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Ms.Angeline Bandon-Bibum

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Reflecting on the Cruelest Months
by Ms.Angeline Bandon-Bibum   
Rated "PG" by the Author.
Last edited: Saturday, March 01, 2014
Posted: Saturday, March 01, 2014

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Ms.Angeline Bandon-Bibum

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This is a reflective essay about the Rwandan genocide.

By Angeline Bandon-Bibum


"April is the cruellest month,"[1] wrote T.S. Eliot in his poem, The Waste Land. This line seemed to ring true in April of 1994. On April 6, 1994, a cruel course of events would begin in Rwanda. A planned and organized massacre was executed by people across all classes from the poor subsistence farmer, to the middle class schoolmaster, local administrators, and other government officials. There have been genocides throughout human history, in continents all over the world, including Europe, Asia, and Africa. However, the speed and circumstances of this genocide had a chilling uniqueness it seems. For instance, it is estimated that 800,000 people were killed in 100 days during this massacre. That averages to 8,000 people slaughtered per day. This number constituted one tenth of the population of the country at that time. These people (men, women, and children) were killed by their fellow citizens, many with machetes and other crude weapons. This happened in 1994, in a post modern world of technology.

No society is completely immune from crime or violence. A crime committed by a stranger, or the occasional crime of passion between acquaintances or even family members does occur in human societies. Nevertheless, how can one imagine being killed by a local school teacher, farmer, doctor, coworker, or one's neighbor? This happened in Rwanda in 1994.

So as April approaches, I ponder on that cruel month that turned Rwanda, temporarily, into a waste land. I cannot help but to wonder…what is it in human psychology that allows this type of destructive group behavior, on this magnitude, to go unchecked. I have so many questions: During this massacre, where were the ethical codes and moral standards that had previously existed? What type of “group think” mentality, in addition to coercion, made so many otherwise normal people participate in this violence? Where was the analytical thinking on the part of the perpetrators? That is, why did not more people stop to analyze their actions? What were the roots of this massacre? What were the warning signs before it happened? And how can these types of mass acts be prevented in the future, anywhere?

April approaches. It is traditionally a month of plentiful rain and renewal. It is a month that inspires lots of reflection for me. Easter, a sacred Christian holiday, most often occurs in April. April is the month of my birthday. It’s also the month of my father’s birthday and my grandmother’s birthday, both of whom have passed on. My mother passed away in the month of April. So, April has much significance for me.

To my list of things to reflect on in the month of April, I have added those cruel three months in Rwanda in 1994, that started in April and lasted 100 blood-soaked days.

[1] T.S. Eliot (1888–1965). The Waste Land. 1922.
 

 

Web Site: Angeline Bandon-Bibum


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Reviewed by Ronald Hull
Yes, it is incredible what happened during those 100 days. Especially since such crude methods of killing were used and the psychology is unconscionable. Only the genocide of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia is comparable in recent history.

I had the privilege of meeting Dian Fossey and thought of Rwanda as a wonderful country helping to save mountain gorillas until I heard of the atrocity. I did not know at the time, but my good friend and former president of Texas Southern University, Dr. Leonard HO Spearman, was the United States ambassador to Rwanda. I just checked and he left that post in 1990 before the massacre occurred.

Ron
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