Une tragédie n'exclut pas l'autre
et il n'existe aucune hiérarchie dans la souffrance.
(One tragedy does not cancel out the other,
and there is no hierarchy in suffering.)
Calixthe Beyala (2005)
There can be no reconciliation between Hutu and Tutsi without
justice, and no justice without truth. This proposition holds true
for all three states of former Belgian Africa.
René Lemarchand (1998)
The title of Marie Béatrice Umutesi's book, Fuir ou mourir au Zaïre: Le vécu d'une Réfugiée Rwandaise—or in its English version, Surviving the Slaughter: The Ordeal of a Rwandan Refugee in Zaïre—might prove confusing for some readers on at least two counts. Because the name Rwanda will forever be associated in our memory with the horror of the 1994 genocide, one might surmise that this is the story of a Tutsi survivor taking refuge in neighboring Zaire, as in previous massacres in 1959, 1963, and 1973. But then again, considering the disastrous wars that have raged in that country for the last decade, one might conclude that Umutesi's book tells the story of a Rwandan refugee caught in the crossfire between competing forces, Rwanda versus Uganda and their proxies within the former Zaire. Both assumptions would be only half true. The missing half in both inferences is that the ordeal of this refugee and her cohort originated in the Rwandan conflict that began in 1990 and culminated in the genocide four years later. Shrewdly orchestrated and largely perpetrated by the Tutsi-dominated regime that took power in Rwanda in the aftermath of the genocide, the slaughter of these Hutu refugees has been concealed behind a curtain of silence on the part of the international community. In the drama that unfolds in Umutesi's book, Zairian territory is the unwitting, albeit highly significant, theater of the cynically suppressed story of the disappearance of nearly a quarter million Hutu refugees from Rwanda at the hands of shadowy “rebels.”