“An interview with…” — survivors of genocide

Genocide Awareness Film Series
APRIL 2014 GENOCIDE AWARENESS AND PREVENTION MONTH:

Remembering the Past toward Healing our Future
A six event commemorative film series featuring the stories of survivors and their children

Living Ubuntu, in collaboration with Amnesty International – Irvine and six local academic institutions, presents a six-event commemorative film series featuring the stories of survivors and their children. April is Genocide Awareness and Prevention Month, and each film commemorates a genocide that started during April. Living Ubuntu provides education about global traumas as part of its mission to heal trauma in order to promote peace. All films are free and open to the public. All details are here.

As part of featuring the stories of survivors and their children, Living Ubuntu volunteer, Alicia Buly, has been conducting a series of interviews. Most of these survivors will speak at the April film series events. To date, there are five. They are listed below.

Cambodia’s Past Shapes America’s Future – An Interview with Zaklin Phat (April 3 – Cambodia)
Second Generation Survivor, First Generation Activist – An Interview with Martina Knee (April 17 – Sudan)
Giving Back to Sudan, from San Diego – An Interview with Wai John Wai
Finding Strength in Testimony – An Interview with Edith Umugiraneza (April 1 – Rwanda)
Activism Through Education – An Interview with Levon Marashlian (April 2 – Armenian)

[Ubuntu] n. Every human being truly becomes a human by means of relationships with other human beings.

Finding Strength in Testimony – An Interview with Edith Umugiraneza

This is the dress that I wore for three months during the genocide.  My mother gave me this scarf and said, "If anything happens  to us, you will have this."

This is the dress that I wore for three months during the genocide. My mother gave me this African wrap because it was the rainy season at the time.  She also gave me a necklace and said, “If they kill me, have this in remembrance of me.” – Edith Umugiraneza

April 2014 Genocide Awareness and Prevention Month:
Remembering the Past toward Healing our Future

A six event commemorative film series featuring the stories of survivors and their children

Living Ubuntu, in collaboration with Amnesty International – Irvine and six local academic institutions, presents a six-event commemorative film series featuring the stories of survivors and their children. April is Genocide Awareness and Prevention Month, and each film commemorates a genocide that started during April. Living Ubuntu provides education about global traumas as part of its mission to heal trauma in order to promote peace. All films are free and open to the public.

Below is an interview with Edith Umugiraneza, a Rwandan genocide survivor who will be a featured speaker at the Rwanda genocide event.

***

An Interview with Edith Umugiraneza

Birth Place:  Kigali, Nyarugenge, Rwanda
Occupation: Indexer for USC Shoah Foundation
Degree: B.A. in Social Work from Laval University, Quebec, Canada


Q:  What was your life like before the genocide?

A:  I was 17 years old when the genocide started.  Before that, life was good.  I was a high school student with six siblings.  My mother was a widow.  We had a normal life.  I was the youngest.

Q:  Prior to the genocide did you have many Hutu friends?  Did you notice divisions between the two populations?

A:  No.  And yes, when we were in elementary school they used to ask us which group we belonged to.  Each year they would ask this to find out who people were.  They were practicing segregation to choose who would go to public and private schools.  The Hutus were chosen to go to public schools. The Tutsis would be sent to private schools, and many of them didn’t have money to afford the tuition so they didn’t go to school at all.  Before the genocide, in the political parties, we could see people being jailed because of who they were.

Q:  What is the first thing you remember about the start of the genocide? Read more of this post

The Complex Web of Violence Gets Messier in Congo

Congolese residents flee fighting in Eastern Congo amid fears that Rwanda is backing the mutineers (AFP/File, Junior D.Kannah)

Congolese residents flee fighting in Eastern Congo amid fears that Rwanda is backing the mutineers (AFP/File, Junior D.Kannah)

The eastern region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, particularly the provinces of North and South Kivu, has long had the reputation of being one of the most violent and chaotic places on the continent. Furthermore, recent splurges of mass violence mark a definite deterioration in the already critical humanitarian situation, especially with regards to troubled relations with Rwanda.

A leaked internal UN report seen by the BBC and Global Post on Monday accused neighbouring Rwanda of supplying weapons and soldiers to rebels linked to General Bosco Ntaganda in eastern DR Congo. UN officials interviewed 11 rebel deserters, all of whom claimed to be Rwandan citizens. They said they were recruited and trained in Rwanda earlier this year before being transported across the border to join a rebellion, dubbed March 23 Movement or M23, kick-started by Ntaganda, who is wanted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court. After training, some of the recruits said they were told they would be fighting the Congolese government while others were told they would be defending Congolese Tutsis against persecution.

“All those who have been arrested after the last fighting are telling the same story,” Lambert Mende, Congo’s communications minister said, adding that an inquiry was under way and Congo government itself was not accusing Rwanda of supporting the rebels. Rwanda is denying it, and we don’t have any reason to doubt what they’re saying at this time,” he said.

In turn, Rwanda has rejected the claims made by the recent UN report. The Rwandan Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, Louise Mushikiwabo, called the report as “categorically false and dangerous rumours.” She criticized the international community for “neglecting real issues of stability by limiting itself to symptoms instead of the root cause of suffering in our region.”

Mushikiwabo slammed the UN force in DRC (MONUSCO) stating that “the billion-dollar-a-year operation makes up one quarter of the UN’s entire peacekeeping budget, and yet it has been a failure from day one. Instead of pursuing its mandate to eradicate the FDLR menace and help stabilize the region, MONUSCO has become a destabilizing influence, primarily concerned with keeping hold of its bloated budgets and justifying its ongoing existence.”

Rumors of Rwandan support for the new rebel movement have surfaced for weeks, but the UN debrief of deserters offers the first evidence that will likely ratchet up already tense relations between Kinshasa and Kigali.

The two Great Lakes neighbors have a troubled history and now again it’s going to get even more messy. Rwanda in the past has accused Congo of harboring Rwandan Hutu fighters who fled across the border after carrying out the 1994 genocide. But Rwanda in turn has backed a succession of rebellions in eastern Congo over more than a decade of violence that has claimed the lives of over 7 million Congolese.

In 2008, U.N. investigators accused Rwanda of arming the National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP), led by renegade Congolese Tutsi General Laurent Nkunda and later Bosco Ntaganda, which after 2009 peace deal integrated the rebel troops into the Congolese army and made Bosco an army general. This brief period seemed to usher in a new era of cooperation between the two countries, but after international pressure to arrest Bosco spiked a few months ago, not only has violence exponentially started again but neighbor tensions between Rwanda and Congo have created more complexities to the already thorny causes and effects of conflict in Congo. It is extremely exasperating seeing the cycle of violence repeat itself while the number of internally displaced people (IDPs) in the DRC has now reached more than two million as of March 31, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

History Shouldn’t Repeat Itself, Especially Not in the Congo

Newly arrived refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo queue at the Nakamira transit camp near Gisenyi in northwest Rwanda after fleeing the Masisi region in Congo's North Kivu province

Newly arrived refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo queue at the Nakamira transit camp near Gisenyi in northwest Rwanda after fleeing the Masisi region in Congo’s North Kivu province

“When the soldiers started to shoot, I ran. I thought my family was following,” a 15-year-old told UNHCR after arriving at Rwanda’s Nkamira Transit Centre.

He is just one of more than 6,000 Congolese to have crossed into Rwanda in the last 10 days due to increased violent clashes between the armed forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC) and a large group of mutineers loyal to General Bosco Ntaganda. History is repeating itself, and this time it’s the Congolese who are fleeing to Rwanda. And perversely, these innocent Congolese civilians are trying to get away from ex-Rwandan/CNDP rebels who waged genocide in Rwanda eighteen years ago and escaped to neighboring Congo to evade justice and the consequences of their actions.

“The transit camp cannot cope with that number (of refugees) because the number is increasing on a daily basis. We have gone beyond the capacity of this camp. We are trying to construct more shelters. We are expanding the water and sanitation facilities,” said Richard Ndaula, the U.N. emergency team leader in Nkamira.

Others have fled to Goma, the capital of the North Kivu province, from their homes in the Masisi and Walikale territories where fighting has intensified the most in the last month. The United Nations estimates about 58,000 were displaced within the province between January and March, a U.N. statement said. Statistics can be numbing sometimes, but this staggering statistic of 300,00 people being displaced throughout the country in the first three months of 2012 should serve as a burning wake-up call. Despondently, for Congolese, this isn’t the first time in the lives that they have been displaced, the cycle of violence is never-ending.

“It is nearly impossible to believe that, year after year, the lives of people in eastern Congo continue to be destroyed. The international community must commit to ensuring this region becomes safe and finally free of the armed groups, interested only in its natural resources, who prevent innocent civilians from living in peace”, said JRS Great Lakes Director, Tony Calleja SJ.

In addition, renewed attacks by the LRA in Orientale province has displaced more than 2,500 people, most of whom have fled to Dungu or nearby sites for internally displaced people (IDP), where they receive help from UNHCR and its partners. Just Wednesday, at least three people have been killed and 51 abducted, including 16 children. LRA fighters have built up a reputation for their random spurts of violence,looting, rape, and abducting people from the villages that they terrorize.Long-term security is the most important concern for the displaced.

Why is Congo plagued with such relentless bloodshed?

As we celebrate Mother’s Day here, let us commemorate the power of mothers and women in the Congo. Noella, displaced from the war, now manages a medical center, the Sofepadi Association. She says,  “Women contribute a lot to the peace process. They are the mothers at home. They can easily influence their households. And when you have influence in your home, you may also have influence outside.” Watch the video to learn more:

"Women are a force which can change the world”

“Women are a force which can change the world”

Good books and films about the Rwandan Genocide

Genocide in Rwanda

The genocide in Rwanda started in April 1994 and resulted in the deaths of over 800,000 people

April is Genocide Awareness and Prevention Month. In honor of this, we have compiled a Resource List of books and films themed around each of the past genocides that have commemorative dates in April, plus the areas that we cover.

We hope you will make use of this list as a way to both remember these genocides, and learn more about them.  This is our second entry, the Rwandan Genocide.

Recommended Books:

A People Betrayed: The Role of the West in Rwanda’s Genocide, by Linda Melvern
Melvern gives a shocking portrait of calculated mass murder, revealing how the international community, and especially the U.S., failed to act in the face of a carefully executed plan to murder one million Tutsis and moderate Hutus in Rwanda in 1994.

An Ordinary Man, by Paul Rusesabagina
The book explores the inner life of the man who became one of the most prominent public faces of the Rwandan genocide.  Rusesabagina tells the story of his life which led him to become the first Rwandan manager of the Hotel Milles Collines and brings the reader inside the hotel for the days depicted in the film, “Hotel Rwanda”.

God Sleeps in Rwanda, by Joseph Sebarenzi
In this memoir, Joseph Sebarenzi presents a thoughtful critique of Kagame’s regime.  His tale is a provocative warning to the many outsiders who are ready to canonize Paul Kagame, the ruler of Rwanda since the genocide.

Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust, by Immaculee Ilibagiza
This searing firsthand account of Rwandan native Ilibagiza’s experience in 1994 cuts two ways: her description of the evil that was perpetrated, including the brutal murders of her family members, is soul-numbingly devastating, yet the story of her unquenchable faith and connection to God throughout the ordeal uplifts and inspires.

Life Laid Bare: The Survivors in Rwanda Speak, by Jean Hatzfield
In this French-English translated book, the author made several trips to the Bugasera-one of the region’s most devastated by the genocide.  In the villages of Nyamata and N’tamara, he interviewed 14 survivors. From child farmers to school teachers, each person gives accounts of their experiences.

Machete Season: The Killers in Rwanda Speak, by Jean Hatzfeld
This book features the testimony of 10 friends from the same village who spent day after day together, fulfilling orders to kill any Tutsi within their territory during the 1994 Rwandan genocide.  Hatzfeld offers an analysis of the psychology of the perpetrators and how the Rwandan genocide differs from other genocides in history.

Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda, by Roméo Dallaire
As former head of the late 1993 U.N. peacekeeping mission in Rwanda, Canadian general Dallaire’s initial proposal called for 5,000 soldiers to permit orderly elections and the return of the refugees.  Nothing like this number was supplied, and the result was an outright attempt at genocide against the Tutsis that nearly succeeded, with 800,000 dead over three months. The book documents in horrifying detail what happens when no serious effort is made.

We Wish to Inform You that Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families: Stories From Rwanda, by Philip Gourevitch *favorite
The stories in this book are unrelentingly horrifying and filled with “the idiocy, the waste, the sheer wrongness” of one group of Rwandans (Hutus) methodically exterminating another (Tutsis).  With 800,000 people killed in 100 days, Gourevitch found many numbed Rwandans who had lost whole families to the machete.

Read more of this post

April is Genocide Awareness and Prevention Month

Photograph by Rev. Wilfredo Benitez for Orange County for Darfur

April 2011 is the first official Genocide Awareness and Prevention Month in the State of California. In April 2010, the California State Legislature passed Assembly Concurrent Resolution 144 proclaiming April of each year Genocide Awareness and Prevention Month.

In honor of this, we compiled a Resource List of books and films themed around each of the past genocides that have commemorative dates in April, plus the areas that we cover.  Below we have included links to all of our Resource List entries.  We hope you will make use of this list as a way to both remember these genocides, and learn more about them.

Good books and films about the Bosnian Genocide
Good books and films about the Rwandan Genocide
Good books and films about the Cambodian Genocide
Good books and films about the Darfur Genocide
Good books and films about the Armenian Genocide
Good books and films about The Holocaust
Good books and films about mass atrocities in Burma

Good books and films about mass atrocities in Congo
Good books and films about mass atrocities in Sudan
Good books and films about Genocide

Compiled by Paulina Robles and Barbara English of Orange County for Darfur and Martina Knee of the San Francisco Bay Area Darfur Coalition.

Why are opposition leaders under 24 hour survelience in Rwanda?

Here is a report from Al Jazeera on Rwanda’s ‘opposition crackdown’ ahead of presidential poll.

Rwandans are preparing to vote for their country’s presidential election as campaigning comes to an end.

Paul Kagame, the incumbent president and candidate for the ruling party, has gained massive popularity from both ethnic Tutsis and Hutus who recognise his leading role in boosting the country’s economy.

But more and more people are questioning his record on democracy amidst claims of a violent crackdown on opposition supporters in the run up to the election.

Al Jazeera’s Andrew Simmons reports from the capital Kigali.

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