Monday, February 15, 2010

Most Beautiful Place I've Been

During the Belgian occupation of Rwanda (part of Belgian Congo), Belgian doctors created templates of head and nose sizes on cardboard by which to measure, record and label the local population into two (really, three including the 2% Twa) ethnic groups. They marked "Tutsi" or "Hutu" on their national ID cards. This was the beginning of a nightmare. The "wind of destruction" in 1959 left 20-100 thousand Tutsi minority dead, and had the survivors accusing the Belgian commandos for sponsoring the Hutu murderers. A special commission from the U.N. called the Belgian actions "Nazism against the Tutsi people." After 1,000,000 deaths in 1994, including the thousands killed by the retaliating Rwandan Patriotic Front "inyenzi" (cockroaches) led by the now-President Paul Kagame, this beautiful nation has become one of ultimate sadness and despair.

Yet, today, hope grows through the telling of stories, the friendships made between ethnic groups, the growing universities and the influence of Western and Eastern people; not just Belgian colonialism, Belgian destruction, Belgian ignorance, and Belgian superiority. At the tenth anniversary of the genocide, Belgian Senator Alain Destexhe blamed General Romeo Dallaire (Canadian Commander of the UN mission in Rwanda during the genocide) for the death of ten Belgian soldiers (working for the UN). 10. 10 soldiers. In the midst of a 1 million citizen genocide, Dallaire should have concentrated on 10. Insane.

When I lived in Rwanda, I experienced friendship, troubled pasts, heart break, tears, love, caring, mountains, rivers, lush gardens, wonderful cities and people genuinely moving forward. Christiane Amanpour's "list" article in yesterday's NY Times Magazine read "19. Worst Place She's Been: Rwanda. In the space of 90 days, around one million people were killed with machetes and clubs. When I was in Rwanda in 1994, all you could see was darkness, even on a bright day."

For me, I can't wait to return to Rwanda and to see how far it has come. Where you will probably never see me is the home of the real problem, Brussels. I pray for Belgian charity and compassion and a push to try to soothe the nightmare wave they have left behind in a wake of greed.


1 comment:

  1. The difference in your and Christiane Amanpour's attitude is striking. In the New York Times article, she never said that she wanted to return to Rwanda, yet that's what you emphasize. You're angry about the horror of the genocide, but you have hope for the future. In many ways, looking toward a better future is what you're all about.