There are many accounts of the Rwandan Genocide in popular media, in Hollywood movies such as Hotel Rwanda and in literature, such as Immaculee Ilibagiza’s Left to Tell. Of these accounts, Iligabiza’s Left to Tell is extremely striking, as it recounts the author’s struggle as a Tutsi woman in Rwanda during the genocide, and the way she dealt with the violence and death that was all around her. In Left to Tell, Iligabiza explains the situation leading up to the start of the genocide through the eyes of a native, then goes on to explain how she spent quite a bit of time hiding in the bathroom of her village’s pastor, before finding liberation and freedom through the help of French “safe zones” which were set up towards the end of the genocide. What is intriguing about Immaculee’s story of the genocide is that through all the pain she experiences, she still chooses to approach the genocide with an attitude of forgiveness, doing her best to forgive the sins of the Hutus who took part in the violence. This is apparent in one of the most striking scenes of the book, when after the genocide, she encounters one of the Hutus who was active in the violence in her village, and to the surprise of her friends, chooses to forgive him instead of approach him in a rageful manner, because she sees the sadness and remorse in his soul.In my opinion, by choosing to forgive, Immaculee demonstrated an extreme sense of maturity and long term thinking. She was aware that the whole situation was caused because of the ongoing hate between the two ethnic populations, and knew that adding to this hate would not make the situation any better. In the long run, it is not hatred for what has happened that will allow Rwandans to get past the atrocities of the genocide, but instead an acceptance that what has happened has happened and mutual forgiveness in order to assure that such an event does not occur again. If I were in Immaculee’s position, I would really like to show the same maturity, but I don’t think I would personally be able to forgive people who murdered pretty much my entire family.
In terms of determining who was responsible for the Rwandan Genocide, I don’t think it is possible to pick out a single person or entity as the cause. The genocide was stoked and continued by a variety of entities and forces, and only grew to the dimension of being such a large genocide because of the interplay of a variety of unfortunate conditions.
In my view, the only people who were completely innocent through the whole genocide were the Tutsis that were killed, and the Hutus who were sensible enough to not bow to the social pressure put on them by other Hutus to kill all the Tutsis. A good example for such a Hutu would be the pastor who offered Immaculee and several other women refuge in his bathroom, even though he also showed some negative characteristics by turning away other Tutsi women who came to him for refuge towards the end of Immaculee’s stay. The Hutus who took part in the genocide are of course not completely innocent, even if they were misled by the authorities and other Hutus who made them do what they do. While it does not entirely fall onto the international community to interfere in the internal business of Rwanda as a country, other countries were also to blame, as if they had acted early enough, the situation could have been thwarted. The UN later accepted the fact that a mere 5000 soldiers deployed at the offset of the violence would have scared the Hutu militia enough to thwart the wholescale murder that took place.