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FRONTLINE Show #1509
Air date: April 1, 1997
[on screen: This program contains graphic images and descriptions of genocide. Viewer discretion is advised.]
ANNOUNCER: In the Spring of 1994, as 800,000 men,women and children were being slaughtered in Rwanda, BBC correspondent Fergal Keane was one of the first western reporters to witness the full scale of the genocide.
FERGAL KEANE: I had seen war before. I had seen the face of cruelty. But here in southeast Rwanda, in a churchyard at a place called Nyarubuye, I walked into a nightmare zone. Here my capacity to rationalize, to understand was overwhelmed. At Nyarubuye the house of God had become one of Rwanda's most terrible killing grounds. At the time, I tried to describe what I saw. [on-camera] You don't just see death here, you feel it and you smell it. It is as if all the good and life in the atmosphere had been sucked out and replaced with the stench of evil. There are two thoughts then: that of the people who knew they were going to die and the mortal terror they must have felt, and of the savagery and hatred in the hearts of those who were going to kill them.
[voice-over] I left Nyarubuye that night believing that nobody had survived. But I was wrong. Shortly afterwards I met Valentina, orphaned and badly wounded. She was a lost child of Rwanda's madness. I could not help her then and I left Rwanda, but Valentina and Rwanda did not leave me. They lived on in my dreams and one day I knew I would have to go back.
Three years later I found Valentina in the church at Nyarubuye. She comes here to remember her family and friends killed in the genocide.
VALENTINA IRIBAGIZA, Survivor: [through interpreter] I prayed that I would die because I couldn't see a future life. I didn't think there was anybody in the country left alive to share a life as before. I thought everybody had been swept away.
FERGAL KEANE: Valentina was born in Nyarubuye, "the place of stones," a remote village in the high savanna of southeast Rwanda. She and her family were members of the minority, the Tutsis, just 15 percent of the population. The village was dominated by members of the Hutu majority. Tutsis had suffered violence in the past but nothing could have prepared Valentina for the coming apocalypse.
[interviewing] You knew Valentina before the genocide. How has she been changed by what's happened to her?
MARIE GORETTI, Valentina's Teacher: [through interpreter] She was a child without a scar on her body. Also her mind was different then, when she had her parents. Everything in her thoughts has been changed by what happened to her.
FERGAL KEANE: Valentina's nightmare began at
Nyarubuye's Catholic church. In April, 1994, 1,000
local Tutsis fled here for sanctuary. Hutu extremists
had just seized power in Rwanda. Their aim: the
extermination of all Tutsis. A mob of Hutus surrounded the church, urged on by the army and extremist radio.
RADIO BROADCAST: [subtitles] All Tutsis will perish. They will disappear from the earth.
We strike them down with arms. Slowly, slowly slowly, we kill them like rats.
VALENTINA IRIBAGIZA: [through interpreter] Their leader said Hutus should come out of the crowd. Some people were desperate and lied. They were shot dead straight away. Then their leader said that we were snakes and they should smash our heads. That was when they started to cut people up.
FERGAL KEANE: The killers herded their victims into the church. Children were a priority target. "When you kill rats, you don't spare the babies," their leaders said.
VALENTINA IRIBAGIZA: [through interpreter] We were pretending to be dead. They took stones and smashed the heads of the bodies. They took little children and smashed their heads together. When they found someone breathing, they pulled them out and finished them off.
FERGAL KEANE: Over four days the killers worked their way through the terrified crowd, through every building in the church compound. Hiding under bodies, a few children saw what happened.
PLACIDE UWINAGIYE, Survivor: [through interpreter] Many of the people were screaming and asking for mercy. You could hear the militia shout, "Catch him! Here's one of them. Catch him."
I saw many people being killed. They took one person out of the group and cut off his head. And even the pregnant women, they cut open their stomachs. They were taking everyone they could catch and killing them. I ran through the crowd to avoid being killed. I don't know what happened to my mother. I saw my father being killed. They cut him to pieces.
FERGAL KEANE: The killers kept normal working hours, returning home every evening.
MARIA MUSABYEMALIYA, Survivor: [through interpreter] It was the evening. When the killers went home, I went to where my parents had been killed and lay down near my mother's body. The following morning they came back again to kill more people. Some of the people beside me were dying and I pretended that I was dead, too. There was a child lying in front of me and they smashed him with a club again and again and he died. They also killed a woman behind me, but they didn't see me. They were talking about throwing grenades at the bodies, but they said it would be a waste.
FERGAL KEANE: The killers saw Valentina lying among the wounded. They struck her on the head with a machete. Her hands were mutilated fending off the blows. Believing her to be dead, the killers moved on to other victims.
VALENTINA IRIBAGIZA: [through interpreter] They killed my family. I saw them kill my papa and my brother, but I didn't see what happened to my mother.
FERGAL KEANE: Across Rwanda the slaughter was being repeated. No Tutsi was safe. In 100 days more than 800,000 people were to die. Extremist radio reminded Hutus of the colonial days, when Tutsi chiefs had been feudal overlords. "Don't let these cockroaches make slaves of you," it warned. And then it said, "The graves are only half full. Who will help us to fill them?" To understand Rwanda's genocidal madness, you must go back more than three decades to the days of Belgian colonial rule. Then the Belgians used the Tutsi
minority to enforce their rule. The Tutsis were
Rwanda's aristocracy. The Hutu majority were farmers, a downtrodden underclass. The system bred bitter resentment of the Tutsis which exploded into violence as Belgium prepared to leave Rwanda in the late 1950s.
GERARD PRUNIER, Author, "Rwanda Crisis: History of a Genocide": There was a great feeling of inferiority on the part of the Hutu. I mean, this violence could never have existed if there had not been resentment, if_ the political violence could not take place in a climate where even those people who were not very enthusiastic about it would say, "Well, after all, these people, they got what they deserve," huh? It's a little bit what happened with the Jews in central Europe during the Second World War. I mean, when the
Germans were killing Jews in a lot of central European countries, well, the local population didn't mind so much. And I think, well, a lot of Hutus, well, didn't mind so much that political activists would kill Tutsi. There was a climate.
FERGAL KEANE: When Rwanda became independent in 1961, tens of thousands of Tutsi were driven out of the country. In purge after purge the members of the minority were forced to flee their homeland, seeking refuge in the neighboring countries. Most went to Uganda, where they formed a guerrilla army, the Rwandan Patriotic Front.
In 1990 the Patriotic Front invaded Rwanda,
determined to force the Hutu government to share power with the Tutsi minority. The guerrillas were
disciplined fighters. By the end of 1993, the Hutu
government of this man, Juvenal Habyarimana, gave in to pressure for talks. Anxious to stay in power himself, Habyarimana agreed to share some power with these Tutsi leaders. It was a decision that enraged his Hutu extremist supporters.
GERARD PRUNIER: They thought that Habyarimana's government, whom they had backed up to then and who was their man, was getting soft and that the Arusha negotiations were a sign that Habyarimana didn't have it any more and that he was getting soft on the Tutsis and, well, you couldn't really trust him any more. He was getting dangerous. He wanted his power, his own power, too much and he was ready to jettison the core meaning of what the government was about.
FERGAL KEANE: Hutu extremism?
GERARD PRUNIER: Oh, Hutu power.
FERGAL KEANE: On the evening of 6th of April,1994, President Habyarimana flew back to Rwanda after more power-sharing talks. It was to be his last flight.
BBC RADIO ANNOUNCER: Oh-four hours, Greenwich mean time.
REPORTER: The presidents of Rwanda and Burundi in central Africa have been killed in a plane crash.
The circumstances are unclear. Rwandan officials say the plane was shot down.
FERGAL KEANE: The plane was hit by a missile fired from near a Rwandan military base. The Hutu extremists immediately blamed the Tutsis, but it's now widely believed that extremists themselves shot down the president.
GERARD PRUNIER: I think it was his own friends and that it was just a good way of getting things started. He had outlived his usefulness and this was a tremendous boost in starting the genocide because a lot of people who were_ well, didn't like the Tutsi, but who were sort of fence sitters, they said, "The Tutsi killed our president_ our president." They felt it was their president, as Hutus. And if the Tutsis did that they deserved to die.
FERGAL KEANE: And the immediate effect of shooting down the plane?
GERARD PRUNIER: Yeah, was starting the genocide. It started within the hour.
FERGAL KEANE: Hutu militias and troops took to the streets. Rwanda's season of blood had begun. Using lists prepared long in advance, the extremists went from neighborhood to neighborhood, killing any Tutsi they could find and every Hutu who opposed the extremist agenda. National radio acted as a cheerleader for the slaughter. The Tutsis, it said, must become nothing but a memory.
[interviewing] What did they want to do with the Tutsis?
GERARD PRUNIER: Oh, it is very simple: kill them all. That is extremely simple. Kill them all.
FERGAL KEANE: Every single Tutsi had to be wiped out?
GERARD PRUNIER: Yes. Man, woman and child.
FERGAL KEANE: The small U.N. force deployed in Rwanda as part of the original peace settlement was told not to intervene and then dramatically scaled down. With the memory of American casualties in Somalia still fresh, the West retreated.
GERARD PRUNIER: We preferred to let the genocide take its course rather than take our responsibilities and being criticized for the necessary things that could have happened because they would not have been cost-free. They would have cost some money and some blood and we're not willing to spend either.
FERGAL KEANE: Weary of African conflicts, the world abandoned the Tutsis to their fate. Back in Nyarubuye, the killers had finally finished their work. After four days they left, believing they'd killed all of their 1,000 Tutsi neighbors. But at the end of this trail next to the church, badly wounded but still breathing, Valentina lay hidden among the corpses. For days and nights she lay still, listening to every sound.
VALENTINA IRIBAGIZA: [through interpreter] I stayed there for some time, over a month. When I tried to get up, I would fall down. I figured that if the killers came I would pretend to be dead.
FERGAL KEANE: Next to where she was lying were the stones where the killers sharpened their machetes, beside them the toilets. Here babies grabbed from their dying parents were thrust headfirst to suffocate in dark pits. With the killers gone, a handful of child survivors eventually emerged from their hiding places. With their families dead, they supported each other.
MARIA MUSABYEMALIYA: [through interpreter] Those who were strong cooked and we all shared. We tried to help each other. We cooked for those who couldn't walk. They just sat there. And then we shared the food.
FERGAL KEANE: The children believed the world had ended, but in fact a bitter battle for Rwanda was being waged in the towns and villages beyond Nyarubuye. When they learned of the genocide, Tutsi guerrillas of the Patriotic Front immediately abandoned their ceasefire. They attacked the government army and its peasant militia. As the battle continued, much of Rwanda was being destroyed. But the rebels' advance saved the Tutsis from extinction.
Fleeing the rebel advance was a vast mass of Hutu refugees. In 24 hours, a quarter of a million people crossed into neighboring Tanzania, the largest such exodus since World War II. Near Nyarubuye they passed out of Rwanda, across the River Akagera, now a carriageway of death. There were so many bodies in Rwanda, it seemed as if the fields and hills could not hold them all.
In Nyarubuye, Valentina and the other orphans knew nothing of what was happening in the world beyond. For more than a month they lived and slept among the rotting corpses.
VALENTINA IRIBAGIZA: [through interpreter] At night the dogs came. The dogs were coming and eating dead children outside and in the other rooms next to me. Then, after some time, one dog came to where I was and started to eat a body. When this happened, I picked up a stone and threw it at the dog and he got scared and ran away.
FERGAL KEANE: As the perpetrators of genocide fled, Valentina struggled to survive in this small room. With little food available and her wounds festering, she became weaker and weaker. This was how Valentina looked when the Tutsi guerrilla army eventually came to Nyarubuye.
MARIE GORETTI: [through interpreter] I was among the people she reached first. She was in a very depressing situation because the machete wounds on her fingers had not been treated yet. She couldn't even get up from where she was sitting. We who knew her doubted whether she would survive.
FERGAL KEANE: This is where I first met Valentina. She had been taken to the makeshift clinic by Tutsi soldiers. There were no painkillers or antibiotics here. Her wounds had become infected and I, too, doubted that Valentina would survive.
I traveled on through Rwanda. Yet even, now two months into the genocide, the West refused to act. It admitted there been individual cases of genocide, but not a full-scale attempt to exterminate the Tutsis. Recognizing that would have legally obliged the West to act. Instead it took refuge in word games.
CHRISTINE SHELLEY, State Department: [June 10, 1994] As to the distinctions between the words, we're trying to call what we have seen so far, as best as we can, and based, again, on the evidence_ we have every reason to believe that acts of genocide have occurred.
REPORTER: How many acts of genocide does it take to make genocide?
CHRISTINE SHELLEY: Alan, that's just not a question that I'm in a position to answer.
GERARD PRUNIER: The United States, as other major powers, was a signatory of the December, 1948, convention on the repression of genocide. If any of the major powers would have admitted that the genocide was taking place, they would have been legally obliged by international law to intervene to stop it.
REPORTER: [June 10, 1994] Is it true that you have specific guidance not to use the word "genocide" in isolation, but always to preface it with these words, "acts of"?
CHRISTINE SHELLEY: I have guidance which_ which_ to which I_ which I try to use as best as I can. I'm not_ I have_ there are formulations that we are using that we_
GERARD PRUNIER: This was an easy way out, saying it is not a genocide. This was just wiggling out and I am ashamed for the poor woman. She was probably realizing what she was saying at the moment she was saying it.
CHRISTINE SHELLEY: [June 10, 1994] I have phraseology which has been carefully examined_
FERGAL KEANE: Meanwhile, the Hutu refugees who'd followed their extremist leaders into exile settled into camps set up by the international community. The extremists who had organized the genocide became the leaders in the camps.
PANOS MOUMTZIS, U.N. RELIEF WORKER: When people crossed the border, we all knew very well that among them there were murderers. There were people_ people that we're helping_ every time we give out food, every time we give health services, we know that among the
people that we are helping there are murderers. I'm afraid that when we have one million people, it's impossible to stop and ask the question, "Have you murdered anybody back home?"
FERGAL KEANE: Faced with images of suffering Hutu refugees, the familiar machinery of Western aid clicked into gear.
Pres. BILL CLINTON: [July 22, 1994] The flow of refugees across Rwanda's borders has now created what could be the world's worst humanitarian crisis in a generation. It is a disaster born of brutal violence and, according to experts now on site, it is now claiming one life every minute. Today I am announcing an immediate and massive increase in our response.
FERGAL KEANE: United States troops arrived to provide water in the camps. Food and medicine were distributed. Even Tipper Gore even arrived to help.
RELIEF WORKER: Now, I promised him that if he could eat and drink today, he wouldn't have to have anymore I.V.'s.
FERGAL KEANE: The international community was at last being seen to act on Rwanda. But in doing so, it ensured the comfort of killers from places like Nyarubuye. At least some of those involved at the time felt deep unease and they have one word to describe the whole experience.
FIONA TERRY, Doctors Without Borders: Disgust, disgust that the international community has spent $1 million a day on the camps in Zaire and in Tanzania, which over 2-and-a-half years is almost $1 billion dollars, to institutionalize the power of people that have committed genocide, to stand by and see the diversion of food aid to buy arms or to do training courses for the military, to re-launch attack into Rwanda.
FERGAL KEANE: After months in hospital, Valentina did recover from her wounds, going back to Nyarubuye to live with an aunt who'd lost her own family in the genocide. In this house of shadows, the past is always close by.
LEONSIYA KAGWISAGE, Valentina's Aunt: [through interpreter] At night she dreams about the war and screams aloud. I go to her and she tells me she's dreaming of the war. We all have these dreams.
FERGAL KEANE: A year after the massacre, Valentina and the people of Nyarubuye at last received the attention of the international community. The United Nations Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali made a reluctant visit to the world of Valentina's dreams.
GERALD GAHIMA, Minister for Justice, Rwanda: I hope you are aware that he did not initially plan to make the visit. He only agreed to go as a result of some arm-twisting.
FERGAL KEANE: Boutros-Ghali tip-toed around the remnants of death. The outbuildings around the church have been preserved as a memorial to the genocide. The guns of the West, so noticeably absent during the massacre, were there to ensure Boutros-Ghali's safety. The secretary general spent 18 minutes at Nyarubuye and told the people to be brave.
BOUTROS BOUTROS-GHALI, U.N. Secretary General:[subtitles] I want you to know that I share yoursuffering. I want you to know that the United Nations is there to help you overcome the atrocities which were committed here.
GERALD GAHIMA: Now, seeing that he went there only to spend 18 minutes, I think he felt guilty having to confront a graphic picture of the failure of the international community to stop genocide in Rwanda in1994.
FERGAL KEANE: Boutros-Ghali didn't have time to visit the school at Nyarubuye. If he had, he would have met the child survivors like Valentina. They are a handful of the school population. Most of the other children are Tutsis whose parents came to Rwanda after the genocide, having spent years in exile. For the survivors there is a constant loneliness.
MARIE GORETTI, Valentina's Teacher: [through interpreter] They are sad and many of them are traumatized and shocked by what they have been through. Nobody, not even adults, are immune from this sadness. When you are drowning in problems, without any family, you feel sometimes it would be better for you to die.
FERGAL KEANE: This school was at the center of the children's lives before the massacre. These survivors shared desks with Hutu children whose parents were to become killers. There are several survivors in Marie Goretti's class. She can bring them the gift of understanding. She also lost her family and she, too, is scarred by genocide.
MARIE GORETTI: [through interpreter] We got separated because we were running for our lives. We said good-bye to each other because we didn't know if we would meet again. Later I saw the bodies of my mother and my sister and neighbors. I saw their bodies, but I could not do anything for them. I was being hunted myself. So I just passed them and kept going.
FERGAL KEANE: At the end of 1996, Rwanda and the survivors faced a sudden new reality. Two and a half years after the genocide, the refugee camps in Zaire and Tanzania were forcibly closed. The Hutu refugees came home. Those who came from Nyarubuye were watched by the survivors as they walked past the scene of the slaughter. The Rwandan Government welcomed the disbanding of the camps, which had breeding grounds of Hutu extremism. But among the returnees were some of the people who'd brought terror to Nyarubuye.
VALENTINA IRIBAGIZA: [through interpreter] I'm angry because the ones who have killed my family have come back and they have their family. They are complete, but I'm on my own. Why should I live with somebody who has killed my family?
FERGAL KEANE: The Hutus were told to camp here, to sleep beside the memorial to the slaughter. Rwanda's Tutsi-dominated government wants to settle the returning Hutus in their old villages, but is deeply suspicious of the killers in their midst.
DIDACE NYIRINKWAYA, State Prosecutor: [through interpreter] These people show no remorse. They are here and say to themselves, "We haven't finished our work. As soon as we get the chance, we are going to continue where we left off." I think people like that should be taken to court and perhaps they will be condemned to death.
FERGAL KEANE: The hunt for suspects is taking place in every parish in Rwanda. In the Nyarubuye area alone there were 2,000 cases of murder during the genocide. The prosecutor Didace Nyirinkwaya believes that genocide trials are essential if the survivors are ever to be persuaded to share these hills in peace with the Hutus. So great is the prosecutor's caseload that he has only now, three years after the massacre, been able to make his first visit to Nyarubuye.
DIDACE NYIRINKWAYA: [through interpreter] It scares me very much. I ask myself how a human being could commit such crimes. How could it have come to this? This wasn't war, it was a massacre, people killed calmly, as if in a slaughterhouse. It was beyond crime, profoundly evil. It makes me very sad.
FERGAL KEANE: Valentina was the first person to meet the prosecutor. She has come back to the rooms of her nightmare so that she can give an accurate testimony. Didace is gentle in his questioning. He has a young child of his own and Valentina's story leaves him shaken. They talk for a long time. What affected him most was a dream Valentina described.
DIDACE NYIRINKWAYA: [through interpreter] I don't think that the images engraved on her memory will ever disappear. She told me that sometimes she sees her mother in her dreams, that she kisses her mother and that she shows her mother her cut hand and she says, "Look what's become of me," and she is very sad. Just now we saw her quite relaxed, but I felt deep inside she was very, very sad. So I think this child will never recover. It will be very difficult for her to be a normal child ever again.
FERGAL KEANE: There are nearly 90,000 genocide suspects crammed into Rwanda's jails, men like these, husbands and fathers, were told that it was their civic duty to kill the "Tutsi cockroaches." They lived in a society where for centuries the peasants had been taught to follow every official order. This culture of obedience and the relentless official demonizing of the Tutsis helped turn many men into murderers. "Kill the Tutsis and your problems will be over," they were told. To the impoverished, jobless masses these were beautiful words. And the killers were certain they would get away with it.
GERALD GAHIMA, Minister for Justice, Rwanda: There had been such killings before and there had never been any attempt to bring to justice the people responsible, so a culture of impunity developed. And this time around, in 1994, people were very certain that they could still go ahead, kill their neighbors, destroy their property or steal it and suffer no consequences.
FERGAL KEANE: Just weeks after returning from the refugee camps, these Hutu men, some of them neighbors of Valentina, have become prisoners. Accused of genocide, they await trial in overcrowded cells near Nyarubuye. Once a week their relatives come and bring them food. Close by, hidden from the view of his fellow prisoners, we found one man making a confession to the prosecutor. His name was Denis Bagaruka and he was one of the butchers of Nyarubuye. Eyewitnesses say he was an enthusiastic killer, though he claims otherwise.
DENIS BAGARUKA: [through interpreter] It was tiring work. If you didn't go, they would beat you or fine you, therefore it was compulsory to go. Even if you were ill, you had to go or ask for permission to be excused. It was an absolute order.
FERGAL KEANE: I know that you have eight children of your own. How in God's name can you then help to kill children and to kill their parents? How do you do that?
DENIS BAGARUKA: [through interpreter] You see, all these people in the church had children. Some carried them on their backs. No -one survived. Everyone was killed. We couldn't spare the children's lives. Our orders were to kill everyone. What makes me saddest is that I myself was an orphan. When I was young I was looked after by a Tutsi man. He was one of the first to die in the massacre. When I think about him and other Tutsi friends with whom I used to share everything who are now dead, I almost become crazy.
VALENTINA IRIBAGIZA: [through interpreter] I feel very scared knowing he is my neighbor. Because he killed, I now feel he will kill again. I am not the only one who is scared. It's the same for others.
FERGAL KEANE: Valentina, can you show me where Denis Bagaruka lives?
VALENTINA IRIBAGIZA: [through interpreter] He was living across there, in those houses.
FERGAL KEANE: Bagaruka came back from the refugee camps to find that his old house and his small plot of land had been taken over by Tutsis. Now his wife and family live in a makeshift hut nearby. For the Hutus of Nyarubuye, the world has been unhinged. Now Bagaruka's wife insists she was ignorant of the slaughter.
VENERANDA KIDEDERI, Denis Bagaruka's Wife: [through interpreter] The men kept this as their secret. He never told me anything when he came home. There were bullets coming through the banana trees, but I didn't know they were killing people.
FERGAL KEANE: The government says it doesn't blame all Hutus for the genocide. But in the new Tutsi dominated Rwanda, Veneranda thinks it wise to denounce her husband.
VENERANDA KIDEDERI: [through interpreter] My husband should be punished. When someone commits a crime they should be punished. I don't dispute that and I am very happy he admits he committed a crime.
FERGAL KEANE: Even though Denis Bagaruka has confessed, he says he was only following orders, orders handed out by the radio.
DENIS BAGARUKA: [through interpreter] We heard the radio telling us to be strong and to cut down the tall trees. Our local leader explained these trees were the Tutsis. We were listening to the radio and, because of that and what the soldiers were urging, we started to kill our neighbors.
FERGAL KEANE: It is hard now to imagine the atmosphere of hatred created by the state and by radio. Killing was not simply an obligation of the peasants, it was something to be celebrated.
RADIO BROADCAST: [singing] [subtitles] Come, friends. Let's celebrate. The Tutsis have been exterminated. Come, friends. Let's celebrate. God rewards the just.
FERGAL KEANE: Of those accused of masterminding the genocide, only this man, Froduard Karamira, has so far been brought to trial in Rwanda. Even in jail he's clearly a figure of authority. Karamira was one of the country's wealthiest men and was a leader of one of the main extremist parties. He admits going on radio regularly during the genocide. But in jail Karamira is devoting his time to re-writing Rwanda's history
FERGAL KEANE: Was there a genocide of Tutsis?
FRODUARD KARAMIRA, Hutu Leader: Genocide of Tutsis? Tutsi can say genocide of Tutsis, and me, I can say genocide of Hutus.
FERGAL KEANE: Do you deny there was a genocide of Tutsis?
FRODUARD KARAMIRA: I_ no, I think there is massacres of reaction_ action and reaction.
FERGAL KEANE: But no genocide?
FRODUARD KARAMIRA: No genocide.
GERALD GAHIMA: I have no doubt whatsoever that he hasthe blood of Nyarubuye and hundreds of other places like Nyarubuye on his hands.
FERGAL KEANE: Now in Kigali, Karamira is on trial for his life. He stands accused of making inflammatory broadcasts, financing the militias and driving them on their killing sprees. There is tension here. Relatives of the dead have gathered at the court.
1st RELATIVE: [through interpreter] I don't know ifKaramira is a human being or an animal. An animal. That's why I have come here to see him.
2nd RELATIVE: [through interpreter] He killed, so he must be killed.
3rd RELATIVE: [through interpreter] If he was to be killed, that will send a message to everybody that they can't kill their neighbors. That would reduce killing. He must be punished.
FERGAL KEANE: The judicial system is hugely overstretched & nearly 90,000 suspects and 16 defense lawyers. But with pressure for executions growing among the survivors, the government is pushing ahead. Karamira denounces this as Tutsi vengeance. The government fears that if people like him go unpunished, survivors will take the law into their own hands.
GERALD GAHIMA: The people who committed the crimes against them, they feel no remorse. They have not asked for forgiveness. As a matter of fact, most of them have not really given up their intentions to kill the_ to kill_ you know, to exterminate the Tutsi community.
FERGAL KEANE: Rwanda's dilemma is that executions are likely to create further hatred among Hutus while never being able to obliterate the memory of genocide for Tutsis. Karamira says killing him won't bring reconciliation.
FRODUARD KARAMIRA: I am ready to die. If it can bring it, if anyone is sure of that, I'm ready. But don't bring me a trial which is partial and not neutral. This is useless.
FERGAL KEANE: Do you feel any shred of guilt, any guilt about anything?
FRODUARD KARAMIRA: No, I don't feel it.
FERGAL KEANE: No blood on your hands.
FRODUARD KARAMIRA: No.
FERGAL KEANE: On Friday the 14th of February, 1997, Froduard Karamira was sentenced to death.
[interviewing] How many of them must die? How many do you believe it takes before the community who suffered believe there is justice and that they're able to reconcile?
GERALD GAHIMA: I can't tell. All will depend on how many people are convicted, how long it takes to convict them and what developments on the road to reconciliation have been made. So a lot will depend on the progress that we make in reconciling our people between now and the time when these people are sentenced and convicted and their appeals are dismissed.
FERGAL KEANE: In a prison near Nyarubuye, the accused attend a Bible class. These are the hymns of the unforgiven. In Rwanda there are nearly 2,000 people accused of the worst crimes of genocide who could go before a firing squad.
[interviewing] Do you as a Western intellectual, a man of letters, find it difficult to argue in favor of executions of the ringleaders in Rwanda?
GERARD PRUNIER, Rwanda "Crisis: History of a Genocide": No, not at all. I have absolutely no problem with the death penalty. And it all depends who is concerned. I'm not particularly bloodthirsty, but when people are responsible for the deaths of 700,000 to 800,000 human beings, the fact that they die seems to me rather ordinary and, actually, this was the opinion of the judges at the tribunal in Nuremberg. And as far I know, nobody's lamenting it.
FERGAL KEANE: In Nyarubuye the rains have come, washing away the topsoil, revealing fragments of humanity. The church has again become a place of worship, yet for those who suffered here it will never be a place of sanctuary.
VALENTINA IRIBAGIZA: [through interpreter] I get angry when I come into the church. I know they killed people in here. I don't feel happy when I'm inside. I'll never forget what happened.
MARIE GORETTI, Valentina's Teacher: [through interpreter] It's not only Valentina who suffered. I can go around Rwanda and find people who have had even more miserable lives during the war. Even the ones without scars on their body have been hurt in their hearts. When we are with Valentina we comfort her, try to help her with her grief, encourage her to understand that these things happen and sometimes no one can explain why.
FERGAL KEANE: It is in parishes like Nyarubuye that Rwanda's future will be decided. Here the government and the church tell Hutus and Tutsis to become one people. But in Nyarubuye memory is a stronger weapon than any speech or sermon.
MARIA MUSABYEMALIYA: [through interpreter] They killed my people, yet they are alive. We cannot live with them.
FERGAL KEANE: What would you like to see happen to the killers of Nyarubuye?
VALENTINA IRIBAGIZA: [through interpreter] Those who killed should die themselves. Why did they kill their neighbors?
DENIS BAGARUKA: [through interpreter] I understand why they want me dead. I ask for their forgiveness. Once we are punished, perhaps they will forgive us one day.
FERGAL KEANE: Valentina's nightmare happened in our world and our time and those who might have helped to stop it looked the other way. Now Valentina's future is stained by the memory of blood.
ANNOUNCER: Visit FRONTLINE's Web site to understand more about Rwanda, for updates on Valentina, her village, Nyarubuye, and the genocide trials. Listen to correspondent Fergal Keane's letter about the world to his newborn son.
FERGAL KEANE: So much that seemed essential to me has in the past few days taken on a different color.
ANNOUNCER: Additional readings, special reports, maps and more at www.pbs.org. Next time, a FRONTLINE investigation. Carlos Salinas promised Mexico prosperity and political healing and America applauded. Now President Salinas is in exile, his brother in prison, the country in chaos. This is a story about "Murder, Money and Mexico" next time on FRONTLINE.
Now your letters, this time in response to "What Jennifer Saw," the story of a man who was wrongly convicted on eyewitness testimony and served 11 years in prison until being freed by the DNA evidence.
MARK COGAN: [Brooklyn, NY] As a public defender, I am deeply concerned about the vast gulf which exists between the public's positive perception of eyewitness identification therapy on the one hand and what scientists teach us about the fallibility of such testimony on the other.
DANIEL SELIGSON: [New York, NY] Dear FRONTLINE: As the victim of an armed holdup, I remember the difficulty of identifying the subject in a police lineup. In my view, mistaken identifications are not occasional coincidences. Victims and police alike want closure after a crime and the act of confronting those who may be possibly guilty evoke strong emotions that can
easily cloud judgment and memory.
MICHAEL McHUGH: [Mendota Heights, MN] Dear FRONTLINE: I found it very ironic for Barry Scheck to be raving that the use of DNA techniques is such a reliable and powerful tool to show that many innocent people have been wrongly incarcerated while he spent most of the O.J. trial trying to convince the jury that such techniques are fraught with unreliability.
MARY LOU PAKIDIS: [Phoenix, Arizona] Dear FRONTLINE: The real tragedy in this 11-year story is how seldom the name of the rapist is mentioned. Mr. Poole, the rapist, was the only one who was innocent until proven guilty. If law enforcement and the legal system had granted Mr. Cotton his presumption of innocence from day one, perhaps the right man would have been incarcerated for those 11 years. How many innocent inmates are not alive to tell their stories?
ANNOUNCER: Let us know what you think about tonight's program. [Fax: (617) 254-0243; E-mail: email@example.com; U.S. mail: DEAR FRONTLINE, 125 Western Ave., Boston, MA 02134].
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