Because the Rwandan genocide was less than twenty years ago and because many of the conditions that allowed it to flourish unchecked still abound in our world, it is vital to look at it. To see what we can learn. Shake Hands with the Devil is full of descriptions of atrocities and negligence and suffering but there is something about the following – something about the symbolism and simplicity of what happens in this incident that particularly resonates with me.
“At the roadblocks throughout Kigali, there were more youths with machetes and spears. Ten days into the genocide (a word I had yet to start using to describe what was going on around me, for reasons that still elude me: maybe simple denial that anything like the Holocaust could be happening again), most streets were vacant except for the patrols of prisoners from Kigali jails who were loading corpses into dump trucks for disposal in mass graves outside the city.
The memory of these trucks is indelible. Blood, dark, half-coagulated, oozed like thick paint from the back of them. One day I saw a young Hutu girl in a light dress, wearing sandals, lose her balance as she slipped on the blood beside the truck. She landed hard, and though she got up immediately it was as if someone had painted her body and her dress with a dark red oil. She became hysterical looking at it, and the more she screamed the more attention she drew. Soon we were surrounded by hundreds of people, many carrying weapons…” (1)
(1) Roméo Dallaire, Shake Hands With the Devil, pp 305-06