Returning to Rwanda 'too dangerous'
TWENTY YEARS: Joseph Kimenyi had hoped to take his children to Rwanda by now, but ongoing tensions in the area make it impossible.
The last drive Palmerston North man Joseph Kimenyi made to Kilgali International Airport lives on behind his eyelids.
Thousands of mutilated corpses didn't just line the familiar road, they covered it. Many were bloated.
"There was no way to pass them by. We just had to close our eyes and drive over them," Kimenyi said.It is reminiscent of the portrayal of Paul Rusesabagina journey across Kigali in the film Hotel Rwanda, the realisation that they are driving over bodies is mind numbing.
On Sunday it will be 20 years since the worst mass-murder event of modern times was triggered in Rwanda - a three-month massacre that left 800,000 minority Tutsis and politically moderate Hutus dead.It was a lesson for the world and unfortunately one that we failed to learn from if one was to look at the current situation in the Central African Republic. Our failure to act against the Rwandan regime 20 years ago is one of the direct causes of the Congo wars that have killed a further 6 million people. Only now is the world catching up with the remnants of the genocidal regime and the civilian Hutu militia known as the Interahamwe, the FDLR will be defeated soon by the Congolese Army ( FARDC ), MONUSCO, and the Intervention ( Africa ) Brigade.
It forced Kimenyi, a Hutu himself and son of Rwanda's first president Dominique Mbonyumutwa, to repatriate to Kenya and then New Zealand with his family two years later.
The night the genocide began, Kimenyi, managing a fleet of 400 cars for the United Nations in Kigali, dropped a cohort of Bangladeshis off at Kigali Airport and drove back to the UN compound to finish his shift.
"Gunshots started to be fired and I was waiting for them to stop so I could go home but it just got worse and worse," Kimenyi said.It is a familiar story, one that you will hear repeated throughout both Rwanda and the DR Congo. It is an interesting historical footnote that whilst the UN Security Council dithered New Zealand was in the presidency and attempted to prevent it only to be frustrated by the permanent members of the council. Former NZ Deputy Prime Minister Jim McLay recounts:
" As the death count grew, our Ambassador, Colin Keating, pressed hard for the UN peacekeeping mission in Rwanda to be strengthened, and for the Council to declare this atrocity as genocide.
As the Council’s President in April 1994, we even had to threaten to hold a public debate to shame certain countries for their refusal to acknowledge what was happening.
In the end, mainly because of the unwillingness of some of the Council’s permanent members, those efforts were unsuccessful and 800,000 innocent people were butchered – many with jungle knives."
New Zealand is in the running for a non permanent seat on the UN Security Council later this year. I hope the world remembers the efforts of a small South Pacific nation to help Rwanda, destined to failure though they were.
Kimenyi could not go home. He was holed up in the sandbagged five-storey compound eating biscuit rations until May 18, more than a month after fighting began, when he was transported by the UN to the airport and then Kenya.
Twenty years on Kimenyi, now 58, wishes he and his adult-age children could go back to his former country. See the mountains, walk the streets, reprogramme the memories.
That is not possible under the current Tutsi-led government, which he says is still marginalising the Hutu population and silencing those abroad who speak up about it.
Paul Kagame's regime is little better ( if at all ), than that of the genocidaires who he displaced. One only needs to look at his treatment of Victoire Ingabire to realise the levels of domestic oppression he continues to inflict on the Rwandan Hutu population. The actions of his government and other African regimes in the Great Lakes Region surrounding the eastern DR Congo have exceeded even the colonial atrocities of the west. That the west has only just started to act to restrain Kagame is in itself an indictment upon us.
"I had hoped that those who took over power would have learned from the mistakes of other governments. I had thought it would be five, maybe 10 years, but now 20 has gone by and still there's problems."They haven't and all that can be said for that failure to learn, is that a repeat of the 1994 insanity is far more likely because of that. I blogged this stupidity from Rwanda's UN Ambassador Eugène-Richard Gasana back in January.
" Meanwhile, 20 years after the Genocide, the UN for the first time yesterday used the phrase “genocide against the Tutsi” in reference to the 1994 killings that claimed the lives of one million people, instead of the “Rwandan genocide”.
That is a mistake. Many Hutu also died because they would not participate in the genocide. Their sacrifice should never be forgotten. Racism should be fought wherever it happens, the perpetrators of the Rwandan Genocide like the Nazi's will face justice. The world owes the murdered nothing less, both Tutsi and Hutu.
The label “Rwandan genocide” is mainly associated with groups and individuals who attempt to distort the history of the Genocide, including those who deny that Tutsis were the principal targets during the 100-day killing spree.
Bullshit. Again a lie covered with a truth. No one denies that Tutsi were the principal target I just refuse to see people in terms of racial identity. Will New Times next be asking for ethnicity to be included on identification documents ? That is the road of ethnic separation that idiotic statements such as " groups and individuals who attempt to distort the history of the
Genocide" will take Rwanda down, a road it should never travel again."
Gasana is a fool in a nation that is governed by fools. Tomorrow should not be about Tutsi or Hutu, it should be a day for the world to reflect on our failing of both the Tutsi and Hutu who were murdered by the Interahamwe thugs and for Rwanda it should be about reconciliation. I have little hope either will happen.
The Manawatu Standard spoke to Kimenyi in 2010 after a BBC correspondent contacted him to tell him his father's body had been dug up.
After his death in 1986, Mbonyumutwa was buried at Democracy Stadium in Gitarama - the place where Rwanda's Hutu leaders announced the Tutsi monarchy would be abolished.
The exact location of Mbonyumutwa body's is unknown but he is understood to have been moved to a public cemetery. Kimenyi said that was just one example of the government's attempt to rewrite history to exclude the suffering of Hutu during the genocide.Paul Kagame and his
"There's still no acknowledgement of the Hutu that have put their lives at risk to protect Tutsi.
Remember Victoire Ingabire who now is rotting in a Rwandan gaol for trumped up charges that there is absolutely no evidence of her committing, her principle crime was opposing Kagame and being a Hutu.
" Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza arrived in Rwanda on the 16th of January 2010, From the airport she went straight to the memorial of the genocide to pay respect to Tutsi victims of genocide. She made a speech in which she called for justice to bring to book those who committed genocide against Tutsi and those who committed other crimes including war crimes and crimes against without fear or favour, irrespective of ethnic or political affiliation. She considered equitable justice as a solid foundation for national reconciliation and durable peace and development. After this speech she was accused of having and spreading Genocidal ideology, negationism and divisionism."
"It is heartbreaking for me - there can't be reconciliation if the government continues to change our history.
"I feel I have to make a choice. Do I let myself be silenced or do I speak and face the consequences?"It is a real fear the Kagame regime has undoubtedly informants within the Rwandan diaspora, New Zealand might well be too much of a stretch for Kagame but Joseph Kimenyi would be at risk anywhere in Africa and one of the consequences he now faces is that his country of birth is now for the foreseeable future out of his grasp.
Kimenyi said his criticism of the government was far easier for him to do in New Zealand than if he were in Rwanda but he could never be certain of his safety.Again that is true Kagame would be insane to attempt anything in New Zealand and if he did his agents would almost certainly be caught but it is not unreasonable to question Kagame's sanity.
"That's why I'll probably never get back to Rwanda. I do wish to go back some day. The weather is beautiful."
Rwanda's loss is our gain.
Hat Tip Ambrose Nzeyimana