A Small Shower in the Desert

   •    March 2, 2005

This article was originally published by Scripps Howard News Service.

This past weekend, I saw “Hotel Rwanda,” one of this year’s Academy Award nominees. The film tells the story of the 1994 genocide, through a personal and true tale. It was a chilling experience, not just because the notion of genocide is impossible to comprehend, but also because of the connection I feel to that country after three visits.

During my time in that tiny Central African state, I met remarkable women like Geraldine Umugwaneza, who’s now at Harvard Law School. Her broad, gentle smile tells little of what she experienced in 1994, when historic social tensions erupted between Rwanda’s two ethnic groups: Hutus and Tutsis. A 100-day killing spree launched by Hutu extremists left 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus dead. Geraldine was only twenty years old when her mother and grandmother were buried alive in a pit latrine, her brother burned alive, and her 8 year-old sister murdered by extremists wielding machetes. When the killing stopped, she knew what she needed to do.

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