One Million Voices

Posted on November 8, 2012

I played “Million Voices” while sketching, so feel free to listen while reading:

3 Lunchbreaks

“Ni ryari izuba, Rizagaruka, Hejuru yacu,
Ni nd’ uzaricyeza ricyeza.”
(African Children’s Choir from “Million Voices”)

In 1994 it is estimated that “One Million” minority Tutsi people and their supporters were massacred in Rwanda. Children and women were specifically targeted. “Rape was the rule and its absence the exception”, is what the UN reported along with estimates of well over 250,000 Rwandese women and girls raped during the horrific 100 days of genocide.

UN commanders in Rwanda pleaded in vain for authorisation to intervene. The US vetoed a proposed international rescue. Many other governments around the world, with full knowledge of the acts of genocide taking place, refused to use the term ‘genocide’ (a word that would require action). Nigerian Wole Soyinka (Nobel Literature Laureate) pleaded that, “All notions of sovereignty with respect to Rwanda should be completely forgotten and we should just go in and stop the killing.

BUT … his voice was heard no louder by the world than the one million voices that were being silenced at the time he spoke.

Many people know the story of Paul Rusesabagina who saved over 1,000 people by providing shelter in the Hôtel des Mille Collines. He later reflected that, “In a sense things got better after the peacekeepers left … people realized no one was going to help them.”

Not many people know the story of Captain Mbaye Diagne, a young and unarmed peacekeeper from Senegal. Diagne refused to stand by as his armed UN colleagues surrendered their posts and weapons. He chose to defy UN orders and placed his life at great risk for the people of Rwanda. Diagne made numerous dangerous journeys alone to smuggle hundreds of Tutsi people to safety. His jeep was eventually hit by a stray mortar shell, sadly losing his life before he could save more.

There were many other brave people in Rwanda whose stories will never be heard. But as for most of us … “In their greatest hour of need, the world failed the people of Rwanda.” (Kofi Annan – Secretary General of the UN)

“When will the sun return above us?
Who will reveal it once again to us?”
(African Children’s Choir from “Million Voices”)

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