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The following is a complete transcript from the HOPES ON THE HORIZON Rwanda story:

NARR: Nigerians struggling to share power and resources take warning from the much smaller nation of Rwanda, where failure to build consensus led to Africa’s worst genocide.

Oh yes, it is true, Rwandans have suffered. All Africans have been suffering in this world.

NARR: On April 6, 1994, a plane carrying Rwanda’s Hutu leader, President Juvenal Habyarimana, was shot out of the sky. The assassination ignited a frenzy of extremist Hutu violence against the nation’s Tutsi minority and moderate Hutus.

Within a hundred days, over half a million people were dead, killed, in many cases, by their former neighbors and colleagues.

The first time I killed someone was because a militia commander came to my house in search of my wife, who was Tutsi. This person told me that I had to kill. If not, he would return to my house and kill my wife and children.

ANCILLA MUKARUBUGA – Funder, Genocide Victims' Support
We have members who lost eight children and others who were crippled for the rest of their lives. There are others who have lost everything and don’t want to live any longer. I have nothing left, neither my husband nor my children. I had four; only by chance, I found two of them.

NARR: The genocide ended on July 4, when the Tutsi-led Rwandan Patriotic Front, or RPF, captured the capital city, Kigali. Millions of Hutus fled, streaming into refugee camps outside Rwanda’s borders.

Seeking national unity, RPF commander Paul Kagame installed a new government led by two moderate Hutus – President, Pasteur Bizimungu, and Prime Minister Faustin Twagiramungu.

FAUSTIN TWAGIRAMUNGU – Prime Minister of Rwanda
I lost a lot of people, my brothers, my sister in laws, my nieces, my cousins and many more. On one side some them were Tutsis on the other side the other were Hutus. And of course, I was affected as a responsible person because most of the people who were killed in Rwanda were innocent. And I think were killed simply because they were in politics or because they were Tutsi.

NARR: In the days and weeks to come, the full scope of the genocide came to light.

Initially, we faced health problems, housing problems, problems of educating the orphans, and also problems of remembering. How can we bury our loved ones? Where will we find their bodies? There is also the problem of trauma. It is a health problem but it is even stronger. You walk like you are alive, but you’re really not alive.

LAURENT NKUSI – Professor of Journalism
I tried to see where my wife had been killed. I tried to exhume the bodies. Instead of finding seven people, I found ninety-eight people. It was horrible. It was terrible, the stench. But they were my family.

NARR: The roots of Rwanda’s trauma lie in its history of shared oppression and humiliation. Despite a common language and religion, and some mixed marriages, a Tutsi monarch and aristocracy had long ruled over a Hutu majority. Although flexible identities meant some rich Hutus could join the Tutsi ruling class, most remained peasants.

This system was exploited by German and then Belgian colonialists, who ruled through the Tutsi monarchy and limited Hutus’ education and employment. Hutu inferiority was further entrenched by Belgian identity cards, which froze ethnic identities.

But it was the Belgian use of Tutsis as overseers, to drive the forced labor of Hutus, that most vividly scarred Hutu memories.

CANIUS KARAKE – Former Rwandan Diplomat
When I was young, I often saw peasants who were forced to lie down on the ground and take off their clothes to be beaten because they had committed some small misdeed.

NARR: Then in 1959 everything changed. With most of Africa throwing off colonial rule, the Tutsi aristocracy wanted independence. But they were unwilling to extend full democracy to the Hutu majority.

With Belgian help, the Hutus violently overthrew the monarchy, and established an independent nation under Hutu control. The overthrow became a pivotal event in Rwanda’s history. It reversed the power balance in the country. Now, it was the Tutsis, a minority of 15 percent, who faced discrimination and humiliation.

I remember in school we were afraid. They said, “Tutsis, raise your hands.” But we were afraid to raise our hands, because the Tutsi was always described as a snake. A snake is dangerous and it should be destroyed. I can never forget this, because this story was repeated year after year in school, from the first to the sixth grade.

NARR: By the late 1980s, the policy of Hutu supremacy was under attack. Rwanda’s economy was collapsing. Hutu President Habyrimana was forced to begin moving the country toward democracy as a condition of foreign aid. And on the borders, children of Tutsis who had fled in 1959 now formed the Rwandan Patriotic Front, to fight to return home.

A hard core of Hutu supremacists resisted these developments. Using their control of the media, they exploited the country’s painful history by raising fears that the Tutsis wanted to take back power they lost in 1959.

After the president’s plane was shot down, one of the announcers of Radio station RTLM got on the air to blame the Tutsis and call for revenge.

He was calling for people to kill each other. Obviously, he himself was also a killer because he was saying that the Tutsis should go back to where they came from by the natural way, which was the river.

NARR: In the wake of the genocide, Rwanda’s intellectual community struggled to come to terms with the slaughter. At the country’s only university, the National University of Rwanda, classes resumed in a climate of fear, anger, and shock.

We chose the date of October 21st to commemorate the lives of the students and employees who were killed by their colleagues or killed because people denounced them to others. So this was an opportunity to say between friends and colleagues, after all this, what have they gained? Death where is your victory?

GAMALIEL MBONIMANA – Professor of History
The resumption of studies at the university after the genocide was a challenge. We thought of how studies were resumed in Germany after the Second World War. We were aware of many realities. We decided to start quickly because if we did not, we might have to wait for years. And I think that we are justified by the results. I think we should be congratulated. I am very upset ... excuse me.

NARR: So contested was Rwanda’s past that the government banned the teaching of history at all schools nationwide. A group at the university proposed to write a new history, one that allowed Rwandans to face up to their past.

DEO BYANAFACHE – Dean of School of Arts and Letters
The historians who lived through these events are now more conscious that there is a big gap between what is written and the reality. So we have to be conscious of the need to correct things, before it goes too far, before the history inspires another genocide.

NARR: As the historians began their work, former members of the Rwandan army began a guerilla war from outside the country. And Hutu refugees were returning home, amid Tutsi fears of renewed violence.

When the refugees came back, the first feeling was that we were fearful. Somebody who has killed, has he stopped killing? We were afraid.

I never imagined that I would kill a human being. Now that I have, I feel great remorse and regret for what I did. That is why I am now counseling my fellow prisoners.

NARR: Only a few prisoners had confessed to participating in the killings, however. With 125,000 awaiting trial, and the courts overloaded, some Tutsis began taking the law into their own hands. These illegal killings of suspects provoked a political crisis involving Paul Kagame, the Tutsi Vice-President and RPF military leader. In response, Hutu Prime Minister Twagiramungu resigned and went into exile, following charges that Kagame, ignored his concerns.

FAUSTIN TWAGIRAMUNGU – Prime Minister, 1994-1995
I made a statement criticizing, unfortunately the government I was pretending to lead, you know? So, I said that there is torture, disappearance and killings go on. The people must take their own responsibility. Kagame answered me, that the Prime Minister has no importance in our system, so what he says has no meaning at all. And I personally believe in democracy, it is very difficult for me to have been preaching this to our population and just to live in a dictatorship.

NARR: Rwanda’s military-installed government was transitional. Yet how or when the people could choose their own national leadership remained to be seen.

Against this background historians and guests finally gathered in December 1998 for the first of the national seminars on Rwanda’s history.

From the beginning you could observe that people like history. It is very curious, so many people came.

I hope that all of you will participate in this history seminar because we need to reconstruct our society.

NARR: When work began the conference would be immediately plunged into controversy over the origins of the country’s ethnic groups.

Those attending were weighted heavily in favor of Tutsis. This imbalance became clear when discussion turned to the decisive event that shaped Rwanda's post-war history – the 1959 overthrow of the king.

Some people call the events of 1959 a revolution because the Tutsis who were in power were eliminated and in 1961 the monarchy was abolished. The Hutus say this was a revolution. So we had to define the meaning of the term “revolution.”

There are some who say a revolution is a radical change which is beneficial. Radical and beneficial, to make things better. Others will say a revolution is simply when there is any change. That’s why we remain perplexed. That’s why we prefer to call the events of 1959 “political change.” “Change” doesn’t necessarily mean “revolution.” That’s where we are. There is still a problem of terminology.

NARR: For exiled Hutu intellectuals, who could not participate, the debate was one-sided and ignored Hutu realities.

To deny the fact that 1959 a revolution is not a revolution, this is also academic. What people wanted was to get rid of feudal system

CANIUS KARAKE – Former Rwandan Diplomat
My grandfather was the serf of a Tutsi lord. When he became old, it was my father who replaced him.

This humiliation has not left the mind of the Hutu. This is the problem. The wall is in the mind.

NARR: In October 1999, a second history conference was convened, this time to focus only on the events of 1959.

GAMALIEL MBONIMANA – Professor of History
It would have been good [for Hutus and Tutsis] to sit at a round table, so that we discuss and come to an agreement. Because, after all, there are some objective data: the fact that there were killings, the fact that Tutsis collaborated closely with the colonial powers, the fact that the Tutsis who were in power in the Royal Court did not fully consider the claims of the Hutus, the fact that in 1960 the Tutsis were exiled for 30 years, the fact that in 1982 they were rejected. All these are facts. The fact that there have been intermarriages, these are realities.

NARR: The controversial business of writing Rwanda’s history continues, along with the rebuilding of Rwanda’s government. Neither side trusts the other, and history offers little reassurance.

They are afraid if we are not in power we are going to be exterminated; we will be eliminated by the other side. The other side also thinks, these people since they have won the war, they are going to kill us.

I believe personally it could be a very simple matter. If people sit together and try not only to share power, share also their misery, their poverty.

NARR: Both sides do agree that reaching consensus on their shared history would be a first step. Genuine reconciliation, however, depends on the resolution of some long-standing differences. The Hutus want democracy, and majority rule. The Tutsi minority wants justice for the genocide victims, and assurance that if the Hutus are allowed an electoral majority, they will respect equal rights for Tutsis, and will not resume the killings.

Reconciliation is not a cure. It is a process. So it is not the rewriting of the history alone that will bring about reconciliation. There will be other phases, especially justice and rehabilitation: moral, physical, economic, etc. And I am talking especially about the victims of genocide.

The moment we are living through now is a very painful one. If those who are in power and the generation alive today leave without resolving the problem between the Hutu and the Tutsi, the problem of sharing power, our children will never be secure.

We must promote a culture of human rights. The most important right is life. If we don’t tell this to our students, if we teach them only chemistry and physics, without telling them that not just they but everyone has rights, the University will have taken the wrong route. In any case the history of Rwanda is irreplaceable. If it can at least be a lesson for the other people of Africa, then the genocide will have served a purpose.

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