"The warmth of his tiny body snuggled against mine filled me with a peace and serenity that elevated me above the chaos. This child was alive yet terribly hungry, beautiful but covered in dirt, bewildered but not fearful. I made up my mind: this would be the fourth child in the Dallaire family. I couldn't save Rwanda, but I could save this child.
Before I had held this boy, I had agreed with the aid workers and representatives of both warring armies that I would not permit any exporting of Rwandan orphans to foreign places. When confronted by such requests from humanitarian organizations, I would argue that the money to move a hundred kids by plane to France or Belgium could help build, staff and sustain Rwandan orphanages that could house three thousand children. This one boy eradicated all my arguments. I could see myself arriving at the terminal in Montreal like a latter-day St. Christopher with the boy cradled in my arms...
That dream was abruptly destroyed when the young soldier, fast as a wolf, yanked the child from my arms and carried him directly into the bush. Not knowing how many members of his unit might already have their gunsights on us, we reluctantly climbed back into the Land Cruiser. As I slowly drove away, I had much on my mind.
By withdrawing, I had undoubtedly done the wise thing: I had avoided risking the lives of my two soldiers in what would have been a fruitless struggle over one small boy. But in that moment, it seemed to me that I had backed away from a fight for what was right, that this failure stood for all failures in Rwanda.
Whatever happened to that beautiful child? Did he make it to an orphanage deep behind the RPF lines? Did he survive the following battles? Is he dead or is he now a child soldier himself, caught in the seemingly endless conflict that plagues his homeland?
That moment, when the boy, in the arms of a soldier young enough to be his brother, was swallowed by a whole forest, still haunts me. It's a memory that never lets me forget how ineffective and irresponsible we were when we promised the Rwandans that we would establish an atmosphere of security that would allow them to achieve everlasting peace. It has been almost nine years since I left Rwanda, but as I write this, the sounds, smells, and colours come flooding back in digital clarity. It's as if someone sliced into my brain and grafted this horror called Rwanda frame by blood-soaked frame directly on my cortex. I could not forget even if I wanted to. For many years, I have yearned to return to Rwanda and disappear into the blue-green hills with my ghosts. A simple pilgrim seeking forgiveness and pardon. But as I slowly begin to piece my life back together, I know the time has come for me to make a more difficult pilgramage: to travel bcak through all those terrible memories and retrieve my soul...
...That mission, UNAMIR, failed. I know intimately the cost in human lives of the inflexible UN Security Council mandate, the penny-pinching financial mangement of the mission, the UN red tape, the political manipulations and my own personal limitations. What I have come to realize as the root of it all, however, is the fundamental indifference of the world community to the plight of seven to eight million black Africans in a tiny country that had no strategic or resource value to any world power. An overpopulated little country that turned in on itself and destroyed its own people, as the world watched and yet could not manage to find the political will to intervene. Engraved still in my brain is the judgment of a small group of beaurocrats who came to 'assess' the situation in the first few weeks of the genocide: 'We will recommend to our government not to intervene as the risks are high and all that is here is human.'"
Lt. General Romeo Dallaire, Force Commander of the UN Assistance Mission to Rwanda, 1993-1994 in his introduction to _Shake Hands With The Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda_.
The text below is from www.orphansofrwanda.org
"Centre Memorial de Gisimba (Gisimba Memorial Center)
The Gisimba orphanage, located in the Nyamirambo quarter of Kigali, is led by Damas Mutezintare Gisimba. Damas's father founded the orphanage in 1980 with 18 children living in one house. Damas took over in 1986 after the death of his father. During the genocide Damas sheltered over 400 children and adults in the small orphanage compound from the predations of the interahamwe [the Hutu paramilitary squads that carried out much of the genocide]. Though the orphanage was repeatedly menaced, Damas and his colleagues held their ground and did not give in to the genocidaires. He has been honored for his heroism by the Rwandan government and many other organizations.
The orphanage currently houses over 150 children. Ten years ago almost all were genocide victims, but many of the newer arrivals have been orphaned by AIDS. Because their parents were HIV+, a number of them are also infected."
PLEASE DONATE TO ORPHANS OF RWANDA: www.orphansofrwanda.org
Photo by Kresta King Cutcher, USA.