The Dallas Morning News

Dec. 15, 1996

HEALING OLD WOUNDS As refugees return to Rwanda, former enemies struggle to live as neighbors
Byline: Ed Timms Page: 1A Word Count: 1632 Dateline: BUTARE, Rwanda BUTARE, Rwanda – Marie Therese Nyirakayuku stares at the locked door of her former home, a wood-and-mud hut enclosed by an elephant grass fence. The 80-year-old widow hopes Rwanda's new government will evict the new occupant and allow her to move back in. She says she just wants to live in peace and watch her grandchildren grow up. But Juliene Mukamana, 43, fears for her life because Mrs. Nyirakayuku has returned. Two years ago, Mrs. Mukamana alleges, Mrs. Nyirakayuku struck her and her daughter with a club, left them for dead and killed others. Mrs. Mukamana parts her hair to expose a large scar, a reminder of the attack. Her 4-year-old daughter, Jeanne, has two quarter-size scars on her forehead. Now, Rwandan officials must decide not only who will live in Mrs. Nyirakayuku's former home, but whether she should be prosecuted. Such disputes over property – and accusations – are common in Rwanda, as thousands of Hutu refugees return home after more than two years in exile. Officially, they are welcomed. The current Rwandan government – which evolved from the Tutsi-dominated guerrilla force that stopped the slaughter of Tutsis and moderate Hutus by Hutu extremists in 1994 – is pushing for reconciliation. And despite Rwanda's all-too-recent history of ethnic hatred and genocide, the refugees' return has been free of widespread violence or discord. The government preaches that there are no significant differences between the Hutu and the Tutsi, and even stopped listing ethnicity on identification cards, a practice that dated back more than 60 years to Belgian colonial rule. In fact, the return of the refugees from camps in eastern Zaire and Tanzania has diminished a threat to Rwanda's stability. The camps shielded Hutu extremists who embarked on raids into Rwanda, targeting survivors and witnesses of the genocide. But Rwanda also is a country faced with daunting problems that still threaten its stability and future. It is a mountainous country with limited resources and Africa's highest population density. Most Rwandans rely on farming or raising animals to survive. Young men wanting to marry and start families say it's hard to find new land to farm or other employment. These predicaments were used by Hutu extremists, who vilified the Tutsi as foreign invaders of a different race, to rationalize the 1994 genocide. While overpopulation and land scarcity are real problems, "economic pressures in and of themselves don't explain genocide," said Rakiya Omaar, co-director of a human rights organization in London. "You have to have a genocidal ideology." The current government is not "saying that if you kill the Hutus, you will be OK," said Ms. Omaar of African Rights. "During the genocide, that was the clear message – if you kill the Tutsis, you will have their land." Finding shelter for returning refugees is a major problem. Many houses were destroyed during the fighting. And many refugees from Rwanda's previous conflicts and ethnically driven exoduses returned after rebel Tutsi forces took control and moved into the homes vacated by Hutus. When house ownership is contested, the government makes a decision within 15 days and provides another house to whomever is

required to leave. Sometimes officials build a house for those left without shelter. Even with the government's best efforts, many Rwandans continue to define each other by ethnicity. Paradoxically, many Hutus and Tutsis coexist and intermarry – as they did for generations before the genocide. Rwanda's government is grudgingly praised for stopping the genocide, its efforts to get Hutus and Tutsis to coexist and for appointing many Hutus to key positions. "In many respects, I admire the discipline and the determination of the Rwandan government," said Peter D. Bell, who heads the relief organization CARE. "While they have committed some atrocities of their own, for the most part they have behaved extraordinarily well – considering that they have, for the last two and a half years, represented the victims of the genocide." But it is still a government dominated by a minority population, not democratically elected. And the Hutus among its ranks are seen by some Rwandans as little more than tokens, or turncoats. Observers believe that many of the Hutu extremists stayed in the mountains of eastern Zaire. But there also is evidence that some who participated in the genocide – after trying to mask their identity – are slipping back into Rwanda. Some refugees who say they did not participate in the genocide nonetheless are worried about how they'll be received back home. Near the eastern Zairian village of Sake recently, a man who described himself as a former teacher was upset over the prospect of returning. The man, who refused to give his name, denies killing anyone but admits he did play a small role in Rwanda's Hutu-dominated politics before the genocide. During the genocide, Tutsi intellectuals and politicians, especially, were sought out and exterminated. But current Rwandan officials assert that they are interested in prosecuting killers, not teachers and minor politicians. Already, Rwanda's prisons are overflowing with those who are accused of participating in frightful acts of genocide. The government urges Rwandans to rely on a judicial system that has been slow to prosecute anyone and not to seek revenge. Not everyone is listening. The numbers apparently are not large, but witnesses – and individuals accused of genocide – have been found murdered. And potential witnesses, like Mrs. Mukamana, are afraid. Mrs. Nyirakayuku says that her former and current neighbor has nothing to fear. Surrounded by her grandchildren, she declares that she has committed no crime. If she is tried and found guilty, it would be "like a sickness for justice." A local official, Pierre Celestin Serufirira, names Mrs. Mukamana as Mrs. Nyirakayuku's accuser. Mrs. Nyirakayuku contends that they were once friends. She doesn't know why Mrs. Mukamana would accuse her. Maybe, she speculates, it is because she is a Tutsi. Mrs. Nyirakayuku continues to protest her innocence and asserts that the only reason she fled the area was because other Hutus were afraid and began to run away. She returned to the area on Dec. 2. She expects to get a ruling on who will get custody of her house soon. In the meantime, she lives with eight family members in a smaller hut about 20 feet away, which once served as her kitchen. About a half-mile away, Mrs. Mukamana stands somberly in the drizzle just outside a small shop as young Jeanne clutches her leg. In May 1994, Jeanne was still a baby. Mrs. Mukamana carried her on her back as she tried to find sanctuary from the genocidal madness that had infected her country. Mrs. Nyirakayuku hunted them down, she said, because they were Tutsi. Both were knocked unconscious by the blows to the head and covered in blood. Mrs. Mukamana said she saw four other children and two adults being led away by Mrs. Nyirakayuku. Their bodies later were found by others in the area. Christian missionaries saved the woman and her baby. All four of her sons were killed, as was her husband. Her house was heavily damaged and has not been repaired. Mrs. Mukamana can forgive Hutus who did not kill during the genocide. Some even live next to them. But she doesn't want her

children to grow up near the grandchildren of Mrs. Nyirakayuku. "When you sow a bad seed, you reap a bad seed," she explained. Mrs. Mukamana wants to see Mrs. Nyirakayuku prosecuted. Josephine Mukamparirwa, 46, is a Hutu. She lives one house away from a Tutsi, Antonia Ntawiha, 71. They share some of the same pain from the genocide. Mrs. Mukamparirwa's husband, Tharlisse Kamanzi, was killed because he was Tutsi. He was Mrs. Ntawiha's son. Mrs. Ntawiha's two other sons also were killed. Mrs. Mukamparirwa lives in her small house with her five children and a 2-year-old grandson. Her oldest daughter lost her husband during the genocide as well. Mrs. Mukamparirwa believes that the Hutu and the Tutsi can live together again, as they did in the past, but that it is impossible to forgive those who have killed family. "I have too much anger for that," she said. She is not opposed to the assistance that the government and outside relief organizations are providing to returning refugees, "but they should also remember those who are here, who have suffered." Relief organizations active in Rwanda are aware of the sentiment and are trying to do something about it. For example, both Mrs. Mukamparirwa and Mrs. Ntawiha live in homes built by Concern Worldwide, a relief organization that supports several projects in Rwanda. Concern volunteer Paul Comiskey said the completed homes are provided to poor Rwandans, regardless of the ethnicity. One of CARE's projects in Rwanda is a small livestock production program, aimed at helping women become self-sufficient. Even before the return of refugees from eastern Zaire and Tanzania, CARE successfully paired Hutu and Tutsi women as business partners and now plans to build on that experience. For now, Rwanda's prognosis is guarded. "There is some hope that people may, in a kind of restrained way, attempt to at least live side by side," said Mr. Bell, CARE's president and chief executive officer. "What will take a very long time is to go from a kind of mutual coexistence to anything resembling genuine reconciliation." Ms. Omaar, of African Rights, suggests that Rwanda is trying to cope "with what is really the most difficult situation that any society has had to face." She sees some similarity between the experiences of Holocaust survivors and survivors of Rwanda's genocide but also one critical difference. "The survivors of the Holocaust did not have to live next door to the people who tried to wipe them out," she said. "They did not have to form a viable political system with them or their relatives."

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