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Reflections on a genocide

BMJ 1994; 309 doi: (Published 03 September 1994) Cite this as: BMJ 1994;309:614
  1. P Hall

    I had only to be escorted a few yards from the floor on which we spent our initial night in Rwanda to see my first massacre site. The languid senior information officer whom I had interrupted listening to the BBC World Service news at 6 am swung open the door, still holding the large receiver under his free arm, on to a small room where 17 Jesuit priests had been shot. Blood had sprayed on the walls and ceiling and there were empty cartridge cases among the blood soaked blankets on the floor. When, in my ignorance of equatorial Africa, I suggested that the adjacent burial pit looked too overgrown to be contemporary he shrugged and walked off. Within days we learnt to relax our usual caution over the veracity of allegations. The nature of what has happened in Rwanda, the sheer numbers, and the brazen openness of the atrocities mean that no one has any need to manufacture stories. Reports of massacres soon began to seem commonplace and it became the bizarre that continued to have an impact. We were told of the member of a death squad killer who refused to kill a little Tutsi girl. Why? Had this man not set himself the task of filling his latrine pit with bodies? Apparently once he had fulfilled his self imposed quota he lost interest in killing any more.

    The massacres in Rwanda began after the presidents of both Rwanda and Burundi were assassinated when their plane was hit by a missile as it was landing at Kigali airport. By 5 …

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