• PROOF:
  • March 31, 2014

Revisiting the Rwandan Genocide: Origin Stories From The Associated Press

Author
Pamela Chen

Photographer Jean-Marc Bouju was one of the first journalists to drive into Kigali, Rwanda twenty years ago this month, upon hearing of growing ethnic unrest in the area. It was unclear what was happening at the time, and there was no way of knowing that within the next 100 days, nearly one million people would be slaughtered with machetes and farm tools in what would become known as the Rwandan genocide.

Things seemed normal along the drive at first, Bouju recalls. But soon he began to encounter road blocks leading into the city, and he saw people separated into two lines: one passing through the station, the other leading behind it where, he describes, “you could hear the hacking sounds of machetes.” From there, it only became more horrifying.

A crowd of Rwandan refugees angered by the closing of the border run to the border bridge to force their way into Zaire, Sunday, Aug. 21, 1994.
A crowd of Rwandan refugees angered by the closing of the border run to the border bridge to force their way into Zaire, Aug. 21, 1994.
Photograph by Jean-Marc Bouju/AP

“What I saw was a vision of hell,” Bouju describes, “A particular hell where you have daily life going on, people shopping, but meanwhile other people are butchering each other right there in the same street. The nonchalance of death was astonishing. And I cannot get that out of my mind. To this day, I don’t understand it. But I left a little bit of my soul there somewhere.”

Left: The body of a man, who survivors say was a primary school teacher, lies beneath a blackboard drawing of Africa in a classroom at a school in Karubamba, May 13, 1994. Right: A Zairian soldier pushes back a Rwandan refugee from the Zaire-Rwanda border at Bukavu, Zaire, Aug. 24, 1994.
Left: The body of a man, who survivors say was a primary school teacher, lies beneath a blackboard drawing of Africa in a classroom at a school in Karubamba, May 13, 1994. Right: A Zairian soldier pushes back a Rwandan refugee from the Zaire-Rwanda border at Bukavu, Zaire, Aug. 24, 1994.
Photographs by Jean-Marc Bouju/AP

“Bouju was incomparable, relentless and courageous. And he had to work like this day after day for a very long time,” recalls Sally Stapleton, who was the Associated Press senior editor for Latin America, East and West Africa at the time. Stapleton oversaw the AP’s coverage of the genocide and established a new bureau in Kigali to continue the work of documenting the aftermath and reconciliation.

“Everybody in Rwanda had a story that was more unbelievable than the next. Rwanda got under my skin and it stayed there,” Stapleton says. She later resigned from the AP and returned to Kigali, where she joined forces with Rwandan organizations working to create the Great Lakes Media Center.

Today, the Center provides training for Rwandan journalists in the same country where local media incited and helped to organize mass killing two decades ago. “How can you wrap your head around the fact that in 1994 there were segments of the local media who used radio broadcasts and newspapers to call on people to kill, making the genocide as horrific as it was? Working with a group that is building up journalism education and credibility today makes a lot of sense to me,” she says.

Under Stapleton’s leadership, Bouju and three fellow photographers at the Associated Press were awarded the 1995 Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography for their coverage of the genocide. Bouju had been in the field the longest: he remained in Rwanda for six months, until he was relieved by a young freelance photographer from Iowa named David Guttenfelder.

Ethnic Hutu prisoners take shelter from the rain under a tin roof in the open courtyard of the crowded Kigali Prison in 1994. None of the prisoners had been officially charged, though all been accused of involvement in the mass slaughter.
Ethnic Hutu prisoners take shelter from the rain under a tin roof in the open courtyard of the crowded Kigali Prison in 1994. None of the prisoners had been officially charged, though all been accused of involvement in the mass slaughter.
Photograph by David Guttenfelder

Guttenfelder had previously lived in Africa as a student studying Swahili and anthropology at the University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania. He returned to the United States and was working at the Iowa City Press Citizen as a photographer when he saw Bouju’s images from Rwanda coming across the wire. “Refugees were streaming across the border into Tanzania into the city where my university roommate lived. I remember thinking if there was ever a time to work on something and someplace I really cared about, this was it.” He quit his job and headed back to Africa.

A man tries to unlock a cell door at a hospital in Kigali, Rwanda in 1994. As the genocide spread across the country, doctors and staff of the main psychological hospital in Kigali fled or were killed leaving the patients to care for themselves.
A man tries to unlock a cell door at a hospital in Kigali, Rwanda in 1994. As the genocide spread across the country, doctors and staff of the main psychological hospital in Kigali fled or were killed leaving the patients to care for themselves.
Photograph by David Guttenfelder

“I had only ever seen one dead person before I went to Rwanda. And there I saw thousands in one church alone. It was a very shocking beginning to my career, which became one of covering conflict and post-conflict societies ever since,” said Guttenfelder, who is now the chief Asia photographer for the AP.

“I became a journalist as a reason to go to Africa. I was just starting out and my work there was completely inconsequential,” Guttenfelder says. “Now I am revisiting this place 20 years later, to see for myself what it is like today. I’m essentially returning to the first day of my career to try to piece some of my memories together.”

He adds, “Back then there was no email, no mobile phones and we had to transmit twice a day, every day. I was shooting film, and one night there was no power in the hotel, so I drove my car around the mountains with the window down, holding the film developing spools out to dry them for scanning. And now I’m going back and covering this story for National Geographic on my iPhone and posting to Instagram on Rwanda’s local 3G network: it is quite a difference.”

 

David Guttenfelder and National Geographic staff writer Peter Gwin are returning to Kigali to document the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide for National Geographic. They will share their insights here on PROOF in the upcoming days.

There are 34 Comments. Add Yours.

  1. agi
    April 17, 2014

    there is no ‘other”…the belief in racial difference between two creates an ongoing state of tension within the relationship. there is one race, the human race

    • susan price
      April 17, 2014

      I agree. There is only one race – the rest is ethnicity, which is a fairly subjective concept. Did anyone see the documentary on PBS about CoExist? It was, I think, a fairly honest description of Rwandan’s feelings about reconciliation 20 years on.

  2. Paulo Celso
    April 11, 2014

    the last Elias are coming…

  3. Sam Rawal
    April 6, 2014

    You should some day write about the genocide of the Kashmiri Pandits in Kashmir Valley. No one talks about this genocide in India because they were not a vote bank. They were an ethenic minority and were butchered, raped and maimed by the muslim majority. It is extremely sad that no one writes or talks about them. This happened way back in 1989-90. I would recommend a book by the former governor of the state to understand the nuances better. It is called My Frozen Turbulence in Kashmir by Jagmohan.

  4. Seda
    April 4, 2014

    It’s so sad … and also the armenian genocide :(

  5. Christina Hwang
    April 4, 2014

    @Deus Great comment! I think basically we agree on the point that the solution to such problems is to rethink our definition of “the other” and carry out such respect for “the other” at the most basic level. Then we can talk about help and stop the problem at its root! We wishfully think we are civilized!

  6. Deus
    April 2, 2014

    “Why didn’t the civilized world intervene? … I am ashamed that the world cup in USA went on! … Blame the white!!! … Shame on the ones who let it happen!!! …”
    With all due respect to those I quote, much of the commentary is utter non-sense! In my view, at its best this patronizing self-pity serves to cover-up for inaction and at its worst, is the source to the attitudes (nurtured in ignorance and arrogance) that contributed to some extent to the 1994 tragedy and which stands ready to take all of us back into Mr Boujou’s Vision of Hell at the first propitious setting; this time around killers might not be Hutus and the hunted, the Tutsis but it might well be Banyamurenge Vs Babembe, Baganda Vs Banyarwanda, … never heard of these? … What about Sunni Vs Shia or Arabs Vs Jews … or Hispanics Vs Caucasians … and machetes will very well be traded for AK-47 or AK-12 or M-16 or Anthrax or … something currently under development.
    The genocide was not a one off in our country; it was the top of the iceberg! And for those talking of an intervention of the “civilized world” in 1994, it would have been most effective had it happened … in 1898 (first German in Rwanda, “as a civilized colonizer”) and then in 1959 (first massacres of “Tutsi” Rwandans), and then 1963, and then 1973, and then …

    I think the world should simply learn a lesson and move on (which clearly is what the world is NOT doing with such an effective UN) and I also think in this regard Mrs Stapleton provides an example to follow. Another hint would sound like “Do something, anything, anywhere, starting in your homes and neighborhoods”!
    Any honest citizen in the “Civilized world” deserves all the comfort he worked so hard for and he certainly doesn’t owe a dime to anybody! … In fact the world would be a far better place if the “civilized world” didn’t feel so compelled to intervene in the world at all, whatever the motives; whether for “missions civilisatrices” or national interests, human, apes, whale rights …etc!

    When the basic sense of respect for the other and the other’s way of life is secured then can begin the task to secure dignity for anyone as he chooses! But until then I’d encourage everyone to be honest with oneself and accept the fact that the “technically advanced” world under us is not as civilized as acclaimed … it’s rather a dense and spiky jungle … which ironically grows even thicker as the trees retreat.

  7. MARGARITA OLVERA RAMÍREZ
    April 2, 2014

    Que dolor en el corazón, ver esas escenas….:-(

  8. Madhumita
    April 2, 2014

    How many deaths will it take till he knows, too many people have died….

  9. Clark
    April 2, 2014

    Just say it – blame white, right-handed, middle aged men from Western countries for “letting it happen.” Damned if you do or don’t intervene. While you people talk of watching humans be so cruel, you fail to realise part of the cruelty is your tacit observance. It plays out across the world every day and has for 30000 years. Accept you are human, accept you are unable to do anything but watch, and your Westernized guilt and need to blame will fade away. It’s all just humans being human.

  10. LUNA
    April 1, 2014

    monstruoso… los seres humanos somos la peor plaga del mundo, y la destrucción de la vida misma.

  11. zolile
    April 1, 2014

    forgiveness is only way to control our life

  12. Georgios Paroglou
    April 1, 2014

    I remember the summer of 1994, soccer world cup in the U.S on TV…Sweden did well they went to the semi finals and won the bronze medal…Media knew what was going on in Rwanda, but they didn’t want to report anything from Rwanda in order not to destroy the Swedish peoples happiness and psychology with the success of the Swedish national team…Sweden with its Nobel price, Sweden with its humaniora…but I guess all of the rich nations in northern hemisphere acted like the Swedes in the name of Protestantic & Evangelistic Capitalism.

  13. Larry Downs
    April 1, 2014

    It has always amazed me that the “advanced nations” of the world can pick and choose the tragedies in which they intervene. Even more amazing is the pitiful rate of success that are the result of these choices. The weakest of our world’s citizens are left to cower before their fate. Their bony arms trying to protect them from the blows of rifle butts, form the stones flung at them by their neighbors and the cold against which they have no shelter.Our nations and the various organizations that have been formed to insulate us from blame for not interceding where we should and enabling us to interrupt where we shouldn’t have the nerve to keep statistics on these horrors. How many of the “decision makers” at The U.N. or its member nations have ever seen these atrocities up close…felt the splash of another human’s blood against their clothes or skin as they are slashed and shot or run bleeding the last of their life as sprays from severed limbs. Perhaps those with the power to intercede need to be witness to actions such as this.

  14. Bertha M
    April 1, 2014

    It’s so tragic that the ones who carried out such deeds can still be regarded as human beings. Very heartbreaking indeed, but do people learn from their mistakes and/or the mistakes of others? I certainly hope so, especially with tribalism still being rampant in different parts of Africa.

  15. Ashok Manvati
    April 1, 2014

    http://youtu.be/6YIYeR3pI20 …….
    Link to the above site. You will have a glimpse of ethnic cleansing of about one million Kashmiri Pundits – aboriginal inhabitants of Kashmir, who have been brutalized and exiled from there ancestral land by extremist Islamic zealots in the year 1990; and the world remained silent. Vote politics is eating into the humane behavior of the human beings. So sad… be it in Rwanda, Ethiopia, Syria, Egypt, Afghanistan or any other place.

  16. meltem
    April 1, 2014

    shame of human, shame of world leaders

  17. Mark Baakliny
    April 1, 2014

    Humanity…

  18. Christina Hwang
    April 1, 2014

    The world is always full of people who think one is better than the other. So in this way, we have our whole systems and extends this rule to abuse. Maybe in this case, someone may think these people wait for enlightenment and education can solve the problem. But for the moment, education mostly gives justification to “class. We can only solve problems by firstly admiting our problems, scrutinizing and correcting them in our everyday life and then trying to reach out to others. What about a banker who is full of tricks donates millions a year? You causing suffering on one side and try to use profit from this to stop miseries on the other? But in reality we have liked people of this kind and call them “shrewd”!

  19. Nabiul Karim
    April 1, 2014

    Civilization under Capitalism & Democracy,where open market policy is the most precious ornament

  20. Jon Peterson
    April 1, 2014

    Jean-marc as a single journalist may have been unable to see the coming genocide, but the UN mission had been predicting it for some time, and was ignored by everyone. Non-interventionists should all read the history of these events.

  21. Stuff
    April 1, 2014

    No Susan Price we certainly do not.

  22. Videlis
    April 1, 2014

    Never again should the people of Rwanda shed blood but celebrate each day for the peace they enjoy

  23. Margaretha Western-Brounts
    April 1, 2014

    I am ashamed, as a person and for the people, like myself, who lived in peace and luxury, without starting a pressure group to try to help or tty influence the UN to protect the vicyims.

  24. Noonski
    April 1, 2014

    Peace

  25. Ram Nandwa
    April 1, 2014

    The world should have learned” whats happening to Syria. innocent people are dieying while we watch…

  26. Noonski
    April 1, 2014

    I want to help how can I help

  27. Mariami
    April 1, 2014

    So sad and heartbreaking :(

  28. muyiwa ekundayo
    April 1, 2014

    Just as it was in rwanda 2 decades ago,it’s happening in CAR. When will the world wake up to their responsibilities and put a stop to this horrific man cruelty to his fellow man.

  29. CARINA
    April 1, 2014

    INCREDIBLE!!! HOW HUMANITY CAN DO THIS?

  30. jesby
    March 31, 2014

    So is it true that Nick Hughes is the only person who managed to photograph a murderer in the act?

  31. kophyu
    March 31, 2014

    good

  32. susan price
    March 31, 2014

    The world is to blame for what was allowed to happen in Rwanda. It breaks my heart that the troops sent in to evacuate Europeans could have stopped the genocide in the early days, but member states of the UN had no “interests” in Rwanda, and did everything they could to not call what was happening by name. The blame certainly lies with the perpetrators, but the civilized world shares in that blame.

  33. AP Hovasse
    March 31, 2014

    At that time I was a supervising photo editor for the AP at the London desk which is where Jean Marc was filing his photos. Before and after filing, we would chat, and I’ll never forget my conversations with Jean-Marc. Our conversations were in French and I recall him trying to explain how dangerous it was for him but that he kept going out anyways. He saw many horrific scenes taking place in front if him, but the simple act of lifting his camera to take photos would have cost him his life. I remember urging him to be cautious and admiring how brave he was. I’ve never forgotten his courage in what was an insane situation. Later I also got to know David Guttenfelder when he was just starting out with the AP in Africa.

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