2005International Reporting

RWANDA, The Legacy of Hate

By: 
Dele Olojede
May 2, 2004

index | next

Over a 100-day period in 1994, Rwanda's campaign of ethnic cleansing turned the country into one vast execution ground. For scale and speed, the genocide was the most efficient in recorded history, carried out mostly with machetes.

In April 1994, after the the plane carrying Rwanda's president was shot down, the government mobilized Rwanda's Hutu majority to physically eradicate the minority Tutsi, saying the Hutu faced the prospect of subjugation again if the descendants of their former Tutsi feudal lords were allowed to win a civil war.

When the killers flagged, government-controlled radio exhorted them to ever-more effort. "The graves are only half-full," one announcer proclaimed at the start of the massacres. "Who will help fill them?" When the genocide finally was halted with the defeat of the regime by mainly Tutsi rebel forces, about 800,000 Tutsi and moderate Hutu had been murdered.

Ten years later, encouraged by the government and often with the help of local churches, survivors and killers alike are trying to come to grips with living together in the same villages and towns, however awkwardly. In the long shadow of one of the century's great crimes, many seek to rebuild the broken bonds that once held communities together, to explore the possibility of restoring simple trust between neighbors and within families, so that the country can in time recover.


Newsday Foreign Editor Dele Olojede recently returned to Rwanda after covering the genocide in 1994. He was accompanied by staff photographer J. Conrad Williams Jr.