Encounters with conflict and peace

The journalist: Fergal Keane

Fergal Keane
Kigali in the early days of June was a city bathed in the blood of past and current massacres.

Since the killing had begun on 6 April Rwanda's capital had been the setting for butchery on a massive scale. Hundreds of thousands of Tutsis and many Hutus who opposed the government had either been murdered in their homes or stopped at road-blocks and hacked to death. Kigali had been the epicentre of the genocide.

Although the suburbs we drove through were largely empty of people, with the rubble of war still strewn across the roads, it was possible in the golden evening light to think of Kigali as having once been a pleasant city. From where we stood on the heights held by the RPF, Kigali seemed to be surrounded by mountains and hills. There were many flowers, bougainvillaea and hibiscus and countless others whose names were unknown to me, blossoming in the hedges.

The red-tiled roofs of some of the bungalows gave the city a Mediterranean aspect. There was no sign of the vast slum dwellings of Kinshasa or the concrete blockhouses of Nairobi or the skyscrapers of Johannesburg. The avenues off the main road were dirt tracks but there were rows of trees that gave them a secluded, peaceful ambience. This delusion lasted only as long as you stayed in the Land Rover and did not wander through the empty houses. Because out there in the sunshine, mingling with the scent of the new flowers, was the old scent of death.

From Season of Blood. A Rwandan Journey by Fergal Keane

Habyarimana's palace

Habyarimana was a big-game hunter; blasting animals to kingdom come was one of his great delights. Whole national parks would be closed off while the president and his entourage went shooting. While Habyarimana enjoyed the kill, his brother-in-law Protais Zigiranyirazo was up to his neck in the trade in endangered species.

Protais was a founder member of the Zero Network and an original shareholder of Radio MIlle Collines. A book, Murder in the Mist, alleges that Protais was involved in the murder of Diane Fossey because of her attempts to save the gorillas of the Rwandan rain forest. To date he has not even issued a rebuttal, much less attempted to sue the author. Protais is currently enjoying the sanctuary provided by the government of France, along with his sister Agathe and several other family members. It is not likely that they will see the palace ever again, but they have the security of foreign bank accounts and the sympathy of the Quai d'Orsay (French Foreign Ministry) to console them in exile.

I can see what sickens Frank. This place reeks of greed and death; this was the nucleus of Hutu extremism until the people around the president decided that Habyarimana had become a threat to their power. The palace should be left to decay, season after season, with the bush growing thick and wild, until it vanishes under a canopy of green.

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