Rwanda is located in East Central Africa, nestled between Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It is a land- locked nation with beautiful rolling hills, green pastures and plentiful rainfall. A small nation in terms of land mass, Rwanda would fit easily into the space of Ireland with room to spare. Yet with a population of almost 10 million people, it boasts the highest population density on the African continent.
In April 1994, the people of Rwanda suffered a tragedy of momentous proportions - while the world stood by and watched it happen. Over the course of only 100 days, a stupefying 1,000,000 innocent fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, aunts, uncles, grandmothers, grandfathers, young and old alike were slaughtered. They were hacked to death with machetes and nail-studded clubs. They were shot dead with guns. They were beaten, tortured, abused and left to die. Many of the women and girls who were not killed were forcibly and violently sexually assaulted by HIV+ men as part of a systematic rape campaign which used the deadly potency of the AIDS virus as a tool of slow death.
During this terrible slaughter of the innocent, more than 6 men, women and children were murdered every 60 seconds of every hour of every day. This brutally efficient pace was kept up for more than 3 months.
The genocide affected all corners of Rwanda as the interahamwe, or killers, rampaged through the cities, villages and countryside. The interahamwe were deliberately sent to slaughter in regions of Rwanda far from their own homes so that they would be less likely to meet with friends or neighbors … and would therefore be less inclined to show mercy or hesitancy during the massacre.
The weapons of choice for the killers were machetes and nail-studded clubs called masus. Although some were killed by guns and bullets, the majority of victims were brutally beaten and hacked to death by roving gangs of hunter-killers.
The interahamwe used rape as a tool of genocide. They carried out a violent programme of paying HIV+ positive men to rape women and girls, so that those not butchered by the machete or club would face execution by disease. An estimated 11% of all females, or approximately 535,000 women, living in Rwanda at the time of the genocide were victims of this rape campaign.
During the course of the rape campaign, an average of 4 women were violently sexually assaulted, most of them by HIV+ men, every minute of every hour of every day for 100 consecutive days.
More than 67% of women who were raped in 1994 during the genocide are now facing death from AIDS. Sixteen years on from the genocide, these victims are still succumbing to the cruelty of their executioners.
As a direct result of the 100 days of death and violence in 1994 there are more than 60,000 widows living in Rwanda, caring for more than 200,000 orphans … … many of whom will be orphaned a second time as their adoptive mothers die from HIV and AIDS.
There are currently 250,000 children in Rwanda who have been orphaned as a result of HIV/AIDS. Otherwise stated, 2.5% of the total Rwandan population are orphans whose parents died from AIDS.
Rwanda faces major economic difficulties as a direct result of the mass killings of 1994. It has a serious lack of educated and skilled professionals, individuals with the training and knowledge to run companies or government infrastructure. The United Nations Development Programme estimates that 60% of the population of Rwanda live below the poverty line.
The human life expectancy in Rwanda is low by modern standards: Female: 58 years Male: 55 years The median age in the coutry is just 18 years old
SURF cannot change what happened in Rwanda in 1994. It can however address the circumstances and challenges caused by the genocide and make life much more bearable for the survivors. SURF exists to rebuild a sense of self and trust in humanity among the survivors of the Rwandan genocide.
Survivors Fund 12 Rickett Street London SW6 1RU www.survivors-fund.org.uk