The countryside of Rwanda has often been referred to as the Switzerland of Africa. However, in stark contrast to its beautiful appearance, it has a dark and disturbing history. During Pre-Colonial times, the Hutu and Tutsi tribes lived together in peace and even intermarried. The only differentiation between them was their trade. The Hutu were peasants that worked the land and the Tutsi led more affluent lives by raising livestock. When the Belgians came to Rwanda, they documented physical traits that separated the two tribes for scientific purposes. They discovered that the Tutsi originated in Egypt and were taller, fairer skinned, and more elegant than the Hutu majority. The Hutu, on the other hand, originated in Ethiopia and were shorter, darker skinned, and had wider noses than the Tutsi people. This differentiation initiated a deep cultural divide between the Rwandan tribes. This division was only deepened when the Belgians used the Tutsi minority to run the country, but then granted power to the Hutu majority when they withdrew from Rwanda in the 1950's. Slowly, the Hutu began to take revenge on the Tutsi for years of repression. The resulting tension caused a geographical separation of the two tribes and also launched the organization of the PARAMEHUTU--the Hutu Emancipation Party. In an attempt to stop the increasing hostility, Rwandan President Habyarimana had arranged to sign the United Nation's Arusha Peace Accord promising to bring peace to the streets of Rwanda. On the evening of April 6th, 1994, before he was able to sign the agreement, his plane was shot down right above Kigali. His assassinator remains unknown, but the events that ensued caused immediate havoc and brutality to erupt. The Hutu had already organized into the Interhamwe, a fierce militia composed of young boys trained to kill "cockroaches". They organized road blocks to catch escaping Tutsis and "cut the tall trees" with machetes. Death Lists were read over the RTLM radio station proclaiming "the grave is only half full. Who will help us to fill it?" Churches and Schools turned from sanctuaries to slaughter houses. Tutsis hid in the fields, in mass graves, under the bodies of the dead lining the streets, or, if lucky, in the homes of sympathetic Hutus. In July of 1994, the RPF--the Tutsi Rebel Force led by Paul Kagame--advanced on Kigali putting an end to the genocidal acts. Two million Hutus fled to the neighboring country of Zaire. This was the largest mass exodus in history.

"April 6, 1994...Day 1
8,000 people killed

April 11, 1994...Day 5
280,000 dead

In 100 days,
800,000 + dead

That is 3x the amount of deaths on September 11, EVERYDAY
For a country whose population is less than that of New York City."

International Criminal Tribunals are still attempting to bring justice to Rwanda.

Could it have been stopped?
Maybe if the world had taken action.

"In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends"
-Martin Luther King, Jr.

Works Cited:
Bodnarchuk, Kari. Rwanda: A Country Torn Apart: Lerner Publishing Group, 1999.
Gourevitch, Philip. We Wish To Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families. New York: Picador, 1998.
Hotel Rwanda (2005); Director Terry George. Kigali Releasing Limited.
Keane, Fergal. Season of Blood. London: Penguin Group, 1996.
Koff, Clea. The Bone Woman. New York: Random House, 2004.
Kuperman, Alan J. The Limits of Humanitarian Intervention: Brookings Institution Press, 2001.
Peterson, Scott. Me Against My Brother: at war in Somalia, Sudan, and Rwanda. New York: Routledge, 2001.

Left To Tell

I just recently finished reading Left To Tell by Immacule'e Ilibagiza. The is an amazing account of a young woman's progression towards God while burried in the hell that flooded the streets of Rwanda in 1994. As a Tutsi, Immacule'e was forced to seek for refuge when the genocide broke out in early April. For three months, she hid with 7 other women in a small bathroom concealed by a wardrobe. Unable to have the comforts of a lying down, bathing, or eating real food, this young woman sought peace by reading the Bible and praying to God night and day. When she heard the call of her killers outside of the door, her faith in God's infinite love and mercy gave her the strength and motivation to continue fighting for her life. She prayed to know what she could do to prepare for her life that awaited her on the other side of that door. While cramped in that tiny bathroom, Immacule'e taught herself to read English which later led her to a job at the United Nations in New York City.
I couldn't help but be overcome with a feeling of guilt as I read through her story. I am so blessed to live in a home with loving parents where my needs and wants are few. I catch myself so often complaining about the little things in life instead of thanking God for the mere fact that I can shower everyday, sleep outstretched, and be blessed with such amazing and honest family and friends. But guilt was only what I initially felt. I have read a countless number of books on the Rwandan Genocide in the past 4 years. This autobiography was exactly what I've been searching for. We hear so many stories of genocide and what exactly keeps us hooked? Our love of violence? Our lack of research options? Our need to come as close as we can to hell? No. We are all searching for it. I didn't even know I was searching for it until later. Later; when the peaceful reminder that God truly does love his children settled in. That even in the midst of genocide--a hell on earth--God hears and answers our prayers. He does spare us. He does save us. He does have immpecible timing. He is closer than we realize.

"Therefore, fear not, little flock; do good; let earth and hell combine against youfor if ye are built upon my rock, they cannot prevail.
"Verily, verily, I say until you that mine eyes are upon you. I am in your midst and ye cannot see me."
(Doctrine and Covenants 6:34, 38:7)

Read More About Immacule'e Ilibagiza:


Rwandans are not only seeking for peace, but they are learning to heal. I was recently informed of an amazing event that occurs to this day-- Gacacas ("ga-cha-chas").
The following excerpt is from the Back Home movie website: (

"Does a tiny African country have something important to teach us all about reconciliation? Perhaps.

Central to BACK HOME are Gacacas (pronounced "gachachas"). In Kinyarwanda this means "backyard trials": They have had remarkable success in reuniting Rwandans after the 1994 genocide.

Low-level perpetrators of the genocide are given the chance to participate in Gacaca after serving a majority of their prison sentence. During Gacaca, the whole village gathers to hear victims air their grievances and perpetrators ask forgiveness. Afterward, local officials give them specific jobs to help them redeem themselves to the community.

In BACK HOME, we see perpetrators given the job of building new homes for their victims' families. This is a very visible and poetic way of giving both victim and victimizer back their humanity. It works within the priorities of Rwanda's culture, where much importance is placed on restoring wholeness to the community. There may be no "perfect" way of reuniting nations after mass violence - but this method shows promise.

More than a decade after the genocide, Gacaca trials are still going on to this day. They are emotional and often upsetting; but they also bring dark wounds out into the light of day where they can start healing."

From the HRRF website: (
"Healing the scars of the aftermath of the genocide has been an extremely difficult task. The death and destruction happened on such a rapid and large scale that there are few families in Rwanda that were not personally affected. Entire generations of women were raped, many bearing children from their violent encounter with their assailants. Hundreds of thousands of orphans are now grown enough to fully understand hatred and violence. Urgent action is needed to help the country of Rwanda and heal the wounds that are still so real to so many people.Rwanda also is located in an extremely troubled region of the world. As it struggles with painstaking growth and attempts at achieving peace, many of its neighbors suffer from turmoil, caught in the cycle of violence and bloodshed that plagues the continent of Africa. It seems as though the lessons of the Rwanda genocide have not been learned by its neighbors."

Hope in the Midst of Genocide

During such a dark and murderous time, you might wonder if there was any hope in the country. One man gave more than hope--he saved lives. Paul Rusesabagina was the manager of the internationally popular, four star hotel, the Hotel Des Millie Collines in Kigali, Rwanda. This hotel was a home away from home for thousands of businessmen, politicans, diplomats, and more. It provided an environment of peace and a getaway from the world. When the genocide broke out in early April of 1994, the Hotel became a refuge from the storm. Not without opposition, Paul guarded the hotel where his family, friends, and fellow Rwandans (Tutsi's and some Hutu's) hid. Paul was able to pull in favors from the many Officials that had once enjoyed the Hotel's relaxing environment. In the end, Paul was able to protect over 1,200 people in the Mille Collines. In his recent autobiography An Ordinary Man, he states:
"Our time here on the earth is short, and our chance to make a difference is tiny. For me the grinding blocks of history came together in such a way that I was able to take what fragile defense I had and hold it in place for seventy-six days. If I was able to give much it was only because I had some useful things from my life to give. I am a hotel manager, trained to negotiate contracts and provide shelter for those who need it. My job never changed, even in a sea of fire.
Wherever the killing season should next begin and people should become strangers to their neighbors and themselves, my hope is that there will still be those ordinary men who say a quiet no and open the rooms upstairs."