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Kaieteur News

Sunday October 28, 2012

Book Review: We Cannot Forget AFRICA’S WORST GENOCIDE RELIVED By Dr Glenville Ashby History is living, breathing, and has always been played out in the present. The daily atrocities in Syria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo are reminders of past human depravities – none as haunting as the1994 holocaust in Rwanda – arguably the most gruesome chapter in African history. In a mere one hundred days, Rwanda, a small landlocked country of 9.2 million, reverberated with an orgy of bloodletting that eviscerated ten percent of its population. It was a genocide that targeted the Tutsi peoples at the hands of the Hutus; a genocide incomparable in its intensity and raw violence. “We Cannot Forget” is a scholarly narrative that adopts qualitative research methodologies to chronicle a period when humanity was turned on its head. Samuel Totten and Rafiki Ubaldo interview eleven survivors of varying ages, gender, and economic background – skillfully avoiding similitude,

duplication and literary ennui. That the 1994 genocide could have been avoided is posited by Totten and Ubaldo. Maybe Rwanda was just another African country, or, as one survivor intoned: “People in the US and Europe were watching World Cup, and if they only could have taken a minute and really thought about the fact that Rwandans were being killed, then they could have influenced their governments to take some action.” “We Cannot Forget” offers key historical data on the socio-political imbroglio that led to 1994. During the colonial period of the 19th century, Tutsi’s leadership and administrative prowess were lauded by the Belgians and Germans. The Hutus were the underclass, disempowered. The Tutsis were called Semites, not Black Africans – if only for their lighter complexion and aquiline features. They were promoted as cerebral, born leaders. By the turn of the 20th century, power shifted. It was a move supported by Europe and the Catholic Church. And

revenge loomed. There were anti-Tutsis pogroms in 1956, 1963 and 1973. Tutsis were ordered to carry identification cards, reminiscent of Nazi policy against the Jews before the campaign of extermination. Tutsis were called inzoka (snake) and inyenzi (cockroach). Radio Rwanda and a private radio network - RadioTelevision Libre des Mille Collines (RTLM), blared vile anti-Tutsi propaganda. In response, the Rwanda Patriotic Front, a Tutsi resistance movement was formed. The downing of a plane carrying President Habyarimana, the Hutu president on April 6, 1994, supposedly by Tutsi fighters, set the stage for the perfect storm. And this is where the crux of “We Cannot Forget” begins. The survivors’ accounts are riveting and excruciatingly vivid. Detailed and revolting. Interviewee after interviewee recalls the immeasurable loss of family members. Emmanuel Murangira puts his personal loss at forty three, including all five of his children and wife. Another interviewee

(anonymous for fear of retribution), lost her father, mother, one sister, and more than two hundred relatives. There was no place of refuge, not even churches. Hutus priests and bishops were also complicit in the annihilation of defenseless Tutsis. Testimonials ooze blood and destruction. One interviewee painfully remembers:”When the attack began, they (the killers) began to shoot at the windows of the church. They were using SMGs, grenades, and pistols... The Interahamwe (youth militia) began to check on the ground to make sure all the people had died. One person they found who had not been killed was a woman who was pregnant...and they pulled her clothes off and said they wanted to see how Tutsi children looked when they are in their mother. They took the mother and sliced her open...” There are accounts of rape perpetrated by individuals against acquaintances. And in one of the most intriguing cases, children of a Tutsi and Hutu inter-marriage were refused shelter by Hutu relatives. By early July, the guns fell silent, and machetes and impiris (spiked clubs) were tossed. There were tens of thousands of orphans, thousands of women infected with the HIV virus, and a society riddled with the psychological trauma of a

living hell. Truth and reconciliation committees were formed, and prison sentences were meted out to perpetrators. Of these village courts, one interviewee states: “In some gacaca, there are even judges who are genocidaires…so you have killers “judging” killers. There are many Hutus and few Tutsis in gacaca, and that is bad,” states one interviewee. “We Cannot Forget” is wrenchingly compelling - a lesson in humankind’s murderous potential when mired in phobia, distrust, and insecurity. Eighteen years after the Rwanda genocide,

the editor writes: “We can only hope that we truly understand what it means to be, or, fail to be our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers.” With daily atrocities in various parts of the world, such noble words may have regrettably fallen on deaf ears. We Cannot Forget: Interviews with Survivors of the 1994 Genocide in Rwanda Edited by Samuel Totten and Rafiki Ubaldo Rutgers, The State University, 2011 ISBN: 978-0-8135-4969-9 Available: Barnes and Ratings: ****: Highly Recommended

New private school makes noteworthy impression As a fledgling primary institution, the Academy of Excellence is already proving to be a force to be reckoned with, having produced seven pupils worthy of attending Queen’s College at this year’s National Grade Six Assessment (NGSA). In fact, the pupil who placed ninth in the country at the examination was Atiqua Roshandin of the new primary school. Another 10 of the school’s pupils were awarded senior secondary schools and a total of 25 were able to secure places at junior secondary schools in Region Three, with significantly high marks. Headed by awardw i n n i n g t e a c h e r, M r s Latchmin Gopal, the Academy of Excellence officially opened its doors to the delivery of education on September 5 l a s t y e a r. T h e p r i v a t e institution, situated at 263 Block X Cornelia Ida, West

Coast Demerara, became Gopal (a former Grade Six t e a c h e r o f t h e Leonora Primary School)’s project, after serving the public education system for 37 years. While at Leonora Primary, her expert teaching capability was instrumental in helping a number of her pupils ascend to top secondary schools, an undertaking she intends to see remain constant at her new school. “I still feel that I have the ability to make each child succeed to secondary education level, and to see that each child above average becomes an intellectual,” said Mrs Gopal. She is driven by a passion to see the performance of rural children be on par with that of their Georgetown counterparts. She has observed that the children of the capital city have traditionally been r e c o g n i z e d as the ones

producing the top performances, a state of affairs that has impelled her to continue her proficient teachings in her own school, which already attracts children throughout Region Three and a few from the East Bank of Demerara. Recounting how well the school was able to perform despite opening its doors during the latter part of last year, Mrs Gopal said the NGSA application forms were due on September 30, 2011. Forty-two pupils were entered for the examination with a mere seven months to meet the deadline of completing the syllabus. However, Mrs Gopal worked persistently to prepare her pupils and after the stipulated period had expired “the pupils’ hard work, dedication and commitment to their studies eventually allowed them to (Continued on page 37)

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