20 Years after the Genocide

Jenny Matthews

20 years ago, between 500,000 and 1 million Rwandans died in the worst genocide since the Second World War Holocaust. Jenny Matthews meets some of the survivors.~~On 6 April 1994, a shaky ceasefire between the Tutsi-dominated Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) and the Hutu-run Rwandan army that had largely been observed in the breach was blown apart by the assassination of the country's Hutu president Juvenale Habyarimana when his plane was shot down as it approached Kigali's airport. What followed was the systematic murder of between 500,000 and 1 million Rwandan Tutsis and moderate Hutus who refused to abide by the murderous logic of the genocidaires in the space of around 100 days. An understaffed and ill-equipped UN force was completely under-resourced to deal with the enormity of the killing which continued day and night across the country. It could merely try and shield people in protected zones while the killers marauded outside.

The origins of the ethnic tensions between Tutsis and Hutus go back to the 18th century and a traditional dominance of the Tutsis who had established a number of kingdoms in modern day Rwanda and Burundi. During the decades of Belgian colonial control of Rwanda after the First World War, Tutsi dominance was perpetuated and entrenched by the colonial administrations which selected the Tutsi to be their administrators and public servants. By the late 1950s, however, the Belgians had changed their allegiances within Rwanda and were actively promoting Hutus into positions of power. This led to inter-communal violence that cost the lives of tens of thousands, culminating in the toppling of Rwanda's last king and the establishment of a Hutu dominated republic independent from Belgium.~~Over the coming decades, hundreds of thousands of Tutsis fled the country, mainly to neighbouring Uganda. Here, Rwandan exiles who had fought with Yuweri Museveni, a Ugandan rebel leader who was waging his own war against the Ugandan government, started to plan an invasion of Rwanda to reclaim the rights of Rwanda's Tutsis.~~After a fitful start in late 1990, the newly formed rebel army, now calling itself Rwandan Patriotic Front, launched a surprise attack on northern Rwanda and continued to menace the Kigali government from various bases in the North over the following year. Despite a 1992 ceasefire agreement, both sides were fully prepared by the time April 1994 came around and elements within the army, the national police force and government-backed militias including the Interahamwe ('those who stand/work/fight/attack together') and the Impuzamugambi ('those who have a single goal') were ready to annihilate the remaining Tutsis.~~Following the genocide, Panos photographer Jenny Matthews made several trips to Rwanda between 1994 and 1997 to photograph survivors for African Rights, a human rights charity which collected testimonies in order to pursue the perpetrators and seek compensation for the victims. The images were used to illustrate books and campaigning reports. In February 2014 she went back to Rwanda to look for some of those survivors and through them tell the story of Rwanda today.~~She worked with Shemsa Uwase, herself a survivor, and managed to find 20 of the people she originally photographed. They visited many small villages and showed photos from the '90s. Motorbike taxi riders were particularly helpful as they seemed to know everyone in the community. The news wasn't all good. People are haunted by the past and most suffer from depression and live with the fear that it could happen again. For several people it had been impossible to live in a country where so much personal tragedy had occurred and they were in exile. Some had died, most from natural causes, although their health had almost certainly been damaged by the genocide. Of the people Jenny did find, it was good to discover that nearly everyone was physically better off, had somewhere decent to live and had mostly benefitted from the government's policy of giving a cow to every poor family. It was wonderful to discover that Consolee had had surgery and could now use her stump to pick up things, that Devota now had teeth and Hycinthe, although seriously traumatised, has devoted carers to look after her.

 

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    • Stories (934)

      Rwanda

      Madame Speciose Mukakibibi.
      1995: Madame Speciose...

      © Jenny Matthews

      00181739

      Rwanda

      Stanislas Ruhamiliza.
      1997: Stanislas Ruhamiliza...

      © Jenny Matthews

      00181740

      Rwanda

      Maurice Sakufi.
      1996: Maurice Sakufi. He says of...

      © Jenny Matthews

      00181741

      Rwanda

      Philimon Nshimiyimana.
      1996: Philimon Nshimiyimana...

      © Jenny Matthews

      00181742

      Rwanda

      Samuel Ndirisi.
      1996: Samuel Ndirisi was one of...

      © Jenny Matthews

      00181743

      Rwanda

      Simeon Karamaga.
      1997: Simeon Karamaga (53) at the...

      © Jenny Matthews

      00181744

      Rwanda

      Devota Mukarwegoo.
      1995: Devota Mukarwegoo aged...

      © Jenny Matthews

      00181745

      Rwanda

      Epiphanie Nyirakaziga.
      1996: Epiphanie Nyirakaziga...

      © Jenny Matthews

      00181746

      Rwanda

      Hycinthe Nzabamwita.
      1995: Hycinthe Nzabamwita...

      © Jenny Matthews

      00181747

      Rwanda

      Marie Christine Candari.
      1995: Marie Christine...

      © Jenny Matthews

      00181748

      Rwanda

      Matoshi (Marcel Nteziryayo).
      1996: Matbroshi...

      © Jenny Matthews

      00181749

      Rwanda

      Consolee Mukalisa.
      1995: 23 year old Consolee....

      © Jenny Matthews

      00181750

      Rwanda

      Dancille Mukandoli.
      1995: Dancille Mukandoli with...

      © Jenny Matthews

      00181751

      Rwanda

      Daphrose Mukankundiye.
      1997: Daphrose Mukankundiye...

      © Jenny Matthews

      00181752

      Rwanda

      Anne Marie Kamanzi.
      1995: During the 1994 genocide...

      © Jenny Matthews

      00181753

      Rwanda

      Antoinette.
      1996: Ten of Antoinette's children...

      © Jenny Matthews

      00181754

      Rwanda

      Azelle Nyiraahabimana.
      1996: During the 1994...

      © Jenny Matthews

      00181755

      Rwanda

      Berancille Nyariambanza.
      1995: During the 1994...

      © Jenny Matthews

      00181756

      Rwanda

      Catherine Kamayenge.
      1997: Catherine Kamayenge...

      © Jenny Matthews

      00181757

      Rwanda

      Anastasie Mukaramukaka
      1996: 50 years old, with...

      © Jenny Matthews

      00181758

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