- before the genocide
- the genocide
- after the genocide
- witness
- issues



'The river Kagera flows into a steep ravine that forms the natural border between Tanzania and Rwanda. There is a small waterfall where the river narrows before entering the gorge. In the rainy season the river swells. As it sweeps down from the highlands, it gathers into its currents huge clumps of elephant grass and numerous small trees. In the late spring of 1994 it was much the same with human corpses. They, too, twisted and turned, rose and dropped and came bouncing over the falls before they found the still water which would carry them down to Lake Victoria. They did not look dead. They looked like swimmers, because the strong currents invested them with powers of movement. So lifelike did they appear that for a few moments I winced as I watched them thrown against the rocks, imagining the pain they must be feeling. It was only beyond the falls, where they floated lifeless among the trees and grass, that one could accept the certainty of death. The border guards told me people had been floating through in their hundreds, every day for weeks. Many had their hands tied behind their backs. They had been shot, hacked, clubbed, burned, drowned.'

'Those victims who escaped death carry on as best they can, often not very well. What they say today is what they said yesterday and what they will go on saying: for them time came to a halt and they can find no peace of mind. They complain that they have been abandoned. They are the ones who have to face all the grievances, sometimes compassion, sometimes others' shame for what they have done. At first sight they seem to be enclosed in a silence so profound it's frightening. Then sometimes, just a word, just a look, just a few moments' wait will turn a victim into an eyewitness. In a feeble but clear monotone they will tell you, as they stare at the ground, how they escaped the worst fate; they're alive, they're lucky. And one of the first things they tell you is that they are one of those whom death refused. Then they describe what they witnessed, acts of unbearable horror.'

'In the schoolrooms and church halls where they were slaughtered, many of the dead have been left unburied, to form their own memorial. The rooms are empty except for trestle tables on which collected bodies and bones have been laid, entangled. In one room the faded, shapeless clothes of the dead have been strung on motionless lines: curiously beautiful. In another it's the floor that supports the barely recognisable decomposed remains, lost in a sleep more fast than most of us get to know. There is no smell, there are no flies. The atmosphere is, in fact, intensely peaceful; the scene is deeply moving. It is also full of unspeakable sorrow.'


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