the hands of citizens like them, who often knew them, and many of these human beings, suddenly erased, are still nameless. They were people from the Tutsi ethnic group, of all ages and conditions, but also from the moderate Hutu minority who resisted and refused to “go and kill”. Every Rwandan over the age of 30 was affected in one way or another by the genocide, the killers involved were at least 500 thousand and the same number were raped.

The Isonga cultural dance group at the opening of Interlude Rwanda in Nyanza

Is thirty years too little or too much to go further? We can’t say. Of course, remember Quebecoisis an important part of the collective healing of a country that has had to forgive in order to exist again.

To Kigali Genocide Memorial Instead, I don’t ask questions. We are over a mass grave, 250 thousand victims, and even just this number, the nameless photos, the large plaques where a flower is left, make us dizzy. You can’t find the words, you have to sit down. The silence is complete, only a family carrying baskets of roses singing softly in a chorus. When a little girl comes out, she can’t be more than 5 years old, she runs and hugs me very tightly.

Who knows why he did it, but everyone needs it in a place like this. We are in the symbolic place of a tragedy whose enormity, as we now know, could have been avoided. Like the story that led to this madness, and the guilty indifference of the Westfirst the Belgian colonizers who favored ethnic division and inequalities and wrote them in black and white on identity cards that then became death sentences for those who possessed them. But also the UN and the United States, which stood by and refused to officially call the extermination “genocide”a word that would force the world to intervene, saving hundreds of thousands of lives.

When we think about ours today, it sounds sad and familiar. Unfortunately, the story is similar. Since then, the president US Bill Clinton apologizedrecently Emmanuel Macron also apologized for France, a country that supported the genocidal government then The UN and everyone also apologized, always, they came among these flower beds to declare “Never again.” Which now, in the dramatic world situation, sounds like a defeat. No one has learned the lesson of Rwanda. The dehumanization of the “enemy” and the indifference of the world are still with us, so you can hardly believe in “never again.” But the reconciliation of Rwanda is before our eyes.

Source: VanityFair

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