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KuangSi2Well, the start of the genocide, anyway. It lasted 100 days and took roughly 800,000 lives. What most of us in the west do not realize is that this was a particular instance of extreme violence that flairs up from time to time in a much larger scale war that is still playing out today.

This war goes by many names, and sometimes the names people use point to wars that supposedly ended some time ago. But make no mistake -- this war is still going full throttle, and it's currently most widely recognized as playing out inside the borders of Democratic Republic of the Congo.

But that isn't what I am writing about today. War is one story that comes from that part of the world, no doubt. But it isn't the only story. There is love and hope and community. There is a collective conscious that wants a different future, and there are brilliant people who know how to make it work.

But not with a gun.

And when I think of all the western people who lament that we didn't do something different to help the people in Rwanda twenty years so, I wonder if they want to know that it still isn't too late. We can still act in this world to make a difference in that conflict.

I spent my day with a group of women from Democratic Republic of the Congo -- not because of the genocide, but because they are teaching me to cook. I want to learn to make Congolese food, and find out about their food traditions. They generously treated me to a beautiful day of singing and laughing and eating. Oh eating! Eating delicious, wonderful food. They even sent some home for my family.

These are people who have joy in their hearts and light in their eyes. Then I learned of some of their stories -- unspeakable things that I would think nobody could survive. Well, if the body survived it would only be an empty shell. These were stories of families torn apart by the conflicts, quite literally. If your spouse was ethnically connected to the people being attacked, there was nothing you could do to save them -- even if you belonged to a tribe that was accepted. Families were scattered in pieces to different countries, never to see each other again. Or violence would erupt and people would get lost. Children would get lost, and their parents would never see them again.

But yet, these women were singing songs about how lucky they were to have this day, and how blessed they were to have each other. Happy songs and belly laughing, all day long.

There were sad times, too. One of the women teaching me to cook had to flee with her sister during the Second Congo War and they got separated. The sister wound up in another refugee camp and she hasn't seen her since. She couldn't talk about it much.

But there is life in spite of the war. People fall in love, and have grandchildren, and sing together. Children get mad at their siblings and daughters in law at their mothers in law.  And girls wind up having a crush on the same cute boy who lives down the way. Life happens. And the people who are keeping life going are the ones who will win this war from the backlines. Not with weapons, but by building community. By rebuilding their country, bottom up, brick by brick.

Stated oversimply -- the violence you read about in Congo is, pretty often, directly connected to the genocide that took place 20 years ago in Rwanda. The Hutu that fled Rwanda went into refugee camps in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The people who perpetrated the massacre fled into Congo, as well.  

When you take a moment to reflect about the massacre, try to imagine what you can do to change that conflict today. And it doesn't have to involve digging into your pockets -- or jumping onto a plane and going there.

For more about what's happening with grassroots in Democratic Republic of Congo, you can start by looking here:

Women in Congo Paying it Forward Need Your Help

Done! Brilliant Grassroots Project by Women in Congo FUNDED!

For things to do -- I will be writing about that during the upcoming months.

Originally posted to rb137 on Mon Apr 07, 2014 at 05:17 PM PDT.

Also republished by Kitchen Table Kibitzing and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  The resilience of the African people is astounding (9+ / 0-)

    I have heard so many stories from my daughter about the joy with which they face each day and the stories of personal tragedy that mar their lives.

    A powerful post, rb.

    The story of Rwanda and its ties to Somalia are well addressed in Samatha Power's book on Genocide and in her Atlantic piece (well worth revisiting)
    September 2001
    Bystanders to Genocide
    The third problematic feature of U.S. diplomacy before and during the genocide was a tendency toward blindness bred by familiarity: the few people in Washington who were paying attention to Rwanda before Habyarimana's plane was shot down were those who had been tracking Rwanda for some time and had thus come to expect a certain level of ethnic violence from the region. And because the U.S. government had done little when some 40,000 people had been killed in Hutu-Tutsi violence in Burundi in October of 1993, these officials also knew that Washington was prepared to tolerate substantial bloodshed. When the massacres began in April, some U.S. regional specialists initially suspected that Rwanda was undergoing "another flare-up" that would involve another "acceptable" (if tragic) round of ethnic murder.

    If you're not terrified into action by the IPCC's 5th Assessment , you're not human.

    by boatsie on Mon Apr 07, 2014 at 06:02:34 PM PDT

  •  Today I was reading a book called (7+ / 0-)

    "Azim's Bardo," by an Arab-American businessman based in San Diego, Azim Khazima, the father of a college student who was shot and killed during a robbery in the 1990s. The father describes his sense of loss and outrage--naturally--but also his compassion for the young killer and his family. He keeps emphasizing the role of the community in the terrible act that has occurred, and the role the community must play in healing. A remarkable book. And I'm reviewing it here, because of a quote the author included, apparently from an intimate of JFK after the assassination. I'll paraphrase it as follows: "Perhaps we'll laugh again. But we can never again be young."  Perfectly appropriate here.

    Thanks for the diary.

    It's here they got the range/ and the machinery for change/ and it's here they got the spiritual thirst. --Leonard Cohen

    by karmsy on Mon Apr 07, 2014 at 06:06:01 PM PDT

  •  Thank you for this diary. (6+ / 0-)

    I was so glad to see it. The genocide in Rwanda has never left my mind. It shouldn't be easy to forget, but some of us do, don't we?

    I appreciate the focus on the Democratic Republic of Congo, too, the links you've given and the chance to help prevent (or lessen) another, in Roméo Dallaire's phrase, "failure of humanity."

    Looking forward to your further posts.

    Thanks again.

    •  It's hard to think about. (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      carolanne, BMScott, Portlaw, poco

      When I really try to think about it, something in my mind kind of switches off and everything goes into the abstract. It's much easier to really empathize with one person at a time.

      Thanks for reading. Come by again.  :)

      "Broccoli could take down a government. Broccoli is revolutionary." --Kris Carr

      by rb137 on Mon Apr 07, 2014 at 07:15:43 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  We must salute the heroism of Gen Romeo Dallaire, (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Portlaw, Uncle Moji, johnnygunn, 4Freedom

    the Candian General who commanded the UN troops and who repeatedly begged and beseeched his UN bosses for recognition of what was happening and for more troops, They dismssed him. He still lives with the nightmares and PTSD, but has turned his appointment as a Canadian Liberal Senator into a pulpit from which to speak on the genocide and on the issues affecting veterans coming home from combat, with inadequate care from the Armed Forces and Veterans Affairs Canada. While our Prime Minister spends money on honouring the history of veterans of 1814 and 1914, he forgets the veterans of 2014, while cutting all relevant budgets. Harper is a disgrace, Dallaire is a hero.

    "...stories of past courage can define that ingredient..... But they cannot supply courage itself. For this each man must look into his own soul." JFK Profiles in Courage "

    by ontario on Mon Apr 07, 2014 at 08:50:59 PM PDT

    •  I will salute this man for caring, (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      and for seeing deeply into the problem. I'm not convinced that more troops would have helped. It might well have pushed the conflict into more or worse crises.

      If we went in now with military force, that would almost certainly be the case. (In fact, one argument on the table is that it could trigger another large scale genocide.)

      But thanks for the links. I will definitely read up on this general. He probably had some good insights. As you know, it was a complicated conflict.

      "Broccoli could take down a government. Broccoli is revolutionary." --Kris Carr

      by rb137 on Mon Apr 07, 2014 at 09:20:29 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Keep in mind... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Portlaw, poco

        I know very little about military strategy. I also haven't studied any literature about what military actions might have helped or not.

        In general, my observation is that large scale military intervention rarely works the way we expect it should.

        "Broccoli could take down a government. Broccoli is revolutionary." --Kris Carr

        by rb137 on Mon Apr 07, 2014 at 09:24:05 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Whe I said "recognition of what was happening" (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        I was referring to him having directly told the UN of the genocide, and they disregarded him.

        "...stories of past courage can define that ingredient..... But they cannot supply courage itself. For this each man must look into his own soul." JFK Profiles in Courage "

        by ontario on Thu Apr 10, 2014 at 08:44:44 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I'm not defending any of the mistakes (0+ / 0-)

          that took place back then.

          My question is -- once you get your major military intervention underway, what would you do with it? The point would be to provide security, but there was no centralized leadership in place at the time. And the massacre wasn't localized. Regional leaders called for Hutu to kill Tutsi in most of the provinces. The UN doesn't have the power to swoop in and take over a whole country. They don't even have an army -- they only have military support from participating countries.

          The thing I don't know: was there some possible military action that would have changed the result significantly? They could fortify refugee camps and hospitals, but could they go in and actually stop a massacre without actually taking over the country (which they didn't have the power to do)? This was civilians killing civilians en mass across most of the provinces.

          Anyway, I don't know. You'd think in three months time they might have figured out something. I think that's why Bill Clinton calls it his biggest mistake.

          "Broccoli could take down a government. Broccoli is revolutionary." --Kris Carr

          by rb137 on Fri Apr 11, 2014 at 03:55:18 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  And as a result, (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      we can place the tombstone of the United Nations in the darkest, dankest, most untended corner of the cemetery that holds the honored remains of almost a million people that they failed to protect.

      In fact it's worse.

      They stood by and watched them die.


      "It is better to die on your feet than to live on your knees." -- Emiliano Zapata Salazar
      "Dissent is patriotic. Blind obedience is treason." --me

      by Leftie Gunner on Tue Apr 08, 2014 at 07:46:46 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks so much (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    4Freedom, rb137

    Incidentally I talked to a woman from Rwanda today, representing the housing office of the country's government. We talked more about the future than the past, but your diary feels very apropos. Thanks rb!

    Ecology is the new Economy => Kosonomy

    by citisven on Tue Apr 08, 2014 at 01:12:27 PM PDT

  •  May I offer another hero of that horrific time, (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    whose work is described a remarkable BBC production, which you can read online here:

    Mbaye Diagne was a Senegalese UN peacekeeper who saved hundreds, probably more than a thousand, lives during the 100 days, through breathtaking courage and a profound instinct to do the right thing, even when it was unbelievably risky.

    Thanks for the reminder for today. It's important that we remember.

    •  These are exactly the stories that (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      have to be told. Thanks so much. Notice that the Canadian General Romeo Dallaire from a comment above is mentioned in your link, as well.

      There are many heros. These stories empower those people. Keep telling them. Folks like Mbaye Diagne are more common than people in the west think. And I don't mean that to diminish any courageous act -- to the contrary, I think that this region contains a wealth of unspoken heroes.

      "Broccoli could take down a government. Broccoli is revolutionary." --Kris Carr

      by rb137 on Tue Apr 08, 2014 at 07:12:35 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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