Wednesday, 27 August 2014

The Rwandan Genocide

One of the priest protested but he was told by gendarmes that the church was harbouring "inkotanyi". The priest told the soldier that the people were Christian worshippers, the members of the congregation. But the gendarmes insisted and continued to examine identity cards. A Presidential Guard officer arrived and told the soldiers not to waste their bullets because the Interahamwe would soon come with machetes. Then the militia came in, one hundred of them, and threatening the priest they began to kill people, slashing with their machetes and clubs, hacking arms, legs, genitals and the faces of the terrified people who tried to protect the children under the pews. Some people were dragged outside the church and attacked in the courtyard. The killing continued for two hours as the whole compound was searched. Only two people are beloved to have survived the killing at the church. Not even babies were spared. That day in Gikondo there was a street littered with corpses the length of a kilometre.
There were UN witnesses to the killing in Gikondo. Major Jerzy Maczka and Major Chudy Ryszard, both from Poland, were among the unarmed UN military observers (UNMOs) from sixteen countries, spread throughout Rwanda and living in local communities to ensure compliance with the peace agreement. The observers were an integral part of UNAMIR. When the attack on the church began, the two Polish major had been in the gardens. With rifle barrels held at their throats by gendarmes, the two were forced to watch  as the militia pulled people out of the church and killed them. They saw how families run for their lives.  Maczka tried to contact UNAMIR headquarters but the channels on the Motorola system were jammed with calls for help, and he could not get through. Afterwards he helped the priest with the wounded and took photographs of the dead. What he had witnessed was clear cooperation and a division of labour between the police and the army on the one hand, and the militia on the other. He knew they were looking for Tutsi. There were a pile of identity cards, charred as though in an effort to burn them to erase any evidence that these people existed.


An accurate death toll for the Rwandan genocide may never be possible. The figure of 800,000 is now generally accepted, though it remains unclear why this number is so commonly used . It is a statistic provided by Human Rights Watch but it seems to be based on a census of Tutsi in 1991 and does not estimate the number of other victims who died in the genocide. A higher figures given for several experts present in Rwanda while the genocide took place. Philippe Gaillard, the Chief Delegate of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), who had an intimate knowledge of the country, its politics and its population, and was probably the first person to recognise that genocide was likely, estimates that up to one million people were killed. The figure is confirmed by Charles Petrie, the deputy co-ordinator of the UN Rwanda Emergency Office.


The sexual crimes in the genocide were unparalleled. The rape of women was so extensive that the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), thanks largely to representations by human rights groups, would later make an historic determination that systematic rape is a crime against humanity and that sexual violence constitutes genocide in the same way as other acts.


The catastrophic failure over Rwanda has been examined by the UN, in an independent inquiry seeking to establish the role of the organisation in what happened. The Report of the Independent Inquiry into the actions of the UN during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda was authorised by Kofi Annan, who became Secretary-General in December 1996 after the US vetoed a second term for Dr. Boutros Boutros-Ghali.
This report, published in December 1999, called the genocide one of the most abhorrent events of the twentieth century. The report left no doubt that each part of the UN system, and in particular the Secretary-General, the Secretariat, the Security Council and the members state, had to assume and acknowledge their responsibility in the failure to prevent genocide. The circumstances of the genocide have also been considered by an international panel created by the Organisation of African Unity and a report, 'Rwanda: The Preventable Genocide", was published in Addis Ababa in July 2000. It showed how the potential to prevent the genocide was very real; it would have been possible to at least minimise significantly the carnage once it began. Those who most egregiously failed to use their power and influence included the governments of France, Belgium, the USA, the UK, the Catholic Church and the UN Secretariat.

Conspiracy to Murder, The Rwandan Genocide
by Linda Melvern

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Can I help you to avoid the rain?

I am in the Rwandan National Museum, in Huye (Butare). I am walking around the gardens. Suddenly it starts to rain. A girl, a young one, maybe she is sixteen, comes to me and asks me something in French. I say, 'sorry, I don't speak French. Then she says in English ' Can I help you to avoid the rain?'.
I say 'yes' and she brings me a small house, a kind of storehouse. We sit beside each other. We have a casual conversation. She has finished the school, las year, but she cannot afford a university degree. She earns 25,000 Rwandan francs per months working at the museum. One year at the university are one million. I think to myself, around 1,100€. 
Most time we feel silent. The rain is harder. Suddenly I decide to go. I say 'maybe I try to reach the reception hall. Thanks.' She smiles. 
As I walk under the rain I wonder... maybe, this is what I am looking for, who I am looking for. Just somebody who helps me to avoid the rain.

Friday, 27 December 2013

Your death will serve as warning

Lovely world of cottages
Of mines and fields

Faces good in firelight good in frost
Refusing the night the wounds and blows

Faces good for everything
Now the void fixes you
Your death will serve as warning

Death the heart turned over

They made you pay your bread
Sky earth water sleep
And the misery
of your life

They said they wanted intelligence
They measured the strong judged the mad
Handed out alms split a cent in two
They greeted the corpses
They were polite

They persevere overdo they are not of our world

Women children keep the same treasure
Green springtime leaves and pure milk
In their pure eyes

Women children keep the same treasure
In their eyes
Men defend them as they can

Women children keep the same red roses
In their eyes
They show their blood

Fear and courage to live and die
Death so hard and so simple

Men for whom this treasure was sung
Men for whom this treasure was wrecked

True men for whom despair
Nourishes hope’s devouring ardour
Let us open the future’s last bud

Pariahs the death earth and ugliness
Of our enemies have a colour
Grim as our night
We shall win out

 Victory of Guernica
by Paul Eluard

Gernika, Sarajevo, Afghanistan, Libya, Algeria, Cambodia, Vietnam, Gaza, Jerusalem,... Syria, Sudan, Central African Republic, Congo, Irak,... the people!

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Les choses, George Perec

I recommend this book by the French writer George Perec (available in Spanish, in English,..).

Although the title says "a story of the sixties", I think this book is also about today in the "developed world", the "first world".

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Slaughterhouse Five

It is said that it is one of the best antimilitarist novels. Its author, Kurt Vonnegut, like the main character, Billy Pilgrim, was a witness of the destruction of Dresden (Germany) by the Allied bombers when the Second World War was close to finish. The “reason” was to hasten the end of the war. For that reason 135,000 people were killed in a town which was not a military target (it was an open city, it was undefended, and contains no war industries or troop concentrations of any importance).
Billy was a war prisoner and was locked up in the slaughterhouse of the town, in the building number 5. He was one of the few survivors, survived?

When we meet the main character, he is already a mad man because of the war. In fact he lives travelling along the time and mixes reality with fiction inside his crazy mind. However, the reality is more unreal than his imaginations. He said that he has been abducted by the Tralfamadorians. They are alien beings and appear to be very interesting in the Earthling people. The Tralfamadorians know that the time doesn’t go by, they know that everything happens at the same time so they see all the moments, all the ages, simultaneously.
Billy speaks the same about the cruelty of the was, about his sweet childhood in a small village of the USA, about his marriage for money, about the dead of his father, the dead of his wife, about his daughter who cares for him, about his son who is a green beret in the Vietnam War, about his interstellar travels, about his ridiculous admiration for a mediocre science fiction writer, and about the delirious arguments of statesmen comparing the number of killed people because of atom bombs with the number because of “conventional” bombs.

This novel is really good. The rhythm captures you and the humour, the irony which is very well used by him, makes you smile. Step by step the pace envelopes you and you do not know if you should smile or… For example,  you can imagine Billy clothed like a clown with odds and ends (given by his guards), walking on the moonscape of the destroyed Dresden and mixing the facts of his calamitous life in his sick mind and then, he suddenly remember you that the teen girls who he described nudes a few pages before are dead, burned and quartered… by the Allied attack.

You finish the book. You close the book. You continue thinking

So it goes

Thursday, 7 November 2013

How long will this rain keep on?

When a person knows and can’t make the others understand, what does he do?

He wanted to speak to his son, but the could think of nothing to say.

I put all of my trust and hope in you. And all I get is blank misunderstanding and idleness and indifference. Of all I put in nothing has remained.

This summer she realized something about her dad she had never known before. He was lonesome and he was an old man.
He talked about how things would have been if he had just managed in a different way.

Each minute was so long that in it there was ample time for contemplation and enquiry.

The hopeless suffering of his people made in him a madness, a wild and evil feeling of destruction.

Your kid shot my baby in the head on purpose.

This is one of the commandments Karl Marx left to us. “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs”.

The emptiness spread in him. All was gone. Antonapoulos was away; he was not here to remember.

They all have something they hate. And they all have something they love more than eating or sleeping or wine or friendly company. That is why they are always so busy.

Then when he had washed the ashtray and the glass he brought out a pistol from his pocket and put a bullet in his chest.

You know full well that I do not want to leave. You pressed me into saying yes when I was in no fit condition to make a decision.
I wish to remain where I have always been, and you know it.

How long will this rain keep on?

And in the dream there was a peculiar horror in wandering on and on through the crowd and not knowing where to lay down the burden he had carried in his arms so long.
The Heart is a Lonely Hunter
Carson Mc Cullers