Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Genocide: My Stolen Rwanda, a book by Reverien Rurangwa

On 7 April 2009, the anniversary of Rwanda's 100-day genocide, Reportage Press is publishing Genocide:My Stolen Rwanda by Reverien Rurangwa. This is a personal account of the massacres by Reverien Rurangwa, who witnessed the murders of 43 of his family members. He was the only one of his family to escape.

'For thirteen days in April 1994, Reverien Rurangwa hid in silence with his family in a tiny cabin on the side of a mountain until they were finally hunted down by their Hutu neighbours – men with whom his father had often drunk a beer after work. In minutes, 43 members of his family were massacred in front of his eyes. Rurangwa watched as his mother was stripped of the red dress that he had given her as a birthday present, before being murdered.

Although part of his arm and hand were cut off, Rurangwa managed to escape before their assassins set fire to the hut. Rurangwa was 15 and alone in the world. His only souvenir of his childhood is a battered family photograph. In this extraordinary memoir of survival he recounts how with great difficulty he put his life back together and built a new life in exile.

Fifteen years on, only 36 convictions relating to the genocide have been secured and many of those who took part are still walking free. In Rwanda, some survivors even find themselves living side-by-side with people they know were responsible for the brutal murder of their families and friends. The effects of the genocide persist. Other genocidaires remain in Congo, where they terrorise villages and tax the residents. And despite the pledges by the United Nations and Western governments that lessons had been learnt and such a tragedy would not be allowed to happen ever again, the massacres in Sudan's Darfur region have demonstrated that in the face of mass murder, the so-called 'international community' is at best impotent and weak.

Rurangwa was meant to visit London this week to coincide with the book's release and the Genocide Memorial Day. However, he lives in Switzerland and was denied a visa by the Swiss authorities who, after 15 years, have still not granted him refugee status.

Part of the proceeds from the sale of Genocide will go to Ibuka-Memoire et Justice, which supports victims of the genocide. Reverien Rurangwa is the charity’s Vice-President.

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