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Horror and Hope: Rwanda, 10 Years Later

Aired April 25, 2004 - 20:00   ET


JEFF KOINANGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In this lush African nation it was hell on earth.

GEN. ROMEO DALLAIRE, FORMER COMMANDER, U.N. ASSISTANCE MISSION TO RWANDA: The devil exists. It came to paradise and it took over.

KOINANGE: Friends, families, neighbors ...

MARCELLIN KWIBUKA, GENOCIDE SURVIVOR, RWANDA (through translator): I had to kill her. She was going to be killed anyway.

KOINANGE: ... slaughtered each other in a shocking genocide, as the world stood by.

DALLAIRE: The world has blood on its hands.

KOINANGE: Why did it happen? Why wasn't it stopped? And could it happen again?

Tonight, stories of horror and hope in Rwanda, 10 years later.


AARON BROWN, HOST, CNN PRESENTS: It was one of the greatest tragedies of modern history. And for the most part, the world just watched it happen.

Welcome to CNN PRESENTS. I'm Aaron Brown.

In April of 1994, Rwanda descended into a nightmare of unrestrained violence. During the 100 days of killing and chaos that followed, nearly one million people -- men and women and children -- were murdered.

A decade later, Rwanda is stable but struggling with a horrific past. The reminders of genocide are everywhere.

But amid those reminders, the skulls and bones that still litter this African nation, there are also many unbelievable stories of survival and of forgiveness.

Here's CNN's Jeff Koinange with "Horror and Hope: Rwanda 10 Years Later."

A warning first. It includes some graphic images.


KOINANGE: The green hills of Gikongoro, a three-hour drive from the Rwandan capital, Kigali, bear some of the deepest scars of Rwanda's troubled past.

Thousands of people -- mostly Tutsis -- were lured into this technical school by Hutu officials promising safe haven.

But it was a trap. Without warning, Hutu attackers struck in the killing spree that lasted two days, and left more than 50,000 of their Tutsi countrymen dead.

At this macabre memorial, the stench of death still lingers, and pain is seemingly frozen on the victims' faces.

This is one of the more horrific rooms we've been to, filled with the remains of children, whose skulls are split open, ribs ripped apart and deep machete wounds to the head, showing the pain and suffering they must have endured in their final hours.

Ten years ago, for 100 days, Hutu tribesmen rampaged through Rwanda, slaughtering Tutsi men, women and children.

It is estimated that one million people died during the spring of 1994.

It wasn't so much the speed and savagery of the massacres that shocked the world, but the fact that it happened in a nation where the two main ethnic groups, that shared so much in common and lived in relative peace for most of their long history, could turn on each other with such brutality.

One has to take a step back into history to find the roots of that brutality.

Belgian colonizers pitted the minority Tutsis against the majority Hutus, in a classic divide-and-rule system. For 50 years, the two tribes struggled for power. Hutu massacres decades ago drove many Tutsis out of Rwanda.

But the exile Tutsis fought back, rallying around this man -- Paul Kagame. His small army staged repeated raids into Rwanda, in order to force the government there to share power.

But Hutu hard-liners in the Rwandan government, better known as the Interahamwe, a term loosely translated as "those who attack or kill together," weren't about to cede power to the Tutsis.

In late 1993, the Interahamwe started recruiting young Hutu men and women from across the country, and began importing thousands of small arms and gardening tools to equip its makeshift army.

And to add fuel to the fire, they began broadcasting their message of hatred over the airwaves, urging the masses to, in their own words, "exterminate the Tutsi cockroaches."

But the Interahamwe needed an official excuse to begin their campaign of terror.

They got it on April 6, 1994, when a plane carrying the presidents of Rwanda and neighboring Burundi, was shot out of the skies above Kigali.

The death of Rwanda's Hutu president was blamed on the Tutsis. The killings would begin a few hours later, pitting neighbor against neighbor, husband against wife, parents against children.

Forty-six-year-old Marcellin Kwibuka's story is as chilling as it is unimaginable. Kwibuka, a Hutu, remembers the day the Interahamwe came calling.

"They gave me a machete and told me to chop her up," he says. Two days after she gave birth to their fourth child, they forced him to kill his Tutsi wife.

"My wife pleaded with them not to kill the children. Then she turned to me and said, 'Please kill me to save the children,'" he says.

After striking the first blow, the Interahamwe then promptly finished her off. His newborn starved to death two days later.

"I had to kill her," he says. "She was going to be killed anyway, because she was a Tutsi."

His other children survived. And today, Dunji and Janet, the two younger ones, are in their early teens. Kwibuka says he's told his children about their mother's death.

At the technical school in Gikongoro, the smell of death still lingers. And the nightmares remain for 48-year-old Emanuel Murangira. He was among thousands of Tutsis lured here.

He bears the scars of a bullet that struck him in the head. It probably saved his life. The rebels mistook him for dead.

When he regained consciousness a day later, his wife and five daughters had been slaughtered.

"I feel so much pain," he says. "My family died here along with all our friends, and we couldn't do anything about it."

"They used to take babies by the legs and slam them against the wall right in front of their mothers," he says.

Like so many Rwandans, Murangira still struggles to understand the atrocities committed.

"What they did to us was beyond comprehension," he says. "Not even God can understand why they did. I don't think I could do to them what they did to us." No one here can really explain why a country turned on itself in those dark days of 1994. But churches like this one in Kibuye on Rwanda's western border, remain the focus of both horror and hope.

Ten years ago, over 11,000 people were massacred in this church alone. Today they search for ways to heal here.

When CNN PRESENTS returns, how churches became killing grounds.


KOINANGE: This was the scene of the Catholic Church in Ntarama, a two-hour drive from the capital, Kigali, a decade ago. Thousands of butchered bodies littered the church's interior.

In this mostly Christian country, churches like this were often seen as the ultimate sanctuaries of peace and security.

This is the church 10 years later. The stench may be gone, but most of the remains are still scattered about.

The date was Friday, April 15, 1994, a little over a week after the genocide began in earnest.

Right here in this church, several hundred Tutsi families seeking refuge in the one place they thought would be a safe haven. Suddenly, they were surrounded by scores of members of the Hutu militia.

And by the time the day was over, over 5,000 of them lay dead.

These skulls, piled one on top of the other. A reminder, locals say, that genocide took place here.

Other remains stuffed in sacks usually used for carrying bananas, placed by the church's entrance.

Forty-eight-year old Pacific Rutaganda hid here with his father, mother, brothers, sisters and other relatives. He insists the only reason he survived was because he lay for hours underneath stacks of dead siblings.

"Our priest assured us we would be safe here in God's house. We thought the murderers would never think of attacking us here.

"But we were wrong. We were so wrong," he says.

He lost 18 relatives in all, and says his family's remains are among this human horror of skulls.

And he points out how the innocent were slaughtered in those seven hours of savagery. A club swing here, a machete blow there.

A single bullet hole to this man's head. A cracked skull from a garden hoe. An arrow still stuck where it struck a woman's head.

But it's not just the victims' bones that remind us of what happened here. There are other personal possessions -- a woman's purse, a running shoe. And even a rosary.

And all across the church's pews, the clothes worn by the helpless victims.

Another miraculous survivor of the massacre that day was 50-year- old Dancila Nyirabazungu, a pregnant mother hiding out with her husband and two daughters.

She passed out during the killings. When she came to, her loved ones lay slaughtered around her.

"I lost consciousness as soon as the grenades started exploding inside the church. All I remember is people running about in a panic, and bodies falling all around me," she says.

A month later she gave birth to a boy. She named him Hachizimana (ph), a local word meaning, "God will protect." She often brings him back to this site to remind him, she says, of her country's savage past.

A 10-minute walk from the church is the home of one of the genocide's confessed killers.

Fifty-six-year-old Jean Baptiste Murangira -- a Hutu -- admits to taking part in the killings, but insists the Interahamwe forced him to kill, to save his Tutsi wife from being murdered.

"Many of us didn't kill because we wanted to, we killed because we had to. It was either we kill, or be killed by the Interahamwe. We really had no choice," he says.

Both survivors know about the presence of killers like Murangira in their community. They say they don't mind, that it's time the country exorcised its past demons.


KOINANGE: "We know those who killed here, but we forgive them because they have confessed to the killings. We even live with some of them here. We know them, but we forgive them," he says.

But perhaps it's nine-year-old Hachizimana (ph) who best sums up the hopes and feelings of a grief-stricken nation.

"I just hope what happened to us never happens to children anywhere in the world," he says.

A decade later, pain is slowly giving way to hope in the land of a thousand hills. The simple translation of this tune says, "our country is safe now. Come back all who have fled in fear. Rwanda is a free country again."

But coming up, the country and the world community struggle to reconcile Rwanda's painful past, and to bring its killers to justice.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KOINANGE: Madeleine Mukarimira (ph) hasn't attended a church service in a decade, since she was 40 years old. The memories are too painful.

This church became a trap for her. Here, Madeleine (ph) lost 31 members of her family.

But the local Catholic priest has personally invited her to attend mass in order to, in his words, "forgive her trespasses."

"So many people were killed in the church. So many senseless killings. And the churches themselves participated in the killings. So I don't have the heart or the patience to go to church anymore," she says.

She even refuses to return to her house just across the water from the church. She says she knows the killers well, that some live in her neighborhood, and many go to church where they murdered the innocent.

"How can I forgive them, when they did not come to me to ask for forgiveness. Maybe they should ask those they killed for forgiveness," she says.

For Madeleine Mukarimira (ph) the emotional wounds have not healed.

Several hundred miles east of the church is the sleepy Tanzanian town of Arusha, site of the United Nations sponsored International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, or ICTR.

This is where the ringleaders of the genocide await trial. Suspects arrive in armored vehicles and under heavy guard.

Lawyers and court officers from all over the world drive in expensive four-by-fours. The courts are among the most modern in the world, with sophisticated computers, monitors to view the horrors of the past, and court-appointed translators and stenographers.

Of the 120 suspected of masterminding the genocide, 82 have so far been indicted, and 67 arrested.

Currently, 20 trials are going on simultaneously here. Ten years after the genocide, 18 defendants have been convicted and three acquitted.

ADAMA DIENG, REGISTRAR, ICTR: I can say that today in Rwanda, people are just feeling as Rwandese, not Tutsi or Hutu. And this is also partly thanks to the work of this tribunal.

Because through this tribunal, a prime minister has been sentenced to life imprisonment. Through this tribunal ministers, academics, journalists have been sentenced. And I think that is extremely important.

KOINANGE: But at a colossal price to the United Nations of U.S. $100 million a year, or $1 billion in 10 years, this is arguably the most expensive trial system in the world.

HOWARD MORRISON, DEFENSE ATTORNEY, ICTR: I only hope that when this tribunal finishes, the United Nations takes an equivalent sum of money that it spends each year on this tribunal, and puts it into the mouths of starving African babies, because it would do a lot more good.

KOINANGE: Morrison says there's a reason the United Nations is spending so much.

MORRISON: There is, I suspect -- and this purely my personal feeling -- a collective guilt in the United Nations about the failure to do anything more positive than it did in 1994.

And to some extent, the rationale behind the creation of this tribunal is to try and make amends for what some people would say were massive failures of administration by the United Nations at that time.

KOINANGE: Massive failures to respond, many Rwandans believe, that led to the slaughter of hundreds of thousands. And it's not just Rwandans who feel that way.

GEN. ROMEO DALLAIRE, FORMER COMMANDER, U.N. ASSISTANCE MISSION IN RWANDA: The world has blood on its hands. Every one of them has blood, and they will never wash it off.

And the aim is, and certainly my ambitions have been since then, is to make damn sure that nobody lets the Rwandan genocide die.

KOINANGE: In 1994, Romeo Dallaire was Commander of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Rwanda, or UNAMIR.

With his force 2,500 soldiers, Dallaire believed he could stem the bloody tide of killings, and avert the impending genocide.

His now famous faxes to his superiors at U.N. headquarters in New York, went largely ignored.

In the end, the U.N. force fled Rwanda, leaving Dallaire with only 250 troops and little power to stop the violence.

A decade later, Dallaire describes his encounter with Interahamwe leaders and the religious faith that got him through it.

DALLAIRE: It was cold. It was callous. And it was real.

And also at the same time, I sensed another power that gave me the resiliency to continue with the mission, even though we were totally abandoned by everybody else.

The devil exists. It came to paradise and it took over. They were no more human.

Those eyes were not eyes of human beings that I met. They were the devil.

KOINANGE: But he'll be the first to say, the world hasn't learned any lessons from the Rwandan genocide.

DALLAIRE: It will happen again, because the major powers are still dominated by self-interest. And they have not reached the higher plateau of humanity.

And so, if it's not in your self-interest, these people don't count.

And Rwandans, in the self-interest of the powers just doesn't count. So we'll throw residual cash at them and hopefully they'll shut up and we can get on with going to Mars.

KOINANGE: Back in Kibuye, many like Madeleine Mukarimira (ph) agree with General Dallaire. As she makes her way up the church's steps, she knows the healing will have to come from within.

She passes the church's front entrance, then the side, and pauses by the rear entrance, filled with anticipation.

Her laughter belies her nervousness. And as the memories flood back, she turns, and walks away. It seems she's not quite ready to take this leap of faith.

God was absent the day the killings began. God forgot about his people she says. When we return, the people's justice.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a court where people asking for forgiveness when they are together. The killer and the survivor.


KOINANGE: In Kubota (ph) on the country's western border, survivors and killers alike watch as volunteers dig up the countryside using the kind of crude instruments once used to kill innocent victims. Suddenly a boy emerges from the misty hills. A human skull in his hands. He holds it as calmly as one would a bowling ball.

He says he found it in the bushed beyond. He takes us to where there are more skulls, and more bones. He finds a skull hidden in the dense undergrowth. The whole nation it seems is one giant graveyard. Skeletons from a savage past litter the once beautiful countryside.

At a site not far from the new discoveries, diggers find a leg here, and a hand there. Part of a skull, and some clothes. Villagers recognize a tattered dress worn by a woman they say was known as Ester. And a T-shirt they claimed belonged to a newborn. The infant's skeleton is probably long decomposed.

And this skull pulled out still with a rosary around it's neck. The remains, about a dozen on this day, are unceremoniously dumped into sacks. Sacks that will be used again by the villagers to carry everything from meat to flower.

The discoveries of mass graves across the country are due in part to former killers confessing to their crimes as part of an early prison release program, recently introduced by the Rwandan government. So far, of the 100,000 genocide suspects in jail in Rwanda, close to 40,000 have been released in the past three months. But on one condition. That they admit their crimes before a traditional court system locally known as Cachucha (ph). And made up mostly of victim's families.

Billboards line the highways across the country urging Rwandans to -- in their own words, reveal what you did, and tell what you saw.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think the release of these thousands of genocide suspects has created a dichotomy in their reactions. Of course the families of those who are affected are very pleased. Some people hope that this will give them an incentive to provide evidence for the traditional courts of Cachucha (ph). But for the survivors, it has intensified their fears about their own security.

KOINANGE: This is a typical Cachucha (ph) court underway near the town of (UNINTELLIGIBLE), a two-hour drive outside the capital. Over 50,000 innocent victims were skirted (ph) in this area alone.

Before every sitting, those gathered observe a minute's silence for the genocide victims. Then it's down to business. Evidence tediously recorded. Suspects recounting what they saw, and what they did.

There are no frills here. No high-paid lawyers, no computers to keep records, no armed soldiers to watch over the suspects. Here the accused mingle freely with villagers. And court officers are selected among the local farmers, nursing mothers, and peasants.

Once in a while, the occasional herd of cows passes by, signaling the registrar to call for a brief adjournment. The more privileged arrive by bicycled. Everyone else on foot. If it rains, court id postponed to another day.

Forty-five-year-old (UNINTELLIGIBLE) admits to killing two women, and four men. He explains he did it out of fear. The Interahamwe, he says, were determined to make an example of those who wouldn't cooperate. Thirty-eight-year-old (UNINTELLIGIBLE) says he too has blood on his hands. He borrowed a wheel barrel from a neighbor, and helped dump the bodies of (UNINTELLIGIBLE) he'd killed in the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) pit latrines.

Both killers are seeking forgiveness for their crimes against humanity. Forgiveness that can only come from those they violated.

KOINANGE (on camera): The Cachucha (ph) courts may not have the feel, or indeed the funding of conventional courts. But many here agree. They may end up delivering for the Rwandan people, what the international criminal tribunal hasn't been able to.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is a quick and easy meeting. And is a court where people asking for forgiveness when they are together. The killer and the survivor. Somebody who can say forgive me and I not do it again. Now the survivor...say that I have forgiven you, but show me where you buried my people. KOINANGE (voice-over): But can killers and survivors ever really learn to live together? Just ask 45-year-old Angeline (UNINTELLIGIBLE). These days, she tends goats in a field not far from where the bodies of her relatives were butchered and dumped 10 years ago.

She knows this because one of the victim's killers pointed out the spot to her during a Cachucha (ph) court session. She's a (UNINTELLIGIBLE) mother of seven. Married to a Hutu. She and her immediate family survived the genocide, but she lost close to a dozen relatives, including her sisters, brothers, and their children.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): The worst thing is that it happened in broad daylight. And many of the killers have yet to repent and ask for forgiveness. That's what hurts the most, she says.

KOINANGE: But (UNINTELLIGIBLE) has done more than just forgive. She's taken reconciliation a step further, by embracing one such admitted killer, and helping him resettle into the community. On the day we were scheduled to interview the killer, we learned he had been involved in a bicycle accident. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) was among the good Samaritans who helped him to the local hospital.

Many here say healing the physical wounds is the easy part. It's the mental scars that may take generations. When CNN PRESENTS returns, Rwanda moves forward.


KOINANGE: Ten years after the genocide that nearly destroyed Rwanda, the country struggles to put itself back together. A three- hour drive outside the capital, a nervous 18-year-old is heading home for the first time in 10 years. Marie (UNINTELLIGIBLE) ran away with friends from a rampaging mob after seeing her two sisters being raped and killed, and her parents flee.

She ended up several hundred miles away in the Democratic Republic of Congo. For the past decade she's been living with strangers. No home, no family to call her own, no future. A small plastic bag contains her life's possessions.

But with the help of the Red Cross who took her picture and circulated it across the country, she's about to be reunited with her family. So far, the ICTR says she has succeeded in reunited over 25,000 families in Rwanda alone.

Finally the end of the road and the beginning of a new life, as a family is reunited again. Friends and relatives recognize the little girl they once knew. While young siblings can only stare at the sister they've never met.

From here it's a 45-minute walk to her home. But she doesn't seem to mind the trek. She knows she's been wondering aimlessly for the last 10 years, and this is no long walk to freedom. They arrive at the home she once knew, the living room she once played in. And after signing the necessary paperwork, Marie is officially a member of her real family again. But not before her mother insists on crowning the moment with a short prayer of thanks.

One family reunited in the country where much healing must still be done. Paul (UNINTELLIGIBLE), the former Rebel leader, now Rwanda's president urges his countrymen to unite in rebuilding their nation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well we have all along encouraged open debate about our history; even the negative side of our history has been discussed. And people have even come up to accept certain responsibility in that, and we openly continue to discuss these issues and encourage Rwandans to look at themselves as Rwandans irrespective of their diversity. And they should use this diversity to rebuild their country.

KOINANGE: After a decade of indifference from the west, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) says Rwandans must rely on themselves to rebuild.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Most of the achievements and progress that have been made here definitely have been based on the efforts of the Rwandans and with very little input from the international community. And given what happened before the genocide, during the genocide, during the genocide, and after, here in Rwanda and seeing what is happening elsewhere, I'm not very optimistic that a lot of lessons have been learned.

KOINANGE: In the capital, genocide survivors are already trying to find healing in a broken land. This is the country's largest memorial. Just completed to coincide with the 10th anniversary of the genocide. Over a quarter of a million victims slaughtered in and around the capital are buried here. Many of them long decomposed from years of exposure.

Several dozen sets of bones and skulls are placed in a single coffin, and laid out in these giant vaults. Thirty-year-old Henriette (UNINTELLIGIBLE) guides visitors through the maze of graves. She's also a genocide survivor who lost 16 members of her immediate family. It may have happened 10 years ago. But for (UNINTELLIGIBLE), time seems only to have stood still.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE), but I try, I do my best. And I'm not like I was before. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) years ago, I was no hope, no joy. But this day, I'm very -- I feel I'm like other people. I'm (UNINTELLIGIBLE); I try to make (ph) new friends, because the friends I had before, they are dead. But in this day, I feel I'm OK.

KOINANGE (on camera): Her friends may all be dead, but they are in no way forgotten. The tiny Central African nation of Rwanda may be just a spec on the map, but it's managed to capture the imagination of the world, reminding us of our role in the greatest scheme of things. Namely that a decade after unspeakable horrors and unimaginable atrocities, there is still hope in the place known as "The Land of a Thousand Hills."


BROWN: U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan is urging the international community to do whatever it takes overt anything like another Rwanda. And he recently announced a plan of action to prevent future tragedies.

A plan that calls for swift action to stop the sort of armed conflicts that often lead to genocide, including military options. But 60 years after the Holocaust, ten years after Rwanda, and the massacres at (UNINTELLIGIBLE), it remains to be seen if we can truly learn from the lessons of our past.

That's it for this edition of CNN PRESENTS. I'm Aaron Brown. Coming up next week, children for sale to the highest bidder. An award winning undercover investigation. Here's a preview of our documentary, "Easy Prey, Inside the Child Sex Trade."


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