THV Extra: African Tragedy Turning Into Renewed Hope In Arkansas

    11:11 PM, Feb 21, 2008   |    comments
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    Fast Facts:
    • 800,000 to 1 million Rwandans were killed by Hutu militia groups during the Rwandan Genocide of 1994.
    • Killings happened over approximately 100 days.
    • Most of the victims were Tutsis.
    • Hutus, who sympathized with the Tutsis, were also murdered.
    • International community did not refer to the murders as "genocide" until a month into the killings.
    • In 1998, then U.S. President Bill Clinton visited Rwanda to apologize for his failure to respond to this "unimaginable terror."
    Related Links
  • CIA World Factbook on Rwanda
  • Republic of Rwanda Website
  • April 6, 1994 and for the next hundred days, a massacre would forever change how people view life. "Survivors are traumatized. They keep shouting," says Mireille Mutesi. In a small republic in the heart of Africa, a civil war turned into genocide. Up to a million Tutsi men, women, and children were murdered. "They knew they had to run for their lives," Mutesi explains. The Hutu militia massacred 10,000 a day with clubs and machetes. Thousands fled to churches thinking they'd be safe, but holy grounds became killing fields. Reporter Ashley Blackstone asks, "Do you have any friends or family members that you know that were killed?" "Yeah, my father," Albine Niwemugeni says. They’re the faces of the survivors. Each one has a story. "I didn't know what was going on," says Gilbert Ndayambaje, 19. Each one is grateful to be alive. “In Rwanda, everybody knows at least 10 people whose family has been killed," says Mutesi. Mutesi is 19-years-old. She and three other teens are children of the genocide. "They were taking the bodies of those that were killed and throwing them in waters, and whenever you want to drink water, you have to separate the blood and the water and take the small water and drink it." Ndayambaje says, “My aunts, my cousins, my uncles had been killed, but I didn't know what was going on because children were hiding somewhere. You couldn't know what was going on." Albine Niwemugeni, 20, is the only one of the four who lost a parent. She was just 7-years-old when the Hutu murdered her father. “I don't know much about it. My mom told us. Then, I was with my aunt and after the genocide we met again, and she told us our father was killed," she explains. Fourteen years later, the country is still recovering but has seen a change in its infrastructure, politics and culture that offers a powerful message of hope for future generations. Helping rebuild the nation is Little Rock's David Knight. As you travel in Rwanda and you understand what has gone on over there; it just has a tremendous amount of need," explains Knight. Knight and several other Arkansans, including Hendrix College President Dr. Tim Cloyd, recently began a student scholarship program through Bridge2Rwanda. Knight says, "Individuals really can make a difference." Their mission is to create a new generation of well-educated leaders for Rwanda, young students committed to Jesus Christ, their country and to one another. Cloyd says, “We have a moral obligation and we have a spiritual obligation. We have an obligation as citizens of the world and of the United States to be involved." That's why the four teens are in Arkansas. Each received a full four-year scholarship to Hendrix. "We had to pass like English test and interview. That's how we came here," explains Mutesi. They were unfamiliar with the culture and didn't know each other. They've since adapted. "I was surprised with how people are friendly. Like everyone passes next to you and smiles. At home, we don't smile," explains Niwemugeni. To them coming from a scarred region of Africa, America is in their words, “the place of peace.” A place they've always dreamed of living and studying. "I would have the opportunity to know many people from America. I would have the opportunity to do everything, so I was excited," says Ndayambaje. When they're with each other, they speak Kinyarwanda, their native tongue. They talk about their home country, mostly the good times shared with family and friends. Albine's mom and friends threw her a goodbye celebration, knowing it would be at least a year before they'd see her again. "She's OK. She misses me, and she's always telling me on the phone just remember who you are. Don't be crazy like those Americans," says Albine. The problems and grieving from the genocide haven't ended, and they say rebuilding will take decades. That’s why when they graduate they say their degree will be the key to developing the next generation of Rwanda. "My goal is to teach students. Back home, we lost many teachers in the genocide," explains Ndayambaje. It’s a generation capable of preventing horrific tragedies from repeating. "We are a new generation, generation of hope for Rwanda," says Mutesi. All despite the horrific images burned in the memories of those who call the war-torn county their home. Since 2003, Rwanda authorities have released more than 30,000 genocide suspects. Another 30,000 still remain in jail. The teens say the most difficult stage of the process is when those who have confessed to the murders come face-to-face with the relatives of their victims. Justice authorities say as many as 20,000 to 30,000 people should stand trial for their role in the 100 day slaughter. The suspects represent 9.2 percent of Rwanda's estimated 8.2 million people. Rwanda does have the death penalty for crimes like murder, but many of those already convicted of genocide were given lesser sentences because they proved they were forced to kill or did not plan the slaughter.

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