A Kigali Story
One of the things that I got to do during my stay in Kigali was connect with Rwandan Quakers. Some are previous students of mine. Some are new to me. I enjoy this aspect of traveling in the ministry.
One of the things that I always do when traveling is provide listening for trauma stories. You cannot understand Central Africa without understanding the trauma stories. We are now 16 years out from the Rwandan Genocide of 1994. Every Rwandan over the age of 20 has a trauma story. Most Have several. Rwandans are not done telling those stories. We should not be done listening.
I have three Rwandan stories to tell from this trip. It is not safe for me to identify the tellers of these tales, or to accurately name the places where the stories took place. But they approved my telling as long as I hid their identities.
Smallville, Rwanda, April 1994
"I was living here in Smallville in 1994 when we started to hear about the troubles, but we had not yet seen any of it. But the Tutsi families were very nervous, we, their Hutu friends and neighbors did not think that such trouble could come here. We could not imagine participating in it.
One day I heard that there was something going on in the Justice Court up on the main road. Someone told me that many snakes had been caught and that I should go look. I was not much interested in snakes, but people kept insisting that we go look, so I finally agreed.
We came to the courthouse. I looked in the window and I did not see any snakes. I looked on the floor and I looked in the rafters, but I did not see any snakes. What I did see was many people, young and old, men and women sitting in the courtroom looking downcast. I left confused.
Later I found out that the people were all the Tutsi families of our town. The local police had come to each Tutsi home that morning. They had said that they had heard that there would be trouble, but that they did not want such trouble in our town and that they would take the families to the courthouse and protect them there. It was voluntary, but strongly recommended. The police said that they were not sure they would be able to protect anyone who stayed in their outlying homes.
Later that same day we heard bombs. The doors of the Courthouse has been locked and Grenades had been thrown in the windows and not a soul came out alive. To be clear - The bombs were thrown by the very people who called them in to be protected. That is the first time that I heard people called snakes."
There is now a memorial to this atrocity in Smallville. The Courthouse is in use as a courthouse. It is the building you go to when you need Justice in Smallville. A few of the perpetrators were prosecuted. But most of the officials of that town still live and work and hold authority in that town today.