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Bearing Witness to Mass Murder

  • René Lemarchand

Extract

The third day after leaving Tingi-Tingi we began to pass the bodies of the dead and the dying.… My eye fell on a teenager hardly sixteen years old. Like the others she was lying at the side of the road, her large eyes open.… A cloud of flies swarmed around her. Ants and other forest insects crawled around her mouth, nose, eyes and ears. They began to devour her before she had taken her last breath. The death rattle that from time to time escaped her lips showed that she was not yet dead. All who passed by glanced at her and then took up their conversation where they had left off. I stood in a daze in front of this sixteen-year-old girl, lying in agony by the side of the road in die middle of the equatorial forest more than five hundred kilometers from home. As in 1993, when I heard about the extermination of my mother's family, as in 1994, when I saw the burned houses, the fear in the eyes of the fleeing Tutsi, and the arrogance and the hate in the faces of their executioners, as in 1995 when I saw pictures of women and children assassinated by the RPF in the camps at Birava, I was overcome by revulsion. What crime had all these victims committed to deserve such a death?

Marie Béatrice Umutesi, Surviving the Slaughter

In the “witness literature” on the Great Lakes, Marie Béatrice Umutesi's wrenching narrative surpasses all others by its searing, intensely personal quality. She bears testimony to an almost forgotten tragedy: Between October 1996 and September 1997, hundreds of thousands of Hutu refugees lost their lives in the course of a massive manhunt carried out by Rwandan-backed rebels and units of the Rwandan army.

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Bearing Witness to Mass Murder

  • René Lemarchand

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