Get subscribed to our newsletter
Get interesting updates to your email inbox.
“I was with my children when they died,” said Lydia Uwamwezi, recalling the 100 days of genocide that began 25 years ago this Sunday in Rwanda.
“There is a lake between Kigina and Nyarubuye. That is where the mob took us. They were tired of using machetes, so they threw my children into the lake.”
Uwamwezi, now 46, was spared. In despair, she threw her baby carrier into the lake after her drowned children. The Hutu attackers retrieved it and later raped her repeatedly, telling her she must bear them Hutu children to replace the Tutsi ones they had just murdered.
Uwamwezi also lost her husband and home during those days. She never remarried or had other children. After government-provided reconciliation training, she has forgiven her attackers.
“If you have a grudge at heart, you can never live well with your neighbors,” she said.
And they do. Today, Tutsis and Hutus, once on opposite sides of the mass killings, live in the same neighborhoods in a country where health care is provided, streets are clean and the government urges people to forget ethnic distinctions and consider themselves Rwandans.
On April 7, Rwandans commemorate the genocide that left hundreds of thousands of people dead, with ceremonies themed “Never Again.” Genocide prevention will also be highlighted. The United Nations holds an annual memoriam. Since Rwanda, mass killings have occurred in Bosnia, Sudan, and Myanmar.
Rwanda’s violence pitted the minority Tutsis, traditionally the wealthy class, against the majority Hutus, who tended to be middle and lower class. For generations, the distinction was more economic than ethnic.
In 1935, Belgian colonists cemented the distinction by mandating separate identity cards for Tutsis and Hutus. Differences in economics and social status sparked angry resentment and division.
Three years of civil war preceded the genocide. The Rwandan Patriotic Front rebel movement was led by Tutsis who for years had been living as refugees in neighboring Uganda. Their push to reclaim territory in their native country was seen by some as the aggravating factor leading to mass slaughter. The war also brought a large number of weapons into the country.
When a plane carrying the Rwandan and Burundian presidents was shot down April 6, 1994, by unidentified attackers, the situation exploded. Within hours, extremist Hutus used radio and word of mouth to incite attacks against Tutsis, Hutus married to Tutsis, and the Twa — descendants of indigenous Rwandans. Weapons meant to defend the country were used instead to murder fellow Rwandans.
The combatants were not always clearly defined. Not all Tutsis were aligned with the RPF, and not all Hutus participated in the killings. What is clear is the death toll. At the end of 100 days, about 800,000 Rwandans — including 70% of the country’s Tutsi population — were dead. Some estimates put the total at a million.
Haunted by pleas
Delphine Vumera remembers her nephew’s voice. Other survivors talk about the gunshots and screams, but she is haunted by his pleas.
“The same picture keeps coming back to me,” she said, “because each time they sent out mobs of killers, we lost people. The noise keeps scaring me, even today.”
Vumera remembers her nephew asking her not to leave him.
“My mother had just been killed along with the others,” she said. “The child expected me to save him, but it was impossible. I was trying to save my own life. He was still calling me when they killed him,” she said.
After the massacre, the RPF gained control of the capital, Kigali. A couple of weeks later, they controlled the entire country. The mass slaughter had ended, but not the pain and hardship of the survivors.
Recovery and forgiveness
The killings ended, but the trauma endured.
“We feared to go back to the places we had lived before,” Vumera said. “People would never come close to each other.”
Food and housing were scarce, but Vumera eventually healed. She went back to school and also married.
“We attended several meetings where they helped us to recover from trauma,” she said. “Now, we are like other people.”
Rwanda’s current population is young, though thousands of the country’s 24-year-olds were the result of rape during the genocide. Many say they have benefited from facing their origins head-on.
In March, a young man named Robert told The New York Times, “The fact that my mother disclosed to me that I was born from genocide rape made me increase my love for her.”
Another young man named Claude said, “I will not be defined by the way I was born, as a young person born from rape. I want to build a good future and be a responsible person in my life.”
Others, like Dieudonne Nzeyimana, 37, were orphaned by the killings. He told VOA he is still “furious” about the loss of his family, but said he strives to forgive, because “forgiveness relieves the person who forgives (more) than it does to the one forgiven.”
Nzeyimana said he forgives, “even though some of the killers didn’t ask for forgiveness, and others never acknowledged what they did.”
Vumera had a transformative experience after the killings.
“Families kept coming to us to ask for forgiveness,” she said. “I had already forgiven them in my heart. Today, I have no grudge with anyone.”
Paul Kagame, commander of the rebel RPF, has since turned his army into the ruling political party. He has been president since 2000. Many credit his leadership for Rwanda’s transformation, which included establishing a United Nations war crimes court that sentenced 38 of the ringleaders to long prison terms.
Traditional Rwandan community courts, known as gacaca, were assigned to deal with 2 million lesser participants. But critics say the trials have been focused on Hutus when some Tutsis should also be held accountable.
International aid has helped Rwanda rebuild its infrastructure. It’s no wonder, then, that the government paints a rosy picture of its recovery. Rwandan officials say their citizens have universal health care; maternal health is among the best in Africa; infant mortality is low; all children get 12 years of education; and universities accept students on the basis of merit rather than quota.
Officials say more than 70% of the nation has access to clean drinking water. More than a million people have been taken out of poverty, though the poverty rate is still 45%.
Kagame keeps a tight rein on Rwanda’s news media. He has told reporters he hates the “cynicism” of U.S. publications such as The New York Times and The Washington Post.
Kagame has also been accused of holding too tightly to power. The U.S. State Department has reports of arbitrary detention, and disappearances of political enemies and journalists. State security forces have been accused of torture.
Rwandans recently voted to amend the constitution to give Kagame a third seven-year term. Though he had competition from two other candidates, election officials say he won 99% of the vote. But international observers have reported irregularities in the tabulation process.
Kagame’s critics point to these issues and others, while his supporters say Rwanda needed strong authority to develop the way it has.
The government’s heavy emphasis on reconciliation may have influenced the outlook of genocide survivors. Nzeyimana has internalized Kagame’s emphasis on unity. He says being Rwandan is more important than being Hutu or Tutsi.
“A reconciled nation is a country where its citizens live in harmony without any form of segregation,” he said, “be it based on race, tribe, height or origin. A country that offers equal opportunity to all citizens.” (VOA)
The Centre will launch a pilot project on the use of indigenously manufactured drones for delivering medicines in the undulating landscape of Jammu and surrounding areas from Saturday with a focus on vaccines delivery initially. "This is going to be a pilot project for the area. The drone is developed and manufactured entirely by our scientists," Union Minister for Science & Technology, Dr Jitendra Singh told mediapersons. Singh said he himself will be launching the project at Jammu.
The drone is developed by the scientists at Bengaluru's National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL), a constituent of Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), an autonomous Society that is headed by the Prime Minister. For now, the delivery would be limited to Covid vaccines and once successful, it would be expanded to be used for regular delivery of medicines in the remote, hilly areas.
The drone is developed by the scientists at Bengaluru's National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL). | Photo by Jason Blackeye on Unsplash
Jammu and surrounding areas are sensitive in terms of the strategic importance. Some months ago, there was an attack on an Army installation using drones. Will the 'drones for vaccines' be permitted in such a case? Allaying fears, a top official from the Ministry of S&T said, "The drones would be deployed by authorised agencies such as hospitals, not anybody can use it, nor would any random person be permitted to use it."
NAL has called the drone as 'Octacopter' and it can fly at an operational altitude of 500 m AGL and at maximum flying speed of 36 kmph. It can be used for a variety of BVLOS applications for last mile delivery like medicines, vaccines, food, postal packets, Human organs (such as heart for heart transplantation) etc. NAL Octacopter is integrated with a powerful on-board embedded computer and latest generation sensors for versatile applications like agricultural pesticide spraying, crop monitoring, mining survey, magnetic geo survey mapping etc., S&T officials had said. (IANS/ MBI)
Keywords: Jammu, Vaccines, Medicines, Deliver, Drones, Centre
Bollywood actor Abhishek Bachchan shares how he feels when people compare him with his father Amitabh Bachchan on the singing reality show 'Sa Re Ga Ma Pa'. He also requests contestant Rajshree Bag to sing a track 'Bahon Mein Chale Aao' featuring his mother Jaya Bachchan.
Abhishek said after looking at the performance of Rajshree, who is often compared with Lata Mangeshkar on the show, that she reminds him of being compared with his father. "Rajshree, whenever I have got the chance to watch the show, I've seen people compare you to Lata didi. It actually reminded me about how people compare me with my father and ask me how I feel about it."
According to him Amitabh Bachchan is a great actor in the industry and this is what he says to everyone making these comparisons. "My answer to them is that there's no greater actor in this film industry than Amitabh Bachchan and if I'm being compared to him, I am sure I must have done something good."
"Similarly, your voice has a different kind of magic like Lata ji and that's why people are comparing your voice with her. I feel you should always take this as a compliment," he concluded. 'Sa Re Ga Ma Pa' airs on Saturday and Sunday on Zee TV. (IANS/ MBI)
Keywords: Abhishek Bachchan, Amitabh Bachchan, reality show, Sa Re Ga Ma Pa, Rajshree Bag
Winters in India have always beckoned for that hot, steaming bowl of tomato and pepper rasam or the mellow, millet based Raab. Certain dishes like sarson ka saag, undhiyu, nimona pulao are winter specialites in the country. Seasonal food has always been an Indian speciality -- we switch our choice in fruits, vegetables, sometimes even grains with the onset of different season. The preference of using specific ingredients during certain climates is visible in our sweets as well. It's common to find local and traditional delicacies made of jaggery, instead of sugar during the winters. Case in point -- the Nolen Gur Rasgulla, a speciality made in Odisha and West Bengal between November to February.
Celebrity chef, Sanjeev Kapoor, strongly advocates this need of eating seasonal produce. He says, "The beauty of our food is in our seasonal usage of fruits and vegetables. If you realise, Gajar ka halwa is made aplenty during winters as this is the season when beautiful red carrots hit the market or mango pickle is made during summer, thanks to its availability. Despite people and sometimes, even me, suggesting that we should eat fresh as well as seasonal fruits and vegetables, we do not know what chemicals are sprayed on them to keep them safe while they are growing. When this produce hits the market, there isn't a certifying agency like the FSSAI that will help people understand what vegetables and fruits are free of pesticides and germs and which ones don't. Hence, the onus lies on us to make them safe for consumption. ITC's Nimwash is a good solution."
When it comes to winters, the Chef recommends eating these fruit and vegetables:
* Purple Mogri -- Mogri or Radish pods are not a common sight throughout the country. But you can spot them during the winters in local markets in northern India where women pick them up to make raitas, curries and stir fries. Rich in magnesium, calcium and copper, the vegetable is known to aid people from digestive problems.
Mogri or Radish pods are not a common sight throughout the country, but you can spot them during the winters | Pixabay
* Sweet Potato -- A re-discovered favourite, Sweet potatoes have created a space for itself in the millennial kitchen. With its diverse addition in burgers, chips and even chat, the root vegetable is filled with nutrients such as fibres and vitamins.
Sweet potatoes have created a space for itself in the millennial kitchen. | Wikimedia Commons
* Avarekalu -- Called Hyacinth beans in English, Avarekalu is a winter speciality in the south that is added to sambhar, saagu, rotis, etc. Bangalore is famed for its Averakalu mela during the winter months, where you can find these beans in dosas, Pani puri and even Jalebis! Thronged by crowds from all over the city, the food fest is a gourmand's delight.
Called Hyacinth beans in English, Avarekalu is a winter speciality in the south that is added to sambhar, saagu, rotis, etc. | Wikimedia Commons
* Amla -- The Indian gooseberry is a common winter fruit found through the country. High in Vitamin C, it is known to be immunity building and extremely beneficial for the skin and hair. There are multiple ways to eat Amla -- it is pickled, made into a fruit preserve called as Murraba or even eaten by sprinkling salt over it.
The Indian gooseberry is a common winter fruit found through the country. | Pixabay
(Article originally published on IANSlife) (IANS/ MBI)
Keywords: winter, Sanjeev Kapoor, chef, Indian gooseberry, Sweet Potato, Radish pods