Heading Home in Rwanda
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LINDSEY HILSUM, ITN: The cathedral at Nundo in Gisenyi. Rwanda is the most Catholic country in Africa. Nearly everyone goes to church. During the 1994 genocide, Tutsis and opposition Hutus ran to Nundo, seeking safety in God’s house. Instead, they found death. Christians now worship in the same pews where 300 were killed on April 9, 1994, and another 200 on May 1st. Amongst the dead were 29 priests, holding an Easter meeting. In the congregation today, survivors, newcomers, returning refugees, maybe killers. People arrive during the service. Stephanie Hanyorinvora has made the long walk back from two years of exile in Zaire. She goes to church before going home. She told us at the time she knew nothing about the slaughter of Tutsis by her fellow Hutus, led by the extremist militia. She walks past the sign saying, “All who enter this church remember those who are killed and buried here.” Susanna Nyiratagorama is one of the few Tutsi survivors in the area. She was hidden by Hutu friends while the killings continued around her.
SUSANNA NYIRATAGORAMA: (speaking through interpreter) The people who died came from all around this area. Their houses had been destroyed–some had been killed. The bishop brought the survivors to the Cathedral. There were many. Some of my family were amongst them. Some were then killed inside the church and some outside.
LINDSEY HILSUM: Prayers for the souls of the dead can’t assuage the fears of the living. Susanna’s sister and her husband survived the genocide, only to be killed two months ago by armed men attacking over the border from Zaire. Susanna believes her sister was targeted as an eyewitness who might report the authorities killers amongst the returning refugees. The 1/2 million returning Hutu refugees will find fear and mistrust felt by survivors like Susanna awaits them at home.
SUSANNA NYIRATAGORAMA: (speaking through interpreter) I don’t think you can imprison everybody but nearly everybody participated. Even children killed; they killed other children. Even the women killed other women. Can you imprison everybody–even the women?
LINDSEY HILSUM: Rwanda’s justice system is stalled. Many Hutus have been imprisoned, accused of genocide; none have been tried. Some have been killed, some falsely accused because of disputes over property or land. The survivors fear the returning refugees. The refugees fear vengeance from the survivors, or Rwanda’s Tutsi-led government. Jean Uwamungo returned her from the refugee camp last weekend, one of the first, because he’s luckiest enough to own a bicycle. Susanna wants to know who else is coming home from the camp. Jean brings news of people she hasn’t seen for two years, Hutus who will be her neighbors again. But even as the two were talking, two other villagers separately whispered to us that Jean was an Interhamway, a member of the Hutu militia which led the killing, an allegation which may well be untrue but which shows the degree of suspicion and mistrust. Everyone wants to know what the returning Hutus have to say. We asked whether the authorities at the border had questioned Jean.
JEAN UWAMUNGO: (speaking through interpreter) They asked me, were you a soldier? I said, no, I used to work in someone’s house. They saw me passing without fear. I got through with no problems. Nobody said I was bothering anybody.
LINDSEY HILSUM: But it’s back in the community, where secrets are hard to keep, that over the next few months questions will be asked. Even Jean says some killers have returned.
JEAN UWAMUNGO: (speaking through interpreter) I can’t say exactly who because everybody’s come. Soldiers, civilians, everyone.
LINDSEY HILSUM: Susanna says there’s nothing she can do but live with the fear and hope the government will protect her. Jean knows that coming home doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll be allowed to rebuild the life he left when he fled two years ago.