Encounters with conflict and peace

With me, he behaved nicely

“He came home often. He never carried a weapon, not even his machete. I knew he was a leader, I knew the Hutus were out there cutting Tutsis.

With me, he behaved nicely. He made sure we had everything we needed. Actually, he was steeped in bad politics but not in bad thoughts. He was gentle with the children. I did not want to ask him about the trouble that was spreading everywhere. To me, he was the nice man I married.” (Marie Chantal, talking about her husband, a killer)

A strangeness of mind

We were ordinary

cycling in Rwanda
ALPHONSE: "Some offenders claim that we changed into wild animals, that we were blinded by ferocity, that we buried our civilization under branches, and that’s why we are unable to find the right words to talk properly about it.

That is a trick to sidetrack the truth. I can say this: outside the marshes, our lives seemed quite ordinary... we soaped off our bloodstains in the basin, and our noses enjoyed the aromas of full cooking pots. We rejoiced in the new life about to begin by feasting on leg of veal. We were hot at night atop our wives, and we scolded our rowdy children. Although no longer willing to feel pity, we were still greedy for good feelings. We went about all sorts of human business without a care in the world – provided we concentrated on killing during the day, naturally.

At the end of that season in the marshes, we were so disappointed we had failed. We were disheartened by what we were going to lose, and truly frightened by the misfortune and vengeance reaching out for us. But deep down, we were not tired of anything."

I don't recognise me

Rwandan eyes
PIO: We no longer saw a human being when we turned up a Tutsi in the swamps. I mean a person like us, sharing similar thoughts and feelings.

It is as if I had let another individual take on my own living appearance... This killer was indeed me, but he is a stranger to me in his ferocity. I admit and recognise my obedience at that time, my victims, my fault, but I fail to recognise the wickedness of the one who raced through the marshes on my legs, carrying my machete.

The most serious changes in my body were my invisible parts, such as the soul or the feelings that go with it. I do not recognise myself in that man. But perhaps someone outside this situation, like you, cannot have an inkling of that strangeness of mind.

Dangerously fired up

JEAN BAPTISTE: The more we killed, the more greediness urged us on. Greediness - if left unpunished, it never lets you go. You could see it in our eyes bugged out by the killings. It was even dangersome. There were those who came back in bloodstained shirts, brandishing their machetes, shrieking like madmen, saying they wanted to grab everything. We had to calm them with drinks and soothing words. Because they could turn ugly for those around them.

Quotes on this page from A time for machetes. The killers speak by Jean Hatzfeld. Images by Dave Fullerton

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