Monday, April 4

100 Days of Rwanda Project

Below are parts of the first and last posts from the essential 2004 blog '100 Days of Rwanda' that traced the 1994 genocide there on a day to day basis ten years after the fact. No one could have imagined that it would happen and it is hard to face the fact that it did. Usually in accounts of those bloody days there is much attention paid to international indifference that prevented the US, the UN or even the EU from stopping the genocide or even admitting that it was going on.

We believe that this point of view does a great harm to the essential history, identity and future of the Rwandan people of every tribe or ethnicity and indeed of all peoples. Decades of the politics of ethnic opportunism were really to blame for the deaths of 800,000 or more Tutsis and Hutu 'sympathisers'. Africans planned the genocide and they carried it out against other Africans.

Looking elsewhere for blame ignores the fact that Africans are adult citizens of the world fully cognizant of the choices between right and wrong. If evil in Africa is the fault of foreigners then surely foreigners must take credit for good in Africa. Africans and foreign observers are doing no one a favor by shifting blame - indeed acceptance of such blame is more of a sign of contempt than caring.

We think that Rwanda should serve as a cautionary tale for friends of Ethiopia in considering the consequences of current policies that see people first in terms of their tribe and second in terms of how that category of identification can be manipulated to the advantage of the elite.

Playing with ethnicity and race for political purposes is like playing with fire. If an inferno begins, the folks who will end up getting burned won't be the ones who started it.
[day 1]

On April 6, 1994, ten years ago this week, the small African nation of Rwanda began a journey down one of the darkest roads in human history, when the death of its president sparked the start of a virulent genocide that claimed over 800,000 lives... while the world stood by and watched.
The genocide in Rwanda lasted "only" 100 days. Three months where an average of 8,000 Rwandans were killed every day. It's occurred to me that one way to attempt to begin to understand, in a small way, the un-understandable, is to at least experience 100 days of being conscious of Rwanda, of what happened there, over the same stretch of time that it took hundreds of thousands of people to die.

We talk about "blogging" as a sort of ongoing thing... but it can also be an act, a finite effort with a beginning and end. I thought of creating a blog called 100 Days of Rwanda, where I would set out to present links to stuff (historical and present-day) about this country that Americans still don't know much about, and about what happened there ten years ago. It would be a learning process for myself, at the very least.

In the next 100 days I hope to learn a lot more about Rwandans of all backgrounds and their ongoing story.

[... day 100 ...]

They say the winners write the history. In Rwanda, mankind did not win. I must be honest and say that I found very little reason over the past 100 days to feel like there were any good guys in this story, although the very few ones who were, were exceptionally heroic. The question for me is, Are they enough? I don't know. They aren't enough for a rip-roaring feel-good, Western-moralists-to-the-rescue narrative, that's for certain. Are they enough to speak for mankind on a day of Last Judgment? Even that, I don't know.

As for Darfur, the crisis in the Sudan which has alarmed those who know what happened in Rwanda, the only reason people don't really care is because they don't know these people. Take a look at their faces.

Thank you for reading. Although this blog is now finished, Rwanda and its people will forever be real to me. I hope they will be real to you too.

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