Thoughts on Rwanda, human rights and genocide: By Patty Kean (USA) Facilitator

What of Kigali?

So far, it is a city of juxtapositions. The genocide, the killings before those three months of dedicated killing and the killings afterwards (both sides killed) and the harshness of this reality within the poised gentleness and hospitality of the people I have met thus far. It is a challenging juxtaposition as it suggests to me again that we might all be capable of knowing such horror. It suggests to me that it is necessary for all of us to intentionally think about this human capacity for violence so that we can intentionally decide against it. It is important, I think, to own all of our humanity – all of our capacities – so we can choose which capacities to live into, and, so that we can create systems to safeguard us from ourselves: Educational systems, healthcare systems, systems of international accountability and response.

I am also thinking about the shaming that seems to have been introduced into Rwanda through the colonizers who first created the privileged ethnicity of the Tutsi – creating artificial distinctions between them and the Hutus. We know that our human nature is programmed to define its own group in positive light, and when any group’s identity is shamed, it reverberates within the self-identity of each member of the group. I am wondering how this internalized shame contributed to the genocide, expressing itself in rage?

How to go forward? Rwanda now declares there is no Hutu, no Tutsi, just Rwandans, thus undoing the colonizers’ categories. It seems right to use descriptive words of perpetrator and victim and survivor when speaking of the genocide in Rwanda, with its many layers and long history. It is not fair to the people already so deeply wounded to reduce the genocide merely to the artificial distinctions introduced by the colonizer or perhaps even to the three months in 1994.

We watched a group of people at the genocide memorial, men, women and children, dressed as for a formal occasion; carry beautiful flowers down to the mass grave. It was a solemn haunting procession as they traveled almost as one person might down the stairs to the gardens.

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