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Week of April 27, 2004

Program 0417


Congo: Displaced in the Heart of Darkness | Transcript | MP3

Rwanda: Ten Years Later | Transcript | MP3

This text has been professionally transcribed. However, for timely distribution, it has not been edited or proofread against the tape.

INNOCENT UMIRANDE: We had a sound of big guns and many people were killed.

KRISTIN MCHUGH: This week on Common Ground, aiding the victims of Africa’s forgotten war.

KEITH PORTER: Civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo has claimed millions of lives since 1998, and displaced millions more. Now, a new transitional government, the United Nations, and humanitarian aid groups have the difficult task of helping Congo’s war-shattered victims rebuild their lives.

NANCEE OKI BRIGHT: The DRC actually now has the second largest population—internally displaced population—in Africa.

PORTER: But even with Congo’s relative peace obstacles remain.

JOSEPH INGANJI: The roads is a major problem. Roads are only in town. And it is in the interior where the needs are enormous.

MCHUGH: Our special report from Congo is coming up next.

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Congo: Displaced in the Heart of Darkness

Listen to This Segment: MP3

PORTER: Common Ground is radio’s weekly program on world affairs. I’m Keith Porter.

MCHUGH: And I’m Kristin McHugh. While much of the world’s attention is focused on reconstruction efforts in Iraq, a similar effort is unfolding virtually unnoticed in the Democratic Republic of Congo. A 2003 peace accord ended the central African nation’s bloody five-year civil war. Now, much of Congo is enjoying relative peace and stability thanks, in part, to the presence of a United Nations peacekeeping force.

PORTER: But challenges still remain. Poor infrastructure, ethnic strife, neighboring conflicts, and dozens of armed rebel factions, are among the many obstacles that remain on the path to peace. These obstacles are also contributing to what the United Nations calls one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises in recent years. Kristin and I visited the DRC last month to investigate efforts to assist the country’s IDP’s—those internally displaced by the conflict. Kristin begins her special report in Bunia, one of eastern Congo’s ethnically divided towns.

[Sounds of band music from a meeting held to honor International Women’s Day]

MCHUGH: A small crowd gathers on the yellow sand sidewalks of Bunia’s main street to celebrate International Women’s Day.

[Sounds of band music from a meeting held to honor International Women’s Day]

MCHUGH: While the mood is upbeat today, the atmosphere in Bunia was anything but celebratory one year ago. In the early morning hours of March 6, 2003, local ethnic tension fanned by foreign-backed militants erupted into full-scale warfare.

INNOCENT UMIRANDE: It was a serious war, a very big war.

MCHUGH: Twenty-year old Innocent Umirande vividly recalls the ferocious firefight.

UMIRANDE: We had sound of big guns, like mortar. They also had small machine guns, all those kinds of weapons. And many people were killed, wounded, injured, killed, and so on.

MCHUGH: Bunia is ground zero for some of the worst fighting in northeast Congo. Strategically located near Lake Albert and the Ugandan border, Bunia is in the heart of Congo’s mineral rich Ituri district. The wealth of gold, coffee, oil, and coltan—a mineral vital for cell phone and laptop components—fuels the longstanding disputes between Ituri’s 13 different tribal factions and nearby neighbor Uganda. And while Bunia’s story made headlines in the spring of 2003, the community’s story is merely one in what seems like a never ending list of bloodshed playing out across eastern Congo. The International Rescue Committee estimates between three and four million Congolese have died since the most recent war erupted in 1998, the largest death toll in any global armed conflict since World War II.

[Sounds of a helicopter in flight]

MCHUGH: The United Nations Security Council authorized its current Congo peacekeeping mission in 1999. Ten thousand, five hundred troops are assigned to the operation commonly referred to by its acronym, MONUC. Fewer than 600 peacekeepers were stationed in the Ituri region in the early months of 2003. Lacking a clear military mandate, the peacekeepers were rendered useless as militants from Bunia’s rival Hema and Lindu tribes fought for control of the city. Reports of mass rape, massacres, and even cannibalism became commonplace throughout Ituri and by the first week of May, 2003, thousands sought refuge from the violence in or around UN controlled facilities.

[Sounds from a refugee camp established next to an airport]

MCHUGH: Thousands ended up here, an impromptu camp nestled among the rolling hills adjacent to Bunia’s airport.

MCHUGH: [now reporting directly from the refugee camp] We’re standing near the entrance to the Airport Camp and as you stand in the entrance you can see over the hillside just a sea of blue and white. It’s blue and white sheeting from UNHCR and other UN agencies that are providing sheeting which becomes the roofs for what looks like tin, mud, and wooden impromptu huts that are just stretched all over the hillside here next to the airport in Bunia.

[Sounds from a refugee camp established next to an airport]

MCHUGH: Today, between 10,000 and 15,000 people live here. Many are within a few miles walking distance from their original residence.

RICK NEIL: [being interviewed while in the camp] The camp is pretty much divided into two parts. There’s this part here close to the road that was settled first in May. And then the second half, the part to the north, in the back, is the part that was settled later.

MCHUGH: Rick Neil is Oxfam-Great Britain’s Program Manager for the Ituri district. His job is to oversee Oxfam’s emergency water, sanitation, and hygiene program in the Airport Camp.

NEIL: [being interviewed while in the camp] Oxfam pumps water from a river nearby. And those pumps run pretty much all the time. We supply about 200 cubic meters of water a day to this site. The water is quite dirty coming out of the river and so it settles in those tanks and then it comes out of the bottom there and into these large rubber temporary tanks. We call them bladders. And so in these rubber tanks is where we treat the water. Then that water is distributed down. You can see a water point right there. It’s got four tap stands so that’s about 24 taps and then there are several more throughout the camp.

[The sound of water being poured from a bucket]

MCHUGH: Shatal, a petite woman with carefully cropped hair, is one of many women in brightly colored frocks waiting in line to fill water buckets near the Airport Camp’s entrance. Shatal, who didn’t give her last name, arrived at the camp six months ago. Today, she is more worried about security than access to clean drinking water.

SHATAL: [via a translator] I have been here 6 months. I heard shooting two nights ago. It is usual. We are afraid, very afraid. I want them to work hard to stop the night shootings. I wish to go home.

MCHUGH: Shatal is among the millions of Congolese that pose a major problem for the United Nations.

NANCEE OKI BRIGHT: What we’ve seen in recent years is this phenomenon of internally displaced people.

MCHUGH: Nancee Oki Bright is Chief of MONUC’s Humanitarian Affairs Section.

OKI BRIGHT: What we’ve seen recently in many countries is this phenomenon of civil wars. And as we’ve seen these civil wars generate we’ve also seen people who are being displaced within the country. So for instance you might have someone who, or groups of people who are actually attacked by one particular armed factions. And they will go and seek refugee in another part of their own country. And those people become displaced internally, right? They haven’t crossed the border.

MCHUGH: And herein lies the problem to helping the estimated 3,400,000 civilians displaced by the Congo war. The United Nations Refugee Agency—UNHCR—backed by international laws passed more than 50 years ago, has a clear mandate to assist civilians who flee across an international border to escape war, famine, and other natural disasters. There is no universal mandate or agency to help civilians displaced within their own country. Again, Nancee Oki Bright.

OKI BRIGHT: When you are internally displaced, you’re still under the rules of your government or the laws of your own government. In fact in many ways much more vulnerable even though you actually are in your, your home. But you’re much more vulnerable because it’s quite possible that you could be displaced once again. And that’s what we’ve seen, you know, quite a lot in the DRC—this phenomena where people are displaced 15 times. I mean, we’ve actually had cases in Ituri, and even in the Kivus, where people have been displaced really more than 10 times.

[Sounds from the refugee camp]

NEIL: [being interviewed while in the camp] This section was, is populated most by people who came down from the north after their villages were attacked in July and August and we had a little bit of time to prepare. And so as they were coming in we, especially Oxfam had to take a leading role in this because we had to make sure we had enough space for latrines and for the water points.

[Sounds from the refugee camp]

HELENE ROBIN: The daily life is very empty. And that’s the main problem in the camp.

MCHUGH: Helene Robin heads the East Congo mission of the French aid agency Atlas Logistiques. Atlas has coordinated the oversight of Bunia’s Airport Camp since July 2003.

ROBIN: People do not have work. And that’s also the source of many problems that we have with, not big incidents of security, but small incident of security due to promiscuity in the camp, inactivity. So people are drunk, annoy neighbors, and there are family fights. So this is the kind of security problems that we find the most in the camp.

MCHUGH: Atlas Logistiques does what it can to maintain order in the Airport Camp. The camp is divided into seven administrative boroughs. Each borough has several cells or blocks. Leaders for each cell were picked by residents in a democratic election last year. The newly elected leaders then selected individual borough chiefs and together they elected a camp president, vice president, and secretary. Atlas workers meet weekly with the elected officials to discuss the Airport Camp’s needs. Security is always high on the list.

[Street sounds from just outside the refugee camp]

MCHUGH: Just down the road from the main entrance to the Airport Camp, coils of razor wire and stacks of sandbags mark one in a series of MONUC checkpoints scattered throughout Bunia. These military bunkers, along with strategically placed armored personnel carriers, roadside watchtowers, and well-armed MONUC foot patrols, leave the impression Bunia is an armed camp rather than a small Congolese town.

[Street sounds from just outside the refugee camp]

MCHUGH: This show of force may give the illusion of security but it is little comfort to young Innocent Umirande.

UMIRANDE: Even here in Bunia everyday there are shootings. Everyday, night shootings. Bunia still has a lot of militia men. And they are armed. They hide their weapons in the ceilings of their houses, maybe in the graves, graveyards. And at night they go there, they take their weapons, they start shootings—pop-pop-pop. And then MONUC is not able to stop them.

MCHUGH: MONUC’s civilian police contingent, CIVPOL, is in the process of training a national Congolese police force and Helene Robin of Atlas Logistiques is hopeful unarmed members of the new national force will soon patrol the Airport Camp. In the meantime, Atlas relies on 20 specially trained mediators to resolve domestic fights, disorderly conduct, and petty theft inside the camp compound. Marie Clare is an Atlas mediator. And like the other mediators, she is also a resident of Bunia’s Airport Camp.

MARIE CLARE: [via a translator] Here people often drink beer and make trouble. So that’s why we try to calm things down and ease the problems that arise. We give them advice and then everything is okay.

[Sounds from the refugee camp]

NEIL: [being interviewed while in the camp] Things seem pretty calm, which is good. There were several rumors last week of imminent attacks on the camp and so last week people were quite, you know, pretty on edge. And there was quite a bit of shooting also last weekend.

[Sounds from the refugee camp]

MCHUGH: It is no accident that Bunia’s camp is located next to the airport. MONUC’s large presence at the airport provides visible security but since it’s on the outskirts of town, the camp is also vulnerable to exterior attacks. Nighttime raids, shootings, and rapes are commonplace in Bunia. Just days before our tour of the camp, a few people were shot as several armed men broke into the compound in an early morning raid.

NEIL: Where they entered the camp is not very far from a MONUC position and MONUC interpreted their mandate—well, MONUC just did not respond very quickly.

MCHUGH: Oxfam’s Rick Neil says this small incident underscores the much larger security issues in the Airport Camp.

NEIL: I don’t want to run down MONUC. They’ve been doing a very nice job. You know, they’ve got a lot going on. So there’s lots of reasons why there might be attacks. But there are certain instances where they, where their response has not been particularly rapid.

MCHUGH: Atlas Logistiques’s Helene Robin blames Bunia’s poor security situation, in part, on a lack of basic communication. Soldiers in MONUC’s Ituri Brigade come from Uruguay, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and a handful of other countries. Very few speak French, one of Congo’s official languages.

ROBIN: I spoke the other day with people from the camp the other day and they say, “Sometimes if I will run to MONUC people to tell them that there is somebody with a gun, I will arrive running, they can shout at me. Because they don’t understand. And if you don’t communicate with people you cannot have a deep intervention.

COLONEL TIM WOODS: We use very widely interpreters, clearly as much as possible.

MCHUGH: Colonel Tim Wood of Great Britain is MONUC’s Military Chief of Staff for South Kivu, a province several hundred miles south of Bunia.

COLONEL WOODS: The differences in nationalities in the UN is both a strength and a weakness. Weakness because obviously sometimes we cannot communicate and it can cause problems in terms of organizational basis. But it is strength in terms of we are clearly seen as a neutral force. There isn’t one nation that is threatening them or causing problems. And I’m afraid the language is a part of that problem. But, I firmly believe as a soldier having served in many different areas that a soldier can communicate with anybody if he really wants to. And it is a question of us getting out, talking to the locals instead of driving past them, communicating with them instead of wearing helmets and carrying weapons. And this is something the British army has done for many years. I think the UN is gradually learning how to do it. Communication isn’t just about words, it’s a lot more than that.

[Sounds from the refugee camp]

MCHUGH: Bunia’s Airport IDP camp now resembles a mini-city complete with an elected government, a UNICEF-run school, two marketplaces and a hospital run by Doctors Without Borders. Critics of the camp argue the wide range of services provide incentives that keep the internally displaced from returning to their homesteads. But Atlas Logistique’s Helene Robin says fear, not services, prevents most of the Airport Camp’s residents from returning home.

ROBIN: If you go to the camp, you walk even 10 minutes in the camp, you see people, you see how they live, you see how close they are to their neighbors, you see that there are sometimes seven families for lack of space in the camp, you see that there are 7 families in one plastic sheeting, You cannot say these people stay for comfort. They all want to go home. They cannot.

[Sounds from the refugee camp]

PORTER: Coming up next, learn why logistics pose an even greater challenge than security in the effort to aid Congo’s internally displaced near the Rwandan border. Plus, The UN’s unique approach to humanitarian assistance in the Democratic Republic of Congo. And, an insider’s perspective on the treacherous task of delivering aid to one remote Congolese village. You’re listening to Common Ground, radio’s weekly program on world affairs.

[Musical interlude]

MCHUGH: The Democratic Republic of Congo’s civil war officially ended in June 2003 when a new transitional government was formed. The peace accord that created the power-sharing arrangement headed by President Joseph Kabila united a complicated mix of warring factions and volatile rebel groups. It also ended the deadliest global conflict since World War Two. More than three million people lost their lives in the bloody five-year war for Congo’s riches. Millions more remain uprooted from their homes. Despite a recent failed coup attempt, much of Congo is enjoying relative peace and stability thanks, in part, to the presence of a United Nations peacekeeping force. But peace and stability remain elusive in Congo’s mineral-rich eastern provinces. And what little infrastructure existed after the country gained independence from Belgium in 1960 is now destroyed.

OKI BRIGHT: There are about 3.4 million who are displaced.

MCHUGH: Nancee Oki Bright is Chief of the Humanitarian Affairs Section of the United Nations Mission in Congo or MONUC.

OKI BRIGHT: The DRC actually now is in fact the second—has the second largest population—internally displaced population—in Africa after Sudan.

MCHUGH: Addressing the needs of IDPs—or the internally displaced—is one of the major hurdles the United Nations must surpass in its effort to stabilize Congo. Officially OCHA, the UN’s Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, is in charge of organizing assistance to Congo’s internally displaced. On the ground, that responsibility is shouldered by UN agencies such as UNICEF and the World Food Program and dozens of independent humanitarian aid organizations. All struggle to balance the overwhelming needs of the displaced with little financial resources and even less manpower. And in Congo’s troubled South Kivu Province, the UN and aid agencies must also battle the harsh terrain.

COLONEL WOODS: I’ve got an area the size of Great Britain with 75% of it inaccessible by road, by main vehicles.

MCHUGH: Colonel Tim Wood coordinates MONUC’s military operations in South Kivu.

COLONEL WOODS: Heavily forested, mountainous, going up to 14,000 feet, some of it quite hostile to human beings in terms of terrain but also in terms of the people who live there. And so generally speaking this is an incredibly difficult area to operate in even if you had incredibly large numbers of troops. With very few troops then it’s clearly much harder.

[Sounds from a small remote Congolese village]

MCHUGH: Nestled deep within South Kivu’s mountainous forest is Bunyakiri. Days before a seasonal harvest heavily armed Hutu militias and former members of neighboring Rwanda’s armed forces raided the remote homesteads and villages near Bunyakiri. By January of this year, thousands of families sought refuge in the handful of small villages on the main road to Bunyakiri.

[Sounds from a small remote Congolese village]

MCHUGH: Many arrived with little more than the clothing on their backs. And unlike the thousands living in Bunia’s organized Airport Camp, nearly all of South Kivu’s displaced live with extended relatives or host families.

ANDRE BAHKEEZA: [via a translator] The main problem is we don’t have shelter. We also need some types of food; we also need utensils among other things.

MCHUGH: Andre Bahkeeza and members of his pygmy tribe arrived in Bunyakiri four months ago.

BAHKEEZA: [via a translator] We are receiving assistance from the aid agencies but the problem is we are not used to some of the food that we are being given. We cannot go because there is still insecurity in our original villages. If it’s calm we will go back.

JOSEPH INGANJI: There are no roads here, but you know, humanitarian aid agencies they are trying all their level best to make sure that they reach the groups.

MCHUGH: Joseph Inganji is an officer with MONUC’s humanitarian affairs section in Bukavu.

INGANJI: The roads is a major problem. Roads are only in town. But in the interior there are no roads. And it is in the interior where the needs are enormous. It is in the interior where the IDPs are. So you find it is really difficult for humanitarian aid agencies to deliver their assistance.

MCHUGH: MONUC is a military mission. Its mandate is to protect civilians, UN personnel, and UN operations. The political objectives are often a source of tension between MONUC and humanitarian aid agencies which staunchly maintain neutrality in regions of conflict.

OKI BRIGHT: This humanitarian section is actually the first one within any peacekeeping mission. MONUC has really broken new ground in that respect.

MCHUGH: Nancee Oki Bright explains why the UN’s Congo peacekeeping operation is taking a different approach to civilian aid.

OKI BRIGHT: In some ways what we’re trying to do is to make the peacekeeping mission have a humanitarian face and yet at the same time what we are trying to do is to make the military understand that we can’t do everything with the humanitarians because essentially it really does really impinge on the notions of neutrality and impartiality.

MCHUGH: In the South Kivu province, this responsibility falls to Joseph Inganji. He acts as a mediator between MONUC and local aid agencies, bridging the gap by sharing resources and security information.

[Sounds from a truck on a road to Bitale]

MCHUGH: Today, Joseph Inganji and a handful of MONUC military observers are lending a helping hand to local employees of the California-based agency International Medical Corps, or IMC. He explains the arrangement as we jostle along what remains of the road outside of Bunyakiri.

INGANJI: I received this information that there were IDP’s in Bunyakiri area through our military observers who were based here on the ground. And that’s why we decided to sit down together with other AID agencies including IMC, who decided to you know, to come to the response of this, the needs of the IDPs on the spot. And I’m really happy that they are doing very well and we are ready as United Nations MONUC to help them do their work.

[Sounds from a truck on a road to Bitale]

MCHUGH: International Medical Corp has distributed more than 4,000 aid kits in the Bunyakiri area this year. IMC emergency program officer Moses Karugu says MONUC is vital to the distribution efforts.

MOSES KARUGU: MONUC took it into their hands and they delivered a huge quantity of it using their helicopters. We also had food supply in the MONUC military vehicles coming down here. We can’t do without them because you get down here, you might have problems but at once with the United Nations flag around you are at least given that respect.

[The sound of trucks being unloaded]

MCHUGH: [reporting directly from Bitale] We’ve just reached the village of Bitale where they are distributing today roughly 170 non-food item, kits. This could be pots and pans, plastic sheeting, and other non-food essential items. But this trip alone illustrates the difficulty and the enormous challenges that MONUC and other aid agencies face in delivering aid to the internally displaced in Congo. This trip alone—10 miles from the nearby village to this village—took over an hour, well over an hour, over an almost impassable road.

[The sound of trucks being unloaded]

CAPTAIN MISKOVICH: I am trying to help this country because unfortunately I have huge experience about, about war.

MCHUGH: Captain Miskovich of Bosnia-Herzegovina is one of MONUC’s military observers in the Bunyakiri region. Today he is providing extra manpower to the Bitale distribution effort. It is a task that holds special meaning for Captain Miskovich.

CAPTAIN MISKOVICH: I know what means to be IDPs. I was IDP seven years.

MCHUGH: Captain Miskovich adds he understands the very real dangers the residents and the internally displaced face in Bitale.

CAPTAIN MISKOVICH: For example, yesterday was an attack near hear, behind this hill. They captured four persons. They are still hostages.

[Sounds from a small remote Congolese village]

MCHUGH: The kits delivered to Bitale today are not handed out on a first come, first serve basis. Instead, representatives of the displaced work with the local village chief to determine the eligible families.

[The sound of Kristin walking up a steep hill near the village]

MCHUGH: To receive an aid kit, eligible family representatives must climb a steep, winding and narrow path through dense forest to a plateau above the village. The trek is challenging, even to this relatively fit reporter.

[The sound of Kristin walking up a steep hill near the village]

MCHUGH: [reporting from the top of the hill] We got up to the top of the hill and there are several hundred people waiting around in line to be registered so they can receive their kit.

[Sounds of a loudspeaker as the kits are distributed]

BANGALABUYA: [via a translator] I have been here two months. I don’t know when I can go home. There is still insecurity.

MCHUGH: Bangalabuya escaped the fighting near her home by walking than 10 miles with her husband and six young children to Bitale. Today she patiently waits for her registration coupon while cradling her five-month-old daughter Louisa in a brightly colored sling.

[The sound of a crowd of villagers followed by the sound of an aid kit being cut open by a machete]

MCHUGH: In the front room of a nearly pitch-black wood and mud structure, Bangalabuya’s house mate uses a large, razor-sharp machete to open the white and blue plastic aid kit.

INGANJI: [explaining the contents of the aid package] This is a blanket, one blanket. This is a plastic jerry can. Here is a set of cooking utensils. And cups and plates. And this is a plastic sheeting.

[A guitar plays as the crowd mills about]

MCHUGH: As Bitale’s aid distribution continues, a crowd gathers near a young man playing an aging red electric guitar, minus the necessary amplifier. Bolola doesn’t seem to mind the crowd nearly drowns out his songs. He’s just hoping to form a church choir.

[A guitar plays as the crowd mills about]

MCHUGH: As Bolola strums on, Joseph Ingangi climbs back into his truck for the two-and-a-half hour, 37-mile journey back to his office in Bukavu. In doing so, both Joseph and his boss, Nancee Oki Bright, know countless more aid operations like this one will be needed before the millions of displaced Congolese can safely return home. They also know the United Nations will never be able to serve the millions more requiring assistance around the world.

OKI BRIGHT: People often expect too much from the United Nations. In one way it presents us with a challenge and something which we really do need to live up to and do as much as you can. On the other hand it can be a very sad situation because you know that it’s difficult to deliver. Either you don’t have the funds to deliver or you simply don’t have the manpower to deliver. The people don’t understand that. They want the solution now.

[A guitar plays as the crowd mills about]

MCHUGH: I’m Kristin McHugh, in the village of Bitale, Democratic Republic of Congo.

[A guitar plays as the crowd mills about]

PORTER: This is Common Ground, radio’s weekly program on world affairs.

[Musical interlude]

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Rwanda: Ten Years Later

Listen to This Segment: MP3

KEITH PORTER: I’m Keith Porter.

KRISTIN MCHUGH: I’m Kristin McHugh. This month marks the 10th anniversary of the beginning of Rwanda brutal genocide.

ALOYIUS HABIMANA: I think people should be honest when you talk about history. There should not be any manipulation at all if you want to really build a peaceful country.

MCHUGH: This week, we examine Rwanda’s path to reconciliation.

PORTER: Ten years since Rwanda’s 1994 genocide, the country still faces the challenge of reconciliation and reconstruction. One of the hardest hit areas of infrastructure was the Rwandan educational system. Besides the challenge of rebuilding schools and training teachers, there’s also the still sensitive task of teaching the country’s recent history. Rupert Cook reports.

[The loud sounds of children in their school’s dining hall]

RUPERT COOK: Hundreds of children get ready to have their lunch at a school in Rwanda’s capital, Kigali. Rwanda’s 1994 genocide devastated the country’s already inadequate educational system. Many teachers were killed; others participated in the genocide. In the intervening decade much has been done to rebuild the country’s schools and teaching capacity. Yet there remain considerable challenges. John Rutayisire is Director of Rwanda’s National Curriculum Development Center.

JOHN RUTAYISIRE: You will know I’m sure as much as I do that education in Rwanda before 1994 was used to divide Rwandese people—in terms of teaching history, in terms of teaching civic education, where differences rather than similarities were emphasized in the schools. The challenge now is to use the same education to turn around and make education and life meaningful to Rwandese children and Rwandese society. So the first point and the first starting point has been to create awareness among Rwandans so that they can be aware of the distortions of the colonial education and the colonial history; and now it is time to get Rwandans and friends of Rwanda to stay together and write what I consider to be an objective history of this country.

COOK: Inculcating an objective and impartial view of the past is crucial for Rwanda’s future. Aloyius Habimana is Program Officer for the Rwandan League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights.

ALOYIUS HABIMANA: I know that there is a tendency of trying sometimes to rewrite history. I think people should be honest when you talk about history. There should not be any manipulation at all if you want to really build a peaceful country. Differences in ethnic groups should not really be a cause of problems; rather, a cause of unity and a cause to make people complement one another. This is a very important thing people should think about.

[Sounds from a busy school]

COOK: [reporting directly from a school in Kigali] Well, I’m in Green Hills Academy, which is in Kigali. It’s a private school of around 1,000 pupils. It’s one of the best schools apparently in the whole country. I’m just about to come into the Senior Sixth Arts classroom. This is a small class and these students are preparing for their final examinations before they go off to university.

[Mr. Cook begins to directly interview the students]

COOK: Okay, Sandy, what do you learn about reconciliation?

SANDY: We learned that you have to forgive one another and not necessarily revenge in the same way that they did the genocide. We’re taught not to mind about the tribe. You just value the competence, don’t value the tribes or anything else.

COOK: Oliver, what have you learned about the genocide? What mistakes were made in the past?’

SANDY: Actually the most mistake which were made was made was focusing on the ethnic group. Now they’re trying to, we’re trying to change. We’re saying that ethnic group is no matter, that we’re all human. We should try to work together.

COOK: Do you think that all the pupils here, they accept it?

OLIVER: For young people I think it is easier to accept it because they are taught like that. For older people I think it’s hard because they were teaching them by you know, different ethnic groups. And that I think it’s easier for the younger generation.

COOK: These Green Hills students are among the best in the country. Their relative detachment from issues of ethnicity may bode well for the future. Yet, the fault lines evidently run deep. Joseph Yedda teaches History at Green Hills Academy.

JOSEPH YEDDA: When you are teaching you can’t talk about ethnic groups. Yet at times in history you need to mention them because it is a reality. But when you are talking about it you have to be very sensitive. Not just a matter of mentioning. There are some students for example whom we may be teaching and they lost their people during the genocide, so when you are talking about the genocide you must talk about it but when you are not hurting the other student because you may hurt the student, he’ll start crying in class and you may fail to teach.

COOK: Pupils’ sensitivity highlights the dilemma in which the Rwandan authorities find themselves over the teaching of history. The government is determined to suppress the potential for ethnic division. Last year it enacted various legislation which outlawed ethnic divisionism and sectarianism. Yet, supposed ethnic difference between Tutsis and Hutus may be central to any understanding of the country’s recent past. Klaas de Jonge works with international NGO, Penal Reform International in Kigali. He has done extensive research on the aftermath of Rwanda’s genocide.

KLAAS DE JONGE: So if you want to deal with ethnicity you should discuss it. It’s impossible at this moment, it’s taboo. So they are very sensitive questions. It was a power struggle but ethnicity was used, and we see it often misused in this way all over the world. And should be dealing with not by saying “We’re all the same,” but saying “How the hell did it happen, and what can we do that it doesn’t happen again?”

RWANDAN PRESIDENT PAUL KAGAME: We have had ethnicity used politically and we have seen the consequences.

COOK: Paul Kagame is President of Rwanda. A Tutsi, he has effectively led the country for the last decade, after leading the then rebel Rwandan Patriotic Front which came to power and ended the genocide in 1994.

RWANDAN PRESIDENT KAGAME: Now we are trying to say “Why don’t we do something else?” Why don’t we allow this diversity to be there as it is there, but also understand that there is something we can do for the common good, that we can bring these perceptions of differences to work for the better. At least all of us share one common thing. We share one culture, we share one country, we are the same people. Why don’t we use that as a common denominator that would enable us to move forward, to move away from ethnicity which has more or less destroyed the whole country, almost brought the extinction of a section of our population? And we are talking about that involving people. The people of Rwanda are involved. They are involved in the debates, in discussions, in discovering what went wrong so that can be avoided. You can’t have a worse situation than what we have had in 1994, or years before. I believe things can only get better, they can’t get worse.

COOK: Besides the challenge of negotiating Rwanda’s recent history, the country’s schools must also deal with another very real and present threat. Rwanda has been hard hit by the HIV/AIDS epidemic. As a consequence, schools have also introduced mandatory classes tackling such issues as HIV/AIDS prevention, as well as human rights.

[now questioning students]

COOK: What about HIV/AIDS? What do you learn about in terms of HIV/AIDS?

RWANDAN STUDENT: We learn of course it’s a very serious disease affecting most of African countries, especially developing countries, and obviously affecting Rwanda. So they teach us, we are be aware about such diseases, about AIDS especially.

COOK: And how do you prevent HIV/AIDS?

RWANDAN STUDENT: The best way to prevent HIV/AIDS I think is abstinence. Abstinence or if you need it you can use condoms I think.

COOK: What about the whole issue of human rights? What do you learn about human rights?

RWANDAN STUDENT: About human rights, we learnt about to be equal, not to be like a man to be more maybe, educated more than a woman. And we learn about it that we have to be equal, woman and man. And everything is going to be okay.

[The sound of haunting ethnic Rwandan music]

COOK: For Common Ground, I’m Rupert Cook, in Kigali, Rwanda.

[The sound of haunting ethnic Rwandan music]

PORTER: Coming up next, Rupert Cook examines how indigenous communities are recovering from Rwanda’s genocide. You’re listening to Common Ground, radio’s weekly program on world affairs.

[The sound of haunting ethnic Rwandan music]

MCHUGH: The indigenous peoples of Africa, otherwise sometimes known as pygmies, were in the second half of the 20th century largely driven from their traditional communities in the continent’s forests. This was often done in the name of environmental conservation, as vast swathes of land were declared national parks. In Rwanda, the Twa, or pygmy people shared such a fate, with disastrous consequences for the whole community. This was compounded by the Rwandan genocide which saw the Twa population decline by a third. Increasingly though there is the realization, far from being a threat to conservation, that the Batwa could help safeguard their traditional environment. Rupert Cook’s continues his report from the heart of Rwanda’s jungle.

[The sound of a man talking in the Twa dialect]

COOK: Ismail is a community leader of the Twa minority in the village of Bweyeye in southern Rwanda, close to the border with neighboring Burundi. In Rwanda’s native language Kenya-Rwanda, Twa is an adjective referring to the whole community, while Mutwa is the singular form and Batwa the plural. Here he’s describing how his people were driven by the army from nearby forests in the 1960s.

[The sound of a man talking in the Twa dialect]

COOK: Today the Twa community ekes out a living at the very lowest rungs of Rwandan poverty. Most families cannot afford to send their children to school and maternal and infant mortality is high. In Bweyeye, the Batwa live separately from the other two ethnic groups of Rwanda, the majority Hutus and minority Tutsis. This tale of loss and alienation is replayed across Rwanda in ramshackle villages where the Batwa live in hope of returning to the nearby forests. Anisette Demyeye is a Twa community leader in Rwanda.

ANISETTE DEMYEYE: According to the anthropologists the Batwa were the first inhabitants of this country. And when they were pushed out of the forest nothing was done for them because there was no compensation, no land for them. You see for example to have something to eat they must go from here to there to other places to ask something for eat or to do some jobs.

COOK: The Batwa were expelled from the forests in the name of environmental conservation. In the second half of the last century, as the mainly western conservation movement gained in impetus, similar stories of forced expulsion of indigenous peoples from newly created national parks were common across the African continent. John Nelson is a policy adviser with international NGO The Forest People’s Program, which works to safeguard the rights of indigenous people globally.

JOHN NELSON: I think what we’re concerned is that these people are not being given a choice of whether or not they want to lose their old ways of life, whether or not they want to become, lose their culture. Their culture will disappear and their traditional knowledge about forest issues will be lost. There’s a significant correlation between the location of these hunting and gathering forest-based communities and high biodiversity. And this is yet to be explored fully.

COOK: Increasingly, over the last decade, there has been a growing realization among environmentalists that far from hindering conservation efforts, indigenous peoples can do much to help safeguard wildlife in their traditional environment, namely the forests. After millennia of living in relative equilibrium with their natural surroundings, the Batwa are better placed then most to assist in the management of the national parks. Vince Smith is country representative in Rwanda for the NGO the Diane Fossey Gorilla Fund.

VINCE SMITH: Looking at the question of whether minority peoples could return to the forests, it’s a valid point to say that where there are minority peoples living in protected areas the animals tend to be harvested if you like, or culled or hunted sustainably, and that in areas where you actually remove the indigenous peoples, you tend to find that the wildlife as a whole has suffered. When indigenous peoples are hunting in the park, or living in protected areas should I say, it’s in their interest to do this sustainably.

COOK: Despite signs of some changing attitudes among environmentalists, the Batwa face an uphill struggle against an array of challenges. Perhaps worst of all, they were and often still are the victims of virulent racism. Many Rwandans consider the Twa to be quite literally an inferior people, not on the same level of humanity. Twa activist Anisette Demyeye.

DEMYEYE: When some people pass near my house they say, “Do you see it is a house for a Mutwa?” In the place where I am, because they know I am a Mutwa and they try to say, “We can’t understand how this Mutwa can have a house, can have something that is good.” You see it is something they cannot understand, because they know that a Mutwa can’t do anything. Now, what we are trying to do, we want to show other communities that we are able to do everything. What we need for us is the means. If we can have means like other people, we can do everything.

COOK: [reporting from the Rwandan village of Kinigi] I’m in Kinigi. It’s a small village near the town of Ruhwengeri in the north of Rwanda, very close to the border with Congo, also very close to the National Park known as the Virungas, which has now become a center of conservation for gorillas. And I’ve come to a Batwa community center which is focused on social integration. And I’m just coming inside at the moment. Here we are.

[The sound of a door being opened]

COOK: So, what is actually happening here, Anisette?

DEMYEYE: Yes, here we have a small project of mushrooms because you see our children, also the whole community is suffering from the malnutrition. So with this small project we have mushrooms. People can take a part of mushrooms, they can eat like food, and other parts remaining it is sold in the hotels. And with the revenue from the mushrooms so we hope that we can do something, for instance assist the children, or to assist community to have some care.

COOK: Although there is among Twa community leaders a determination to achieve a greater degree of self-sufficiency, projects such as the one at Kinigi tend to be the exception rather than the rule. And the Batwa remain a highly marginalized, if not endangered, minority. Charles Werye is a leading figure in the Rwandan Twa community.

CHARLES WERYE: All the Batwa have just been removed from the forests. Now they are living on the margins of the forest. Now, even just collecting firewood, it’s a problem for them, because when they’re found they’re either charged money, or they’re imprisoned, or sometimes they can even disappear. If the situation remains like this, that is poverty, illiteracy, discriminated against, surely we are going even to be extinct.

COOK: While some environmentalists are increasingly recognizing the need to involve indigenous people in the protection of their ancestral homelands, much work remains to be done. John Nelson from the Forest People’s Program.

NELSON: Valuation of wild species over human beings is one that’s very difficult to make, but it seems that—well, conservation organizations can tell you all about what animals are doing in the forests, but they can’t actually tell you about the human population who are living on the same lands as these animals and have done so for millennia.

[The sound of traditional Twa singing and dance]

COOK: For Common Ground, I’m Rupert Cook, in Kigali, Rwanda.

PORTER: This is the final broadcast of Common Ground. Our program was launched in 1980 and we would like to thank the hundreds of radio stations across the country who have carried Common Ground over the last 24 years. And we also thank our listeners who have supported us as well.

Our theme music was created by B.J. Leiderman. Common Ground was produced and funded by the Stanley Foundation.

Copyright © Stanley Center for Peace and Security

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