African Lives: The dark side
Being a nice person was not a requirement for being included in my new anthology African Lives.
In his book Machete Season, the French reporter Jean Hatzfeld presented a perspective on the Rwandan genocide that is very rarely encountered. The book is largely an oral history of the killing from the point of view of the killers. Hatzfeld quotes from ten men who took part in the massacre of Tutsis in and around the district of Nyamata, south of Kigali. Many of the victims fled into the nearby papyrus swamps and were killed there. Jean-Baptiste Murangira, one of the killers whose words appear in Machete Season, was thirty-eight at the time, a civil servant married to a Tutsi woman who was spared during the genocide.
For African Lives, I collected the words of Murangira from different places in Machete Season to focus on one killer’s experience of the genocide.
We were on a path coming back from the marshes. Some youths searched the house of a gentleman named Ababanganyingabo. They frowned on him because this Hutu from Gisenyi was known to consort with Tutsis and might well lend them a hand. They discovered he had helped some Tutsis getaway their cows — behind his house, in a pen, I think. They surrounded the man and pinned him down helpless. Then I heard my name.
They called me out because they knew I was married to a Tutsi. The news about Ababanganyingabo’s fix was spreading, people were waiting, all fired up because they had been killing. Someone said to the audience: “Jean-Baptiste, if you want to save the life of your wife Spéciose Mukandahunga, you have to cut this man right now. He is a cheater! Show us that you’re not that kind.” This person turned and ordered, “Bring me a blade.” Me, I had chosen my wife for love of her beauty; she was tall and very considerate, she was fond of me, and I felt great pain to think of losing her.
The crowd had grown. I seized the machete, I struck a first blow. When I saw the blood bubble up, I jumped back a step. Someone blocked me from behind and shoved me forward by both elbows. I closed my eyes in the brouhaha and I delivered a second blow like the first. It was done, people approved, they were satisfied and moved away. I drew back. I went off to sit on the bench of a small cabaret, I picked up a drink, I never looked back in that unhappy direction. Afterward I learned that the man had kept moving for two long hours before finishing.
Later on we got used to killing without so much dodging around.