Sunday, July 11, 2010

"Am I not a survivor of some kind too?"

“When the genocide started, we all ran for our lives. We [peasants] didn’t know that Tutsis were the ones getting killed until the second night. Because we all feared government militias, I helped my Tutsi family and friends hide before returning to my village. That is one thing this new government doesn’t recognize; that all Hutu did not kill. Some of us even lost our lives trying to save Tutsi…!

Joseph has been in prison since July 2001 when his neighbour accused him of committing acts of genocide against Tutsi in 1994. He proclaims his innocence, saying that he was wrongly accused because of his land holdings. Since the genocide, Joseph has worked hard to rebuild his life and livelihood. His Tutsi wife and three of their six children were killed shortly after the genocide began in April 1994. Since September 1996 when he was able to begin working his almost one acre of land, Joseph has lived with the suspicions of individuals who returned to Rwanda after the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) stopped the genocide in July 1994.

Many newly arrived returnees sought to occupy homes and land that had been abandoned during the genocide. Joseph did not abandon his land, choosing to hide out in Rwanda instead of following most of his countrymen into neighbouring Zaire (now Democratic Republic of the Congo). Joseph says bluntly, “Any hardworking or honest Hutu runs the risk of being denounced as some one who killed during the genocide? Why? Because we might say that this government is not as peace loving as it says it is. To be Rwandan is to be quiet. To be Hutu is to be invisible. This is the new Rwanda….”

The “New” Rwanda
Since taking office in July 1994, the ruling RPF has instituted a variety of policies to eliminate the ethnic hatred that Hutu have for Tutsi. In creating one Rwanda for all Rwandans, a new Rwandan citizenship will be created. According to the government, an ethnically unified Rwanda is the key to sustaining present and future peace and is the foundation of democracy in the country.

“Not all Hutu killed”
A key RPF mechanism to ensure that Hutu reconcile with Tutsi is the policy of national unity and reconciliation. Hutu are encouraged to tell the truth of what they did during the genocide, and Tutsi to forgive and forget what happened to them during the genocide. For men like Joseph, who shared their lives with Tutsi friends and family, the official policy of truth telling means that the government does not recognize the different types of killing that took place during the genocide. The official and only acceptable version of events is that Hutu killed, and Tutsi died. Joseph says, “It is almost like this government doesn’t want any Hutu to declare themselves Rwandan! If you are in prison, you cannot participate in life. You lose your family and your land. But I did not kill, even though I stand accused of killing Tutsi from my community. When I saw my wife die, I ran with my remaining kids into the hills. We hid until it was safe to come out. Am I not a survivor of some kind, too? But we are not allowed to talk about that. There is no discussing Hutu who saved Tutsi. Not all of us killed. Some did, some didn’t . That is what war is like….”

Hutu need recognition too
Because Joseph is in prison, he feels comfortable speaking out about the lack of official government recognition for Hutu survivors of the genocide. Yet, as he speaks, the heaviness in his heart is palpable. His shoulders are rounded in a posture of defeat. He fears for his sons, who he has not seen since being arrested in 2001. He laments, “How is it justice for a peasant like me to rot in this prison? Okay, I did not survive genocide like the government says because I am not Tutsi. I acknowledge this. But did I not risk my life to save my family. I live with the knowledge that my wife and daughters died before my eyes. Now my sons are living as orphans because I am guilty of what? Not telling my truth? I told the government my truth but it was not recognized as true. I will rot the rest of my days in this prison.”


  1. Dont worry one day your sons and us shall join hands to free Rwanda where a hutu and tutsi will be free to say so where all Rwandans will be equal and all dead will be mourned for.Freedom is coming tomorrow

  2. There are many Hutus who have been recognized for their bravery acts during genocide. The list is long. There are also cases similar to this guy's case. They left for killing splee and the militias who did not know that the family belongs to their comrade they killed them( wives and children). Undoubtedly that's Joseph's case. And Susan if you think your analysis is balanced, you are nowhere close to that. You are just misinformed or deliberately distorting facts.


  3. How come you did not post my posting !! Because I differ with you ill analysis !!!

  4. For more reference on Rwanda government efforts to recognize individuals (Rwandans and non rwandans) for their efforts to save lives during genocide.

    You argument that, " Since taking office in July 1994, the ruling RPF has instituted a variety of policies to eliminate the ethnic hatred that Hutu have for Tutsi" shows you shallowness in Rwandan politics. Rwandans should be Rwandans like Tanzanians are Tanzanians or Zambians, Congolose etc. I think most of you were used to the government that promoted devisiveness for their own interest - So get used to the government that has created a national identity !!The policies of the Government is no create promote national unity and reconciliation; establish a genuine democracy; provide security for all Rwandese; build economy; To eradicate corruption in all forms To repatriate and resettle Rwandese refugees; To devise and implement policies that promote the social welfare of all Rwandese.