Hundreds of thousands of people around the world are systematically persecuted and killed for their race, religion, sex, or political opinions.
These massacres are often underreported and occur while the international community stays silent and media overflows with other news, condemning the tragedies of thousands to be forgotten in the last pages of a newspaper that people hardly read.
In 1994, a genocide that shook the consciences of many occurred. Between 800,000 and one million people, including women and children, were massacred in their houses, on the streets, and in the religious buildings they sheltered in. Twenty-one years later, there are still people who know very little, or in some cases nothing at all, about the atrocities that occurred in Rwanda.
This is why I wrote a book, 10 April 1994: The Silence of Nyamata, to try to explain the factors, the most important of which was the Belgian colonisation, that led to the eruption of genocide in the country. But my book aims also, and perhaps most importantly, to give voice to thousands of people who were and still are victims of genocides and mass-executions around the world and whose voices must be heard so that we can learn from past mistakes and achieve a better, fairer, more just and less destructive humanity.
What is the book about?
The Silence of Nyamata is a historical novel that tells the story of a Tutsi girl, Caritas, and a Tutsi boy, Innocent, who first meet in Nyamata, a town in southern Rwanda, in 1993, one year before a mass-scale massacre erupts in the country.
The more Caritas and Innocent’s lives intertwine and their tormented love – obstructed by both families – grows, the more the genocide threatens their future and that of their loved ones.
By following Caritas’ first discovery of love and human cruelty, the book leads the readers through the events that culminated in the 1994 Rwandan genocide.
10 April 1994: The Silence of Nyamata was published as an e-book in January 2015 and can be ordered via Amazon for £3.99.
Part of the proceeds will be donated to the sisters of Charity Saint Jeanne Antide in Shire, Ethiopia, where Ludovica did volunteer work with street children in August 2014.
The Rwanda genocide – What happened?
Tensions between Hutu and Tutsi ethnic groups fist started with the Belgian colonisation in 1922. The Belgians supported the Tutsi political power, exacerbating ethnic differences between Hutu and Tutsi by, among other things, introducing the compulsory use of identity cards.
After years of subjugation, the Hutu started a revolution that led to the 1962 declaration of independence and the establishment of the Rwanda republic, led by the MDR-Parmehutu, after which the country witnessed sporadic violence between the Hutu government and the Tutsi rebels.
In 1990 the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF), created by Tutsi refugees who had fled along with their families to Uganda due to ethnic violence in the previous years, invaded Rwanda, starting the Rwanda civil war, which lasted until 1994.
It was 6th April of that year when hundreds of thousands of Rwandans learned by radio that the then Hutu president Juvénal Habyarimana, and Burundi’s President Cyprien Ntaryamira had died in a plane crash. The incident sparked suspicions that the Tutsi had carried out an attack against the Rwandan president.
The same day, hundreds of Hutu – who had been secretly training for months, with the alleged aid and tacit approval of the Hutu government, to be able to kill Tutsi on a large scale and take back “what belonged to Hutu” – were told to “cut the tall trees”, meaning they could start the killings.
From that moment on, for about 100 days, between 800,000 and 1 million Tutsi and moderate Hutu (who refused to take part in the killings of the Tutsi) were massacred by the Hutu before the eyes of the international community.
Twenty-one years later, the country is still recovering from one of the worst massacres in history, many culprits are still at large and victims are struggling to find peace and coping with their pain.
Two book extracts:
The radio kept telling jokes against the Inyenzi, the cockroaches; those who had everything and therefore had to be crushed to death. These kinds of jokes were very common during radio broadcasts; Mille Colline radio, in particular, vehemently incited its listeners to the liquidation of the Tutsi.
This radio station used to preach very often something that Elie himself considered his personal Bible: the Ten Hutu Commandments, a real guide to racial hatred. According to these commandments, a Mututsi (a person of Tutsi origins) worked solely for people of his own race; consequently, every Muhutu (person of Hutu origins) who married a person of the other ethnic group was a traitor. Mututsi were also dishonest in trade and aimed for Tutsi supremacy. Consequently, every Muhutu who traded with Mututsi was considered a traitor of the worst species. Furthermore, all the principal jobs in the country – political, administrative, economic, military, security and teaching – belonged exclusively to the Tutsi.
The Hutu were expected to change that situation. The commandments were taught in public places, everywhere the Hutu could express their frustration and hate. The commandments were recited by heart, and people’s bitter sentiments were slowly transforming into the violent need to destroy what was considered as the enemy.
In addition, the radio continually dished out slogans containing strong racist messages: “Hutu, stay united, the Tutsi have robbed you”; “You are poor because the Tutsi are here”; “Kill the Tutsi and you will live better. You will have their possessions.”
Everybody used to listen to the radio broadcasts all day every day in Rwanda.
The truth was that the Hutu had been chosen by colonisers to be a subordinate group because they were considered inferior. The Tutsi had become the dominant class: they could access education, medical assistance and politics.
The Tutsi were tall, strong, intelligent and beautiful; they had power, money and happiness.
The Hutu were short, plump and poor; how could they be the superior race?
The Belgians were the ones to blame. They, in fact, had decided after World War I that whoever possessed more than ten cows should be considered an aristocrat. If a Hutu had only nine cows he was a poor and uneducated Hutu, but if he somehow found enough money to buy another cow, then all of a sudden he could join the privileged caste and be considered a Tutsi. Therefore someone who was ugly, plump and poor could inexplicably and suddenly become handsome, tall, clever and wealthy. The possibility of changing caste by acquiring more cattle was soon abolished, however, by the Belgians. Therefore, from that moment on, a Hutu could belong only to the inferior group for the whole of his life.
When in the 1930s the Belgians introduced the compulsory use of an identity card, the qualities of beauty and richness and the flaws of poverty and ugliness were reported on paper too.