Encounters with conflict and peace

Annet: working with orphans

I was born in Uganda, but my parents came from Rwanda, so I already knew a lot about it. When I arrived, I wasn't sure what might happen - sometimes I thought I might die.

I didn't know whether I had made the right decision to come into Rwanda. I'd look carefully at every person to see whether they were going to attack me. And vice versa, the people would look at me critically, with a lot of suspicion. They thought I might be going to kill them. That was the atmosphere in 1994 - just after the genocide.

I got a job with World Vision in 1996, working with orphans. There were so many unaccompanied children's centres because the children had scattered from their families and they were taken to different centres where they were being looked after by the government, by NGOs and by missionaries.

My work was to talk to the children to try to find out where their families might be. I would trace their families and try to find out whether they had relatives or parents still living and, if possible, re-unite them with their families. Later I'd go to visit them, to follow them up and see how they are doing in their communities.

The thing I saw most in those early days was that discrimination was evident - Tutsis were comfortable keeping in a circle of Tutsis and Hutus were comfortable keeping in a circle of Hutus. There was clearly a lot of suspicion between the Tutsis and the Hutus. It was hard to get around - there was no public movement at that time and we depended on the mercy of the military - the RPF - they were the ones who offered us lifts from one place to another.
Related pages
The children
The BBC journalist Fergal Keane visited an orphanage in the mountains of northern Rwanda during the last days of the genocide. "We are trying to teach them to trust the world again, but it is very, very difficult."
Survivor questions
"There was a lot of suspicion and a lot of questions. Where was the international community? What did the UN do? Where was God during the genocide? Why did he leave us? Why does God hate the Tutsi? Why do the mzungu hate the Tutsi? They didn’t do anything to save us.”....

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