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Life Reflections

The paradoxical vortex of sorrow and joy that comes with remembrance

By April 21, 2021June 6th, 2023No Comments

April 16, 2021

The National Mourning week may’ve officially ended but we shall never, for one single minute of every single year, cease to remember our own. Those who met a shameful death that’s a blight on the conscience of every one of us, however much some may try to wish it away.

The shame of ‘some of us turning against some of us’ in an orgy of cruelty never seen before elsewhere in the world will live with us till the end of time.

But, for sure, it’ll never, at any point, break us.

If anything, it’s this shame that paradoxically spurs us to unprecedented growths as a society.

This paradoxical life of the extreme horror of a past and the great optimism for the future manifests in surprising ways. 

For instance, I was walking around in the neighbourhood during the National Mourning of some years ago when I heard the sound of a baritone voice in a melodious song. I went to the source of that voice, which was a hall in a place known as “Ku Bademobu”, only to behold a young man in army-like camouflage kneeling in front of casualties of the liberation struggle in wheelchairs.

I joined the crowd behind our wheel-cheered heroes as the singer belted out his song.

And as quickly found myself in frenzied shrieking, cheering and clapping that punctuated his lyrical stanzas, with tears freely streaming down all our faces.

The singer was Bonhomme. I am told he has a quite a number of emotionally-charged songs on the Genocide against the Tutsi that can make even a crocodile shed real tears.

“Remember the first words [RPA] Inkotanyi told you”, he crooned, “on discovering you: ‘Fear no longer; you are in safe hands now!’/Pull the picture back to your eyes/Where you were crouching or immersed in a swamp/Clinging on a breaking plank in a ceiling/Holding your breath to avoid detection by Interahamwe/If the RPA hadn’t arrived at that very second/If they’d not reached you just in the nick of time/…….”

The teary frenzy was deafening.

For the crowd, first there were the casualties of the struggle before whom Bonhomme knelt. Behind them were demobilised RDF soldiers. All of them unabashedly in tears.

Behind and around them all were a motley crowd of women and men of all categories.

Survivors of the genocide; the targeted of then lucky not to be identified by Inerahamwe; perpetrators of the genocide who’d confessed and were given clemency; foreigners who understood Kinyarwanda; foreigners who sought translation; myriad others.

Without exception, all of us were in tears.

It made me think. The paradox of this country is that, shone of influence for Rwandans in exile still captive to the genocide ideology and their foreign consorts, all Rwandans are in accord in their feelings. They are all equally bitter for having been torn apart by past reprobate regimes.

They all equally bask in the power they feel today of the solidity of the unity of the present.

The casualties of the RPF/A liberation struggle were shedding tears of the pain of having been consigned to wheelchairs in their youth. After all, many answered the call of liberation even as they were in school to build a better future for themselves, not necessarily as career soldiers.

But then again, they were elated to a teary point for seeing how they were so much appreciated, the joy of participating in the liberation of their people, of seeing them free and united. It’s a state they also savour.

The same feelings were shared by the now-out-of-active-service demobilised soldiers of the RDF because they, too, set off to liberate their land, before opting to settle in for military careers.

The rest of the crowd, we were also preoccupied in such teary contradictions of feeling sorrow for the survivors’ pain, the rest of their families who were also our families, who perished in the most despicable way. But also the pain of having lived in debilitating discord due to the folly of a few.

Yet again, we were in teary excitement of the joy of being one family again, free at last.

Foreigner or otherwise, they could not help being swept up into this teary vortex of contradictions.

And while we are at it, isn’t this an opportune time to celebrate this date? April 16, 1994 when a small band of RPA liberators dislodged the all-powerful war-machinery-equipped huge contingent of Force Armée Rwandaise, heavily supported by outsiders, from Rebero Hill.

From such a vintage point, the “Armée” had harassed the tiny RPA force in all possible ways and inwardly felt unassailable. In the end, it was reduced to a yelping puppy and ran off, tail in its legs.

Which is not to say, nay, that other parts of Kigali were not teeming with killer soldiers and their Interahamwe associates, many guarding numerous roadblocks.

Still, this did not deter the ever-at-work RPA. It sent off groups of fours, eights to weave their ways though those numerous roadblocks to rescue the targeted victims in places like St. André.

Many of such rescued survivors were with us in that frenzy of “Ku Bademobu”.

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