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(en) France, UCL AL #314 - Culture, Read: Jean Hatzfeld, "Where everything is silent" (ca, de, it, fr, pt)[machine translation]

Date Fri, 23 Apr 2021 08:15:03 +0300

Writer, great reporter, Jean Hatzfeld is building an unparalleled work on the Rwandan genocide. Each of his books reproduces the testimonies he has collected by going to live for several months there, always in the same village. With this last opus, he returns to the footsteps of the Righteous, the Hutus who tried to save Tutsis. ---- Canissius sometimes crosses paths with Gahutu in the streets of Nyamata: "We greet each other, we talk about nothing." Twenty-five years earlier, Gahutu Sengati massacred Tutsi neighbors with machetes, "to break into the arms" . Canissius Rutaganira narrowly escaped his old friend. But a good part of his family was exterminated, like 80% of the Tutsis in the city. Gahutu's own father and mother, suspected of complicity with the inyenzi (cockroaches), were shot dead.

In three months, 800,000 people were exterminated by order of the far-right Hutu Power government, by soldiers, by interahamwe militiamen, but also by a significant portion of the civilian population, fanaticized and excited by the lure of profit. . Eight times out of ten, the victims were "cut" with a machete, eye to eye.

Years later, during the Gaçaça trials held in public, the victims were able to relate; the executioners were able to confess and ask for forgiveness. In front of the assembly, Gahutu himself remained stubbornly silent. He spent thirteen years in the penitentiary. Then returned to live in Nyamata, among the survivors. And among other killers who have been "forgiven". Life has resumed its course, year after year, following the process of "unity and reconciliation" implemented by the Rwandan state in the 2000s.

But how, really, to rebuild society after such a cataclysm ? This enigma grips Jean Hatzfeld, one of the main memorialists, in France, of the 1994 genocide. In this sixth investigation, he confronts the poignant testimonies of several inhabitants of Nyamata. Mainly on two subjects: the "Righteous" - these rare Hutus who hid Tutsis - and mass graves, this indelible stigma on Rwandan soil.

When, after thirty-four days of killing, the dazed survivors emerged from the swamps, they found the city littered with bodies. And guessed, here and there, mass graves hastily filled up. Most were quickly brought to light. Then, years later, escorted inmates located others, dug and exhumed, in front of the tearful residents. Bones mixed with pebbles, broken bottles, tattered clothes... Too often, the remains could not be identified. A memorial ossuary welcomes them. Even today, there is no doubt that unknown pits remain. They haunt Rwanda.

Only 270 "Righteous" ?
Silas Ntamfurayishyari, a soldier who saved several Tutsis at the risk of his life, is one of the Righteous people interviewed in the book. He is even one of the 34 abarinzi w'igihango (guardians of the blood pact) medalists at the national level. How to explain this ridiculous number? Jean Hatzfeld recalls that it was a matter of a "local" genocide , between neighbors, with hardly any possible hiding places.

Mixed families were sometimes the scene of negotiations the cruelty of which is beyond comprehension. Here, such a Hutu husband sacrificed his Tutsi wife to save the children. There, such other was able to save her, but had to give the change by "wielding the machete with a vengeance. " The latter succeeds in hiding the Tutsi family from his wife; he nevertheless followed the genocidaires in their debacle, praying that his betrayal was not discovered. This one had two wives, a Tutsi and a Hutu; he hid his Tutsi family while his Hutu children, pretending to ignore him, participated in the extermination every day.

All this explains why the Ibuka association listed, in 2010, only about 270 potential Righteous people who had survived. But from the words collected, Hatzfeld also gives off the feeling that a curse hangs over them. Their exemplary nature gives a bad conscience to many Hutus. As for the Tutsis, many doubt their purity. Innocent Rwililiza, a teacher, believes that if the dead "wereresurrected, they might well point an accusing finger at these Righteous, because they have seen more than us." Can we not feel suspicion about everyone?" And to confess:"If we do not care, it is because there is a bit of hatred in the depths.Jean Hatzfeld does invaluable work.

Guillaume Davranche (UCL Montreuil)

Jean Hatzfeld, Where everything is silent , Gallimard, January 2021, 224 pages, 19 euros.

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