"J"ai rencontré le Lieutenant Général Charles Kayonga, Commandant en Chef de l’Armée rwandaise, par l’intermédiaire de ma fille qui sert dans l’unité de Tsahal qui l’a accueilli."
"Comme l’État d’Israël, les Rwandais pensent qu’ils ont un problème de sécurité unique, lié à la présence sur leur frontière avec le Congo de forces militaires hostiles dont le commandement est formé de nombreux miliciens qui ont perpétré le génocide et n’ont jamais été traînés en justice. "
"Paul Kagame, le Président Rwandais, qui a mis fin au Génocide en tant que commandant du FPR a toujours été un héros pour moi (…) Lorsqu’il est arrivé au pouvoir, il n’a pas pris de revanche contre les Hutu qui ont massacré les siens mais au lieu de cela il a institué une politique qui rend pratiquement illégal le fait de mentionner à nouveau l’appartenance ethnique Hutu ou Tutsi. Tous ceux à qui j’ai parlé m’ont dit qu’ils ne sont pas Tutsi ou Hutu mais Rwandais et qu’ils ne se soumettront plus jamais aux classifications arbitraires qui avaient été instituées par les colonialistes Belges."
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach
"In Rwanda the scars of death are much fresher than the German death camps of Poland. The survivors of the fastest genocide in human history are not octogenarians from my Jewish community but vibrant twenty and thirty-somethings. Each has soul-searing stories of entire families being dismembered by machetes, often by their own neighbors and family friends. The stories do not come naturally. Rwandans have not learned to easily talk about the horrors they experienced. It comes out only when they have learned to trust you. One guide drove us around for two days. As he left us at our hotel in Kigali, he suddenly said, "My grandparents, father, mother, brother, and sister were all killed. I was 14. I survived living in broken down homes that the Hutus were not searching." A few minutes later, he drove off.
Lt. General Charles Kayonga, Commander-in-Chief of the Rwandan army, whom I met through my daughter who is serving in the Israeli army and who is part of a unit who hosted him in Israel, witnessed the entire genocide as a young RPF officer stationed in Kigali. A soft-spoken man of probing intelligence and a deep listener, he is a hero who commanded a battalion that was surrounded by tens of thousands of Hutu killers yet still saved as many lives as he could. He told me that, given their experience, the Rwandans often see themselves as the Jews of Africa. Like the Jews of the holocaust, few nations cared that the Tutsis were being slaughtered. The United States and the United Nations were especially indifferent. President Clinton did not have even a single meeting with his senior staff through the three months of the genocide and refused to even destroy or block the RTLM radio antenna through which the genocide was broadcast. Kofi Annan forbade UN Peacekeeping Chief General Romeo Dallaire from taking any action that would prevent the genocide. Dallaire pleaded but Annan was resolute and ordered the bulk of UN peacekeepers out of the country. I discovered that the Rwandans are, like Israel, highly suspicious of the UN and especially the French whom, they argue, aided and abetted the genocide by training Hutu militiamen. Rwandan enmity toward the French continues till today.
I met several Rwandan youth who had never left the country but told me if they did the first country they would visit would be Israel, which seems to be something of a role model to Rwandans steeped in their recent history. And a group of New York Jewish philanthropists, led by Anne Heyman, established a breathtakingly beautiful youth village an hour outside Kigali called Agohozo Shalom which houses and educates hundreds of youth, many of them genocide survivors. The teenage genocide survivors I met there there told me they believe in ‘Tikun Olam,’ the Jewish commandment to repair the world, which they quoted in Hebrew.
Also, like the State of Israel, the Rwandans feel they have unique security concerns given malevolent military forces on their Congolese border whose commanders include many escaped militiamen who perpetrated the genocide and have never been brought to justice.
I felt an immediate and deep kinship with the Rwandan people, especially the survivors of the genocide. Having read many books on the slaughter, Paul Kagame, the Rwandan President who as commander of the RPF ended the genocide, has always been a hero to me. In the anti-genocide community Kagame is a man of towering stature. After seeing that the world was doing nothing to save his people, he launched a military offensive and methodically conquered the entire country, displaying a strategic genius that put an end to the genocide. When he came to power he did not take revenge against the Hutus who had slaughtered his people but instead instituted a policy making it virtually unlawful to even speak of Hutu-Tutsi ethnicity again. Virtually everyone I spoke to told me they are not Tutsi or Hutu but Rwandans and that they will never again submit to arbitrary classifications that were set up by Belgian colonialists."