Frontline World

RWANDA - After the Genocide, December 2003
a FRONTLINE/World Fellows project
7/3/03 7/7/03 7/11/03 7/15/03 7/19/03 7/19/03 7/20/03 7/23/03
7/20/03 Evasion and a Brutal Truth pacifique mukeshima Domina Nyirandayambaje Aloys Habimana
Domina Nyirandayambaje
Domina Nyirandayambaje lost her husband and three children during the genocide.
We returned to the village the next morning in order to speak with some people that we'd met the previous day. One man we encountered had just been released from prison after giving a confession. We sat in his hut while he told us that he'd been sent to jail only because he'd seen someone killed and hadn't done anything to stop it.

I felt a bit skeptical about his story, so I asked him to take us to another recently released prisoner. The next guy seemed even more evasive. He said that he had gone out to warn people about being in danger, but on the way to do this good deed he'd happened upon a group already in the process of killing someone. He'd been implicated in the killing with the perpetrators, he claimed. As we were walking away from his hut, I asked Joseph what he thought and he told me: "The first one is telling 90 percent of the truth, and the second one is just telling lies."

Pacifique Mukeshimana
Pacifique Mukeshimana, who has admitted to participating in the murder of two people during the genocide, fixes his family's fence.
We went looking for the president of the gacaca. When we summarized what the two men had told us, she shook her head. She said that both men had already confessed their crimes in front of the gacaca. The first guy had actually pointed out the murder victim to a group of killers, and the second one had been directly involved in killing people, she said.

I asked the gacaca president, Odette Dusabemariya, if there was anyone who would tell us a more accurate story. She said there was one released prisoner in the village (out of about 12) who seemed genuinely remorseful, and she sent her daughter to fetch him.

Pacifique Mukeshimana is 29 now; he was just 20 during the genocide. Speaking with his head buried in his hands and his voice barely audible, he said that he'd killed two people -- clubbing one and using a machete on another -- during the slaughter. He's confessed these crimes publicly and asked forgiveness from the families. He told us there was nothing for him to do in the village, and there was no hope for his future there.

Rwanda's Neighborhood
United Nations Involvement
Root of Hutu/Tutsi Tension
Rwandan Civil War, 1990-1994
Rwanda's 1994 Genocide
Rwandan Patriotic Front
Paul Kagame
After he left, I asked to speak to the family of one of his victims. The gacaca president led us down a path to the hut of a woman whose husband he'd killed. We sat on little benches in the corner -- a chicken wandered through at one point -- while the woman, Domina Nyirandayambaje, told us how her husband and children had been rounded up and killed while she'd been raped. She began crying and I didn't really know what to do. I didn't want to traumatize her further. Thankfully, Joseph has a very gentle way of questioning people. Mostly we just listened to her talk.

You go into the field looking for these tales. But when you actually find them you feel a bit sick. The details of the atrocity being spoken into your tape recorder give the story you're working on much greater impact. It's your job to report on this, and to get it right.

There's another part of you that feels like a vulture, though, picking through the carcass of someone else's trauma. I pressed the woman about whether she minded if I printed her story, and she said it was perfectly okay because this is the only way people will know what happened. I couldn't help thinking that repeating her story is not going to help her one way or another.

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