Sunday, October 23, 2011

France Screws Up...Again

France has refused to allow the extradition of Agathe Habyarimana to Rwanda. It has been sheltering her since three days after the genocide began in 1994. The original article is below.

This sort of news really frustrates me, especially in a time when Franco-Rwandan relations appear to be improving, and when there is a real opportunity for justice to be served. France can be astonishingly myopic when it comes to decisions like this. What do they gain from sheltering a war criminal of the magnitude of Rwandan former First Lady Agathe Habyarimana, the architect of the interahamwe, and one of the most extreme of the génocidaires?

What it’s really about is saving face—French President Mitterrand was famously close to Juvénal Habyarimana, the Hutu president whose plane was shot down in April 1994, and husband to Agathe.

If France is hesitant to “do the right thing” and voluntarily allow the extradition of Agathe to Rwanda, perhaps they would respond differently if the International Criminal Court (ICC) weighed in with an indictment. After all, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda is not likely to act—it has been notoriously sluggish in its efforts to indict and try Tier 1 génocidaires. ICC Prosecutor José Maria Ocampo is on a roll with indictments of President Bashir, Col. Qadhafi, Kenyan leaders (for pre-election violence), Joseph Kony, and others. It seems to me that Agathe, whose interahamwe youth militia arguably inspired Bashir to facilitate the formation of the Janjaweed in Darfur, belongs in the same notorious category.


France Will Not Extradite Former Rwandan Leader's Widow
CNN Wire Staff
updated 3:11 PM EST, Thu September 29, 2011

Paris (CNN) -- A French appeals court on Wednesday rejected a Rwandan request to extradite the widow of former Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana, whose assassination sparked the 1994 genocide.

Lawyer Philippe Meilhac said his client, former first lady Agathe Habyarimana, was "relieved" and "very satisfied" with the court's decision.

"This is a very delicate case, as it can also impact relations between France and Rwanda, so this decision is important and in many ways symbolic," Meilhac said.

Habyarimana still faces a civil suit dating from 2007, when a French Rwandan rights collective accused her of being involved in the genocide, Meilhac said. Habyarimana has asked to be heard by a judge but is still waiting to be summoned, he said.

She faces a Rwandan warrant on genocide charges that include crimes against humanity, specifically murder and extermination; creation of a criminal gang, namely the Hutu militias; and aiding and abetting the killings perpetrated by soldiers in violation of the Geneva Conventions, John Bosco Mutangana, the head of Rwanda's Genocide Fugitives Tracking Unit, said last year.
Habyarimana left Rwanda for France soon after the violence broke out. Meilhac said there have been roughly 10 extradition requests during her 15 years in France.

Her husband, the former president, was killed in April 1994 when his plane was shot down near the capital, Kigali. The mass killings began hours later, and by the time they ended 100 days later, 800,000 people had been killed.

Most were members of the country's Tutsi minority, killed by members of the Hutu majority.
The circumstances surrounding the former president's death remain a mystery. He was a Hutu, and speculation immediately fell on Tutsis -- but some have also speculated that Hutus themselves may have shot down the plane to provide cover for the ensuing genocide.

Top officials such as army generals and politicians who allegedly took part in the genocide have been tried in the Rwandan justice system and the International Criminal Tribunal, which is based in Tanzania.

Civilians who allegedly contributed either directly or indirectly are tried by local communities in "gacaca" courts, which allow survivors to confront their attackers. Some human rights organizations have criticized the gacaca courts for falling short on delivering justice.

Habyarimana has no residency permit, having been refused legal status by the French prefecture. She has appealed that decision and is awaiting a ruling from the Versailles administration court in the next few weeks, Meilhac said.

"The administration court should look to the appeals court as an example," he said. "The case against my client is empty, and she deserves to be granted a residency permit."

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Where have I been?

A quick update, as I haven’t been posting on the blog for a while. I spent the past year working on Africa—in particular, Darfur, Sudan—and often thought about posting my thoughts and stories from my travels here. After all, it is called Morgan in Africa.

What I recognized, though, is that I wanted to preserve this blog for what it became: a bit of a resource on Rwanda (with a splash of Burundi for good measure). As my heart lives in Rwanda, I know I will be back, and in the meantime, I will continue to post interesting news stories and, occasionally, analysis. Rwanda is developing at breakneck speed, and it will be interesting to watch what happens in President Kagame’s last term—and what will come after.

In the meantime, I have started a sister blog to this one, called The Global Gamine (, which is documenting my latest travel adventures. At the moment, I’m working in Indonesia, a major change for this Africanist. I invite you to follow along as I try to navigate my way through this fascinating language, country, and culture.

Murakoze cyane!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The UN Report That Shook A Thousand Hills

Rwanda is riled up right now, and with good reason. Last month, Le Monde, the leading French newspaper, leaked a draft of a United Nations report that allegedly accused the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), President Kagame’s Tutsi rebel army that ended the 1994 genocide of itself committing genocide in 1996. At the time, the RPF was chasing génocidaires into the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), because they were regrouping in UNHCR camps and launching attacks from across the border. Since the UN was doing nothing to prevent this from happening, the RPF (now the Rwandan army) chased the génocidaires in the forests of the DRC.

According to the report, RPF soldiers themselves committed genocide when on these campaigns. While I have not read the report myself (it is slated to be officially released on October 1, 2010), friends who have seen the report have said that the evidence is incontrovertible: Hutu women and children were specifically targeted, and their bodies were buried in mass graves. I have not seen a precise total of the number killed (the report allegedly identifies sites with hundreds of bodies), but it certainly does not rival the 800,000 to 1 million estimated dead during the 1994 genocide. This, of course, does not make it less tragic, but I think it’s important to have a sense of the numbers, especially when some of Rwanda's critics will use the report to support their belief that there was a "double-genocide"--that is, genocide conducted on both sides.

President Kagame has called the report “ridiculous” and is furious for two reasons—that the United Nations undertook this exercise (which was to map human rights atrocities in the area from 1993 to 2003) without his knowledge, and that the report language calls Rwandan actions “genocide.” The Rwandan government has repeatedly threatened to kick the UN out of the country because they did nothing to end the genocide, they fed and gave health care to génocidaires who had fled to Congo, and they currently do little in Rwanda that the Rwandan government would miss. When I was working for UNHCR there, I was often told by fellow staff that our days were numbered, and that the Rwandan government would take over sole administration of the camps. Naturally, then, when I heard about this UN report, I immediately thought the UN would be summarily asked to leave, as the French government was in 2006.

This hasn’t happened yet, but the Rwandan government hit the UN where it hurts—it allegedly threatened to pull its 3,300 peacekeepers from the UN Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) and 300 peacekeepers from the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS). Rwanda had volunteered to send its peacekeepers to Sudan to demonstrate activism in ending genocide (and probably also to demonstrate what others should have done for their country). The United Nations has a difficult time recruiting peacekeepers, and an even more difficult time recruiting peacekeepers who are trained and qualified. The Rwandese are competent and disciplined.

It is no wonder, then, that UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon himself went to Rwanda to pay a personal visit to Paul Kagame—to congratulate him on his landslide re-election, and beg him to reconsider the possibility of pulling out of Sudan. The UN also decided to postpone the release of the report, presumably to re-examine the language used, and is allowing the countries implicated in the report to make comments and statements that will be released alongside the report text.

The impact of this report cannot be overstated. The entire narrative of Rwanda over the past decade and a half has been defined by its activism against genocide and the development miracle that has been made possible through the “new” Rwanda’s moral high ground and social/economic/environmental policies that donors love. In many ways, even if the term “genocide” is replaced by something slightly softer, such as “acts of genocide,” or “mass retributive killings,” or “ethnic pogrom,” the damage has already been done. No longer will donors be able to tout Rwanda without reservation as a development miracle. Now, all such statements will have to be qualified; Rwanda will no longer be the West’s golden child. It’s too early to tell whether this will have any real impact on development aid, but I suspect it will not. The international community gives money to countries with similar (or worse) human rights violations.

What could happen is a fueling of the Rwandan government’s critics (from exiled detractors to the French government). [As a side note, is it any real surprise that this story was initially made public by a French newspaper?] The Rwandan government has felt embattled since 1994, and felt that way during its days as a scorned rebel army. In a way, this latest development will contribute to their narrative of needing to be even more self-reliant and impervious to external criticism.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Mucyo Commission (Findings on France's Role in the Rwandan Genocide)

I had heard quite a bit about the Mucyo Commission that was established when I first moved to Rwanda in 2006. Much has been made of the findings, and I wanted to read it for myself to see exactly what it included. I found the French version tucked away on some obscure Rwandan government website (so well hidden that I can't find it again), but I did manage to read the entire thing. If someone knows where an English version may be found, please post. It's quite interesting (and incredibly sad) to read. Following is my (incomplete) synopsis. I pulled some of the most alarming things that I read, but there is much more included in the report.

The Mucyo Commission
The Mucyo (pronounced "Moo-cho") Commission was an independent commission, named for its head, the former Minister of Justice Jean de Dieu Mucyo. It was established by the Rwandan Government on April 16, 2006 to investigate France's role in the Rwandan genocide from April to July 1994. The 331-page final report was released in September 2008.

Methods of information collection: Public and private archives, investigations in the field, witness testimonies in public and private; meetings and archive consultations in Rwanda, Belgium, France, Germany, and Tanzania. Particular emphasis on including only those testimonies that could be corroborated. Translations found below are my own.

Key Findings/Accusations of the Mucyo Commission

• French soldiers were present in the Rwandan Army before and during the genocide; thus allegations that the French were unaware of who was killing whom are questionable, because top military officials were helping to plan Rwandan Army strategies

• French soldiers helped to train the youth militia, the Interahamwe, before the genocide.

One former Interahamwe member said,
“The French taught us how to shoot at targets. They drew a head at which we aimed…These were the French who gave us grades and prizes as a function of our results. They gave us alcohol. According to our grades, they promised a bottle of banana beer.”
• President Mitterand believed that the Tutsi, who were invading from the north, wanted to establish a Tutsi regime. Since they represented an ethnic minority, this was viewed as a challenge to democracy.

• The French army manned road blocks and encouraged Interahamwe to kill Tutsi when their identity cards were checked.

• The French helped to prepare lists of Tutsi suspected to be aligned with the RPF (Tutsi rebels) and Hutu sympathizers, and gave it to the government for investigation. These lists are believed to have been used in house-to-house targeting of victims.

• Several RPF prisoners-of-war that were held at the Kigali military base were tortured and assassinated in the presence of and with the participation of French soldiers.

• The genocidal leader who took over the government after the plane was shot down, Théoneste Bagosora, was encouraged to do so by the French government. The French military promised to provide ammunition and communication equipment.

• The French military provided an estimated five tons of arms and ammunition to the Rwandan military government two days after the genocide began, and flew additional arms to Goma for transport into Rwanda one month after the genocide began.

• Operation Turquoise, a French “safe zone” established in June 1994 permitted Hutu extremists to escape into Zaire with their light and heavy armaments. Tutsi who believed it was a safe zone for them were slaughtered.

• Tutsi captives were systematically thrown by the French from their helicopters over Nyungwe Forest.

“French soldiers tied my hands and legs. A little after that, they put me in a bag up to the neck and put me in their Jeep…Then they transported me in a helicopter above the Nyungwe Forest and threw me out, to a place called Kuwa Senkoko. I was injured by a branch that I fell on and I felt shaken by the shock.”

A local official substantiated these claims, saying:

"The French soldiers left early in the morning in their Jeeps. Sometimes I went with them, essentially as a translator. They were looking to arrest Tutsi. Among them, the French soldiers chose some, hit them, bound them, and put them in bags with only the head exposed. Then they put them in the helicopter. After, the French told me that they were thrown in the Nyungwe Forest. I asked them why they used these methods, and a French captain said the French did not want people to know that they had killed, and that finally, they threw people down into the forest because they didn’t have time to bury them.”

• French soldiers participated in the rape of Tutsi civilians.

“I arrived in Gikongoro around July 20…One night, 4 to 5 French soldiers,
accompanied by a Rwandan in military uniform, came and asked me to follow them,
telling me they were taking me to a safer place. At the same time, they took a
woman named Colette. They took us to SOS. We found that they were keeping other
girls and women there. I was raped all night by a Frenchman. He kept me between
5 and 10 days. They promised us they would help us leave Gikongoro to go to a
safer place. Every day, they lied to us like that, and at night, they continued
to sexually abuse us.”

• Thirteen French officials were named in relation to aiding and abetting genocide in Rwanda. These include former President Francois Mitterand, Alain Juppé, Hubert Védrine, and Dominique de Villepin.

I should mention that the French conducted their own independent assessment, called the Quilès Report, in 1998, which stated that “If France did not participate in battle, nevertheless on the ground it was extremely close to the Rwandan Armed Forces. It continuously participated in the working out of battle plans, provided advice to the general staff, and to commanders, proposing redeployments and new tactics. It sent advisers to instruct the Rwandan Armed Forces in the operation of advanced weapons.” The report said that Paris routinely disregarded warnings from French advisers in the field that their advice could be put to bad use, but the report stated that France “in no way incited, encouraged, or supported those who orchestrated the genocide.”

As a result of France’s role during the genocide, the RPF, which ended the genocide and established a new government in Rwanda, has had very strained diplomatic relations with France. In November 2006, after the Mucyo Commission was launched, French human rights judge Jean-Louis Bruguiere accused Rwandan President Paul Kagame and the RPF of shooting down the plane that sparked the genocide. Shortly thereafter, French diplomats were summarily kicked out of the country, and diplomatic relations were only restored in November 2009. (In that time, Rwanda also became an Anglophone, Commonwealth country.) French reactions to the Mucyo report have been, predictably, angry. French public officials have questioned the report’s integrity and have supported the findings of the Quilès report.

In case you're looking for more information:

Discussion of the Quilès Report: Craig Whitney, “Panel Finds French Errors in Judgment on Rwanda,” New York Times, December 20, 1998,

Rapport de la Commission Nationale Indépendante Chargée de Rassembler les Preuves Montrant l’Implication de l’Etat Français Dans le Génocide Perpétré au Rwanda en 1994, République du Rwanda, 15 Novembre 2007. (Final Draft)

For a response from the Génocidaires held at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda:

Friday, February 05, 2010

Rwanda=Africa Lite (For a reality check, visit Burundi)

I’ve devoted a lot of thought to this, and I have come to the conclusion that Rwanda is wholly unlike any other country in Africa. I say this out of nothing but pure love for Rwanda, but I have to admit that I am ruffled when people go to Rwanda and marvel at how “everything in Africa works,” or “everything in Africa is clean,” or “everywhere in Africa is safe.” No. Things in Rwanda work, streets in Rwanda are clean, and Rwanda is safe enough that you could walk naked down the street at 4 a.m. without a problem (although I wouldn’t advise it). These are all great things, but they are Rwanda-specific. It’s a great strategy. When a country is safe and things work, you’re more likely to attract investors and tourists. And that’s what has happened. So many Americans (in particular) have flocked to Rwanda that I refer to it as “Little America.”

There is probably no better way to illustrate this than to describe my recent experience at Bourbon Coffee in Washington, D.C. I have spent hours at Bourbon Coffee in Kigali, enjoying their coffee while choking on their Starbucks-like prices. When I heard that the Rwandese-American owner had opened a store on L Street (where a Starbucks used to be…go figure), I had to see it for myself.

It looked exactly like a Bourbon Coffee in Kigali. My chin was on the floor. I cautiously approached the register and ordered a black coffee—from the Kivu Region. My region. It was almost too much to bear. I told the barista.

“Yeah, we get that a lot,” she responded dully.

Really? A lot? I was surprised for a moment, but then realized that a) aid workers, students, missionaries, and others have been flocking to Rwanda, and b) all those same people would probably go out of their way to come to this one coffeeshop.

To return to this idea of Rwanda being Africa Lite, or as my coworker in Burundi called it—“Disneyland Africa”—it became clear to me during my summer in Burundi just how different Rwanda is from its sister country to the south.

Burundi, on its surface, is the same as Rwanda. The ethnic make-up is the same. The terrain is basically the same (mostly hilly, but Burundi doesn’t have volcanoes). Burundi’s population is a little smaller (about 7 million to Rwanda’s estimated 10 million+) but still ranks as one of the most densely populated countries in Africa. Rwanda and Burundi even used to be the same country (Ruanda-Urundi), speak basically the same language, and have both known political turmoil since independence in 1962 (they share the same independence day from Belgium). In April 1994, both the Rwandan and Burundian presidents perished in a plane shot down over Kigali—the event viewed as the trigger for the Rwandan genocide.

There were massacres of Tutsi in Burundi in 1994, but not to the same degree. One critical difference was that the Burundian military was majority-Tutsi, which meant that the military could not be mobilized to kill Tutsi as it did in Rwanda. Another critical difference was that the Burundian population was more ethnically mixed. While there were certainly ethnic mixes in Rwanda, this occurred with greater frequency in Burundi. Divisive rhetoric is more effective when a population can be divided.

This is not to say that there was peace. Burundi’s short post-independence history is fraught with ethnic pogroms, coups d’etat, assassinations, rebel activity, and peace agreements. The rebel group Forces Nationales de Liberation (FNL) finally agreed to lay down arms and became a political party in 2009; the disarmament process continues. Violence in Burundi since independence has cost an estimated 200,000 lives, but there is now peace.

What is interesting is how Rwanda and Burundi diverged in development. In 2006, before I left for Rwanda, people asked me where it was. “East Africa,” I would say. Now, when people ask me where Burundi is, I say, “south of Rwanda.” The attention of the world community is very different toward these two countries. Burundi, in many ways, is Rwanda minus 20 years of development. The roads are pretty rough-and-tumble. Industries are not very developed. The health care system is weak. The UN has a huge civilian presence there in the form of BINUB, the UN Mission to Burundi. Policemen pull over expatriates, expecting a bribe.

It’s sad to think that Rwanda has received so much attention because of the extent of the tragedy it suffered. It says a lot about the international community, and (sadly) what it takes to get noticed. To its credit, Rwanda has managed the “guilt aid” (my term for the money that the international community has collectively given because it feels guilty for doing so little for Rwanda during the genocide) it has received very well. Anti-corruption measures are largely effective, and the Rwandan government demands accountability from all donors and organizations on the ground. This has created a dream environment in which donors can work.

Flip the coin, and you have Burundi. The 200,000 dead from years of violence did not grab headlines. Some NGOs work there (with small staffs), but certainly not the panoply that dominate Rwanda, planting their logo signs across the countryside. In comparison, it was hard not to think that the international community had forgotten Burundi.

This made me think about the possible ripple effects. Could aid-drenched Rwanda have positive spillover into Burundi? I think it can, but it must start with the infrastructure that exists. Burundi has real potential for growth, especially in the tourism industry, among regional aid workers. While it doesn’t have the starpower that Rwanda’s gorillas carry, Burundi does have a stunning lake so large that it has tides, waves, and real sand. Bujumbura has a number of nice hotels, and luxury resorts are popping up along the length of the lake shore. Food is inexpensive and there are great choices. The nightlife is bustling. And, perhaps more than anything else, it’s also nice to have a reality check. For someone who has spent a lot of time in Rwanda, experiencing a moderately more gritty and more real country was refreshing. Aid workers (and students, missionaries, and others) in Rwanda would benefit from spending some time in Burundi. Not only would they be providing needed investment in the local economy, but they would get a reality check. It is also close—any easy drive or a cheap flight. Over time, money and capital flowing into the country from increased interest in the tourism industry could fuel investor confidence (we’ll also have to wait to see what happens with the elections later this year) and lead to increased development. It’s a small starting point, but an important one nevertheless. Burundi may not land on the East Africa Tourism Circuit anytime soon, but it could certainly benefit from the ripple effects of aid in Rwanda.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Dinner with Dallaire

One of the benefits of being in policy school is the opportunity to attend intimate dinners with luminaries, to be able to ask them questions in a small forum and exchange ideas. On Monday, I was able to join a small dinner with General Romeo Dallaire, the former head of the UN Assistance Mission in Rwanda (UNAMIR) during the 1994 genocide. General Dallaire, in 1994, was informed that a genocide was imminent, and informed Kofi Annan at the United Nations that action could and should be taken to prevent it from happening.

This warning fell on deaf ears. Once the genocide started, ten Belgian peacekeepers were killed, and the United Nations, for this reason as well as member nation reticence to become involved, reduced its troop levels there to a skeleton force. With few peacekeepers and a UN Chapter 6 force mandate (which permits force only in cases of peacekeepers’ self-defense), General Dallaire was essentially helpless as hundreds of thousands of people were slaughtered around him. In addition, as the UN Force Commander, he had the unenviable task of communicating and negotiating between the genocidal Rwandan government and the Rwandan Patriotic Front. His famous, meticulously detailed and heart-wrenching account of his time in Rwanda, Shake Hands with the Devil, documents this.

I had heard from others that for years, he couldn’t talk about the genocide in public without falling apart. He has attempted suicide multiple times, and over the past decade has become a major spokesperson on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in Canada. When I was informed that he was going to speak at my graduate school, I was interested to hear what he would talk about and if it would be as emotional an experience as others had said.

The dinner was very conversational, and I was surprised to see that it seemed that he had dealt with his demons. There were about 15 of us around the table, and he chatted cheerfully about Canadian politics and peacekeeping. He is a strong believer that a human is a human, and that skin color and national interest should not influence whether the UN (or individual countries) should intervene to end a genocide. Some have argued that race was a factor in the decision of Western countries to intervene in Yugoslavia, but not in Rwanda. Sadly, there are more crises around the world than the international community can provide resources for, so it will always have to choose...and I suppose we can only hope that the lessons learned in Rwanda will prevent another such horrendous miscalculation on the part of the international community from happening again.

Dallaire also argued that middle countries (he named Canada, Germany, and Japan) should step up their commitments to peacekeeping, because they have the capabilities and don’t carry the same “baggage” that the U.S. does (and Britain, to a certain extent). In other words, Canada carries a reputation for neutrality that the U.S. does not.

In arguing that all humans are equal and deserving of protection, he referred to a story he told at the beginning of his book. His convoy was speeding through the no-fire zone when he spotted a child by the side of the road. Eyes glazed, belly distended, mucus running down his lip. The convoy slowed and stopped, and he went back to find the child, who had retreated into his house. There were bodies everywhere, had been there for weeks, half eaten, he said. And the child was just sitting among the bodies, as if to say: This is my house. I am at home. He picked the child up and looked him in the eyes. In them, he saw the eyes of his son. Dallaire spoke easily, and to my surprise, was not emotional in the least, even as he described the piles of corpses. He said it as if it were simply a fact. The numbness with which he spoke was the only clear indication to me during the course of the evening that he has been deeply traumatized.

What I was most curious about, of course, was what he thought about Rwanda today, 15 years on. I asked him about it, and he said that it was a real success story. Things work. There are services. The people feel safe. The country is strong. But then he said that while President Kagame is a good leader—the two have close ties—he believes that the time has come for Kagame to relinquish a bit of his stronghold. After all, the press is self-censored or intimidated. There is a strong intelligence system involving wiretaps and informants. There is, for all intents and purposes, one political party. These were all justified in the context of strengthening security and promoting post-war unity, he said, but now that 15 years have passed, it was time to allow more freedom in these areas. He also said that Kagame needs to begin thinking about a political successor. Next year, presidential elections will be held in Rwanda (which I, and everyone else, believe that Kagame will win by a large margin), and the two-term limit will mean that after six years, a new candidate must step to the plate. Who that will be is unclear.

He also commented that, until France permits the extradition of genocidaires that it continues to harbor (it airlifted many of the genocidal leaders out of Rwanda at the end of the war), the Rwandan government will continue to fear that it will be attacked again, and will continue to maintain a strong (benevolent) authoritarian control over the country.

Very interestingly, he discussed the idea that perhaps the current geographical borders of the Great Lakes countries were not necessarily permanent…that perhaps they could change. This wasn’t his idea—he attributed it to others—but he said that some had talked about the possibility that Rwanda and Uganda’s territories increase to be more reflective of population identities. In other words, colonizers carved up Africa without regard for tribes, ethnic groups, or languages. When Germany carved up Congo and Rwanda, they gave the Western side of Lake Kivu to Congo, despite the fact that the people there spoke Kinyarwanda. In light of all of the meddling by Rwanda and Uganda in Eastern Congo (which is rich in resources), I found it interesting that anyone had actually proposed that Rwanda could expand. I had heard this, only jokingly, from Rwandans, who said they thought that they could manage that area better than the Congolese could. I can’t imagine why the Congolese government would ever consent to that, though.

When it came to the ethnic question—that “Hutu” and “Tutsi” divisions no longer exist, and that everyone is simply Rwandese—he said only time will tell. For many, it is clear who is of which ethnicity, and he agreed that addressing the underlying causes of ethnic friction—which in the past has been the inequality of opportunity for Hutus—is the way to prevent another genocide from occurring. “Will another genocide occur?” he asked. “Maybe.” But then he said that, if real reconciliation between the ethnic groups was achieved, it didn’t have to be that way.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Dr. Livingstone, I presume?

On a clear, sunny Sunday, my friends and I drove down to Saga Resha, a beautiful beach about an hour south of Bujumbura. The resort that is being constructed there was not yet complete, so we brought a big picnic of sausage, sandwiches, fruit, cookies, cheese, and other goodies that we managed to put together at the last minute. As it turned out, the restaurant had just opened, and the men who met us in the parking lot tried to charge us about $50 for bringing in our own food (“the corkage fee,” they explained). We had been informed otherwise, and we discussed this with the manager, who made a point of telling us that he was dropping the charge to $20 because he was such a reasonable fellow. We agreed to pay the $20, and descended to the lake shore, with its expanse of white sand and private huts.

We all splashed about, enjoying the warm water and fresh air. After getting our fill of the heat, sand, and occasional ogling by the Burundian staff (the whistles were NOT welcomed), we packed everything up and headed back to Bujumbura. On the way, we pulled over onto a tiny, unmarked dirt road which led to one of Burundi’s few tourist attractions: the rock where Henry Morton Stanley, journalist-turned-explorer and operative of King Leopold II, allegedly “found” Dr. David Livingstone, who had been traipsing about East Africa in search of the source of the Nile River—and famously said, “Dr. Livingstone, I presume?”

To be fair, this may or may not have actually happened at this site. We know it happened near Lake Tanganyika, and the rock that marks the famous meeting overlooks the lake. Most people say the meeting actually happened in Ujiji, Tanzania. Apparently, Stanley and Livingstone traveled together for a while after their meeting, leaving markers of where they had been, and this might be just one of those markers. The large stone is engraved with their names, like strange historical graffiti. Burundi doesn’t have much in the way of landmarks, so I hope and wish for the sake of the tourism industry that this was the real meeting spot.

Nothing much is around the site (it’s really just a vista over the lake), but as we were wandering about and taking photos, children began to run up from the nearby huts to welcome us. We gave them leftover fruit from our picnic, played with them a bit, and then packed up to head back to Bujumbura before the curfew set in.