The Sounds and Smells of Genocide - Carl Wilkens - Listen
It wasn't so much what we saw at the beginning as what we heard. You could hear the general gunfire and all that kind of stuff, which was disturbing enough, but you'd also hear the cries of people, you would hear the angry shouts, and you would hear people being hunted, and you'd know it was your neighbors and there was nothing you could do. Such mayhem out there. Especially at the beginning - we were there just watching over our kids and our family.
Then as it went on and we were able to start to travel out, after the initial first three weeks, they had cleaned up a lot of the carnage that was around the city. So the initial three weeks with all of that carnage, I was in my house and couldn't go anywhere. So I was spared a lot of those visuals. After we started moving out and about, there was still a looter face-down with a boombox in each hand, who had been mowed down by the military trying to stop the looting. That was just one type of killing.
Then you come to another place, and you don't look for long. First you smell it, you hear the buzz of flies, then there in the ditches there's bodies. When we got to our warehouse and our offices, there in the parking lot, it catches your eye for a moment, and you look away. It's always the smell that remains. There's a body in the parking lot and the leg is missing because that's what the watchdog has been surviving off of. I guess you do a lot of looking away.
Evacuating University Students - Carl Wilkens - Listen
Before the war, the months before the genocide, the situation at our university in the north, the northwest corner was deteriorating. The rebel soldiers were - nightly you could hear the gunfire - you didn't know if they were going to be able to take another section of the country or not, and the tension was building on campus. Things got so bad at the university that some of the students they felt were at risk. They wanted them evacuated. They called me in the capitol city and I arranged to bring a bus up to the university and to take them. At this time we would just have to move through roadblocks manned by soldiers, not like the genocide when there were militia and civilians and roadblocks every half a block. In a two-hour journey you might have three or four military roadblocks you had to go through. The first day we evacuated a group of students, we had a letter from the university explaining that the students were going home, like a vacation - a little break that they were going on. We had no problem evacuating the students. It was a piece of cake. But they still had a large number they still wanted to evacuate the next day, and so I hired one of the government buses that would haul 80 people, and a smaller Japanese bus that would haul about 30 people, and we had to have the government bus driver with us and they insisted that two gendarmes go along with the government bus so that they could protect their interests.
We left the university, went through a barrier. They'd open suitcases and go through things-not much incident. In another half hour, we came to another military barrier, stopped there. We thought we'd just move through smoothly like we had the day before, and even just the previous barrier, and all of a sudden someone says, "Hey, someone's hurt up there - something's happening." I went to the big bus just in time to see an angry soldier push by me and exit the bus, in the back of the bus was a young man grasping his head with blood running down his face and I said, "What's going on in here?" He was being ordered out by the soldier who had just brushed past me. I could smell the alcohol on his breath; I knew we were not in a good situation here.
As they pulled this boy out, the soldier had a paper in his hand and there was a name on the paper-he was not a boy, he was probably in his mid-twenties, university student-as they pulled this young man out of the bus and onto the road, they said, "The rest of you leave, we're keeping him here for questioning." I knew that many people, even before the genocide, would meet their end in a situation like that. War is a horrible time - soldiers' buddies are being killed, they're suspicious, a lot of the normal rights are gone in war. I told them, "I am responsible to move all of these students out, I can't leave this young man here." Fortunately, the policeman, the gendarme who came with the bus, man that guy proved to be like an angel, he was a prince of a gentleman, professional, you knew he knew what he was doing, he was there with me, he asked the soldier if we could talk to his commander. They said, "He's at the camp down, just down the road 4-500 metres, we'll take him there, we'll take him there." I said, "I'd like to accompany him, I'll walk with him, the bus can slowly drive behind." I was walking with this man whose bleeding had basically stopped in his head, but you could see the blood on his white shirt, and this gendarme walked along side me.
We entered the military camp. As we came through the archway of Mukamira Camp, a truck came along behind us, a big open truck, and they ordered us into the back of this truck. So we got into the back of the truck and drove into the military camp. As we got in the military camp, all the sudden we were the center of attraction. There were probably 50, 60 soldiers circled around us, there was no commanding officer yet. All of these soldiers who were around us, started taking shots at this young student. Punching, grabbing handfuls of hair and yanking it out. I'm thinking, 'What can I do to stop it? What will I do? What will provoke them even more and get us all killed, what do you do in this situation?'
As it got worse and the commander came. I introduced myself to the lieutenant, who I think was in charge of them and I said, "How long are you going to allow your men to beat this young man?" He acted as if he hadn't seen it and turned and says, "Oh yeah" and shoos them off like you'd shoo flies off of meat. Then he turns his back to that again, and starts talking to me and saying "We are gonna have to keep this student here for questioning," and they pick up again on beating him and off on the other side of the parking lot I see another man being beaten, and I know this is a terrible place. I know that our lives are not only at risk but I have two buses of college students out there whose lives are at risk.
Through some negotiations for some time, I finally convinced this lieutenant to at least give me a paper with his signature or stamp on it that they detained this young man. That I would leave there with some proof, hoping that a bit of proof, they would maybe be more careful. He wouldn't write anything for me, but I said, "I have a student list, would you mind signing on the student list?" He say, "I'll do it" it was out of the camp out of the bus and he says "Get your list. I started thinking 'He's just wanting to get me out of here, they won't let me back in the camp.' I said to the policeman, who was next to me, the gendarme, I said, "Would you mind going to the bus and getting the list?" I didn't want to let the student out of my sight.
I knew in the end there was nothing I could do. That was a pretty lonely feeling, and it was during that time as both of us were circled by soldiers, the soldiers continued to punch him and yank out his hair, that I was looking for someone in that crowd, just one person that might be sympathetic, one pair of eyes that would show a little bit of compassion, some care for the idea, one person who had a little bit of good in them that could be my ally. It was just no one, just cold bitter hatred. A young kid, couldn't have been more than 16 years old, his sleeves were rolled, kind of cocky, glass of beer in one hand, and a grenade in one hand, was walking behind me and rubbing this grenade on my back, poking me in the back with the grenade and saying to me in French, "You stay here, we're going to keep you too, both of you will spend the weekend here." You know, just menacing. I basically tried to ignore him. I guess you could say there in that situation, you'd say there was no ally.
My one ally was the policeman. In time he did come back, he had the paper, he handed it to the lieutenant. The lieutenant was getting very annoyed by this point with this foreigner who was butting into his business, and he scribbled something on the paper, handed it back to the policeman and said, "Now get out." I asked the policeman if I could see the paper, something prompted me, 'Look at it'. I looked at it at it just said 'so and so retained,' but there was no signature, no stamp. So I was wondering, 'Are we really risking our lives here?' but I said, "Lieutenant, I would really appreciate it if you would stamp or sign" (stamps are huge in Africa) so I said, "would you stamp this thing official or sign your name?" He snatched the paper back, scribbled his signature on it, and said, "If you don't leave now I'm going to bring both your busses in here and you'll all be impounded." I said, "Thank you sir, I appreciate your help, and I appreciate that you will take care of this student." And it was very hard to leave him, he was crying, sure he was going to be killed.
In Kigali, we went to the head of the gendarmery, the police état majeur who was the chief of police for the country. An incredible gentleman, with much respect for life and the job he was doing and he worked hard and the short of it, he got the student released, he did have a lot of beating that weekend, but he was brought back to the school alive on Monday, still in the same bloody clothes, but alive.
Saving Florence - Gregory Alex, UNDP employee who headed the U.N.'s emergency response unit during the genocide - Listen
Gregory Alex: We are presently at the house where Florence lived up until the time she was killed in May of 1994. And she was there with I think it was 10 children that she was taking care of. Family members, members of other people's families that she was protecting. I think there was a hope that because of who she was maybe she might be able to get out and get through and save the children as well.
Michael Montgomery: So let's go back in April. You're back and Florence is trapped here? What's the situation?
Alex: She is here in the house with the kids, and what have we got--50 meters to the main road and another 20 meters below, which means full access of these Interahamwe mainly-occasionally uniformed people, but mostly militia who were manning this check point with bureaucrats, living in what is now the butcher shop. It was a butcher shop then but it had been converted into a place where these guys I guess just slept. And they would sit there during the day and drink their beers and do whatever they did and kill people and come here and terrorize Florence and the kids.
Montgomery: And she is on the phone almost every day with the U.N.? What is she saying on the phone?
Alex: She is saying, "They came again today. They threatened to kill us, threatened to rape the girls." It was every day a terror. Kind of like the false execution torture where they come and say we're coming back later and we're going to kill you, so you spend the whole day terrorized that they are going to come and then they come and they say "Naw, we are going to kill you tomorrow but we are going to rape you first, before we kill you." Stories like that. The day before she was killed, as I'd said, the U.N. mission was trying to organize for an armored personnel carrier to come here. We had been under the impression that there were not authorizations to bring people out, and they finally said "O.k. - you can do it." So we made these arrangements. We're here, we're excited, because now we've been given permission to get these people out, and even though not everyone agreed they should be taken out, at least we had a clear sign to "O.k., you do this, you can take them to Kampala, fly them from Entebbe to Nairobi and we'll take care of them." So we were pretty happy. So we made arrangements, and we passed this message to them, saying finally we've been authorized to take you out. Then I got a call from my office in New York which said do not remove anybody from Rwanda. And that's where I said I'm sorry - there is a bad connection here and then just hung-up. Here were people whose hopes we had built-it had even built our hopes. We were finally being given a mandate to do something, that Mbaye had been doing all along, but we were able to actually do this. And we were doing things that maybe we weren't supposed to do, but we were doing them. But here was the U.N. saying we are going to stand up for our people now, and we're going to help them as best we can. And then coming back a short time later and saying the authorization's been rescinded. It took a big chunk out of our hearts to hear that, and so we just ignored it.
Montgomery: So you get the green light to try to get her out. This is still May 16th or something? Tell us what happens next?
Alex: Well, I had been up to Nyamirambo that day, and I got back, and we had this space in the rotunda of what was then the UNAMIR headquarters, now the ICTR headquarters, and it was so quiet, and I get a call from New York from a James Baker working for DHA, and we are on the phone and Roger comes up to me and he says that Florence was killed, and I just lose it man. I break. [starts to cry]
Montgomery: What do they find?
Alex: They find blood on their floor. They, according to Benoit, who buried them that next morning, they had all been hacked to death-every one of them. Women and children.
How To Survive - Rakiya Omaar of Africa Rights- Listen
I think that it's very evident from any recession to the genocide that if you were going to save lives you didn't do so by standing on a moral high horse and telling people that what they were doing was wrong, because these were not people who cared about moral issues. These were also not people who, for one second, feared that they would actually lose.
This is very important because if people are afraid that next week Kigali was going to fall into the hands of the RPF [Rwandan Patriotic Front], they were going to find ways of accommodation, ways of saving one or two people who could then say "Oh, you know, he's a good guy." These were people who did not for one second until the very, very end, think that they were going to lose the war, and who never questioned the fact that the genocide would be so successful that there would be no witnesses. Therefore, you had to negotiate with the forces of the genocide, you had to bribe the militiamen. Even the Tutsis who managed to navigate their way from one roadblock to another, from one near-ambush to another, often survived because of the greed of the militia.
Sometimes they would be in a bush wanting to kill an individual and then they would hear that another Tutsi had just been killed nearby who had a cow. Then they would all rush to make sure that they got their share of the meat or whatever. Greed was an important motivation for the genocide - the call that you would inherit the land of the Tutsis, you would inherit their jobs, their houses, their cattle- was such an important factor in the genocide, particularly in the countryside. The flip-side of that coin is that it also saved people.
The Survival of Pie Mugabo - Rakiya Omaar of Africa Rights - Listen
I think if the militiamen who came to the orphanage and accepted money in order to leave the children alone, or some women there, if they knew at any moment that someone like Pie Mugabo was hiding in the orphanage, I have no doubt in my mind that not only would they have killed Pie Mugabo and all the other refugees, they would also have killed Damas Gisimba. They would have just razed the orphanage probably to the ground.
He was somebody who was very sought after. It was very clear towards the very end of June and the first day or two of July that Kigali was under siege and it was going to fall. This negotiation for the refugees to be taken to Saint Michael, the cathedral, had been negotiated, then the militia were actually physically in the orphanage.
Of course, people who had been particularly feared for, like Pie Mugabo, weren't just roaming around the orphanage throughout the period of the genocide. Pie Mugabo in particular was hiding in a tiny little room that had been selected by Damas for its security. Nobody else knew he was there, I think, except for his wife and Damas. He never came out - to the extent that when he came out he had lost so much weight and his hair had turned yellow, that even the other refugees had difficulty recognizing him. So, when they came out to board the buses to go to Saint Michael, some of these militiamen who had been skirting around the orphanage throughout the genocide saw Pie Mugabo and they were so shocked that he was still alive, and so angry with Damas for his what they regarded as duplicitous behavior. They are known to have said, "But if Pie Mugabo is still alive then we didn't commit a genocide. No Tutsis have died if someone of his political prominence could survive right under our very noses.
This was not an unusual comment from the militia, particularly in Kigali where many of the politically active people had been living, and a few managed to hide - not very many. That was often their comment: "How can you say the genocide was successful - how can the world be accusing us of genocide?" Of course, they had been listening to the international radios, "When someone like Pie Mugabo is alive, there has been no genocide - we have done nothing!"