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Reflections On Life In The Great Lakes Region
BY DAVID ZAREMBKA
By weaving personal stories with historical narratives, A Peace of Africa explores how the Great Lakes region of Africa went from optimism at the time of independence to the conflict, corruption, wars, and genocide that have engulfed the region since then. David studied African History at Harvard, was with the peace corps in Tanzania, founded a school in Kenya and then was instrumental in introducing the Alternative to Violence Project (AVP) into Rwanda, Burundi, Kenya, and Congo (South Kivu). He currently lives with his Kenyan wife Gladys in Lumakanda in W. Kenya.
Madera Press 2011 322 PP. Paper
Review from Quaker Life
This particular American Quaker, David Zarembka, is in a unique position to write a primer for wazungu (Swahili for white people or foreigners). It is the real deal. After having lived and worked in Kenya for nearly 20 years, Zarembka has been able to write a clear picture of the political, social and economic landscape, the exotic and the highs and lows. So often we extend the assistance we think is needed but our good intentions amount to nothing because we are so ignorant of the culture into which we are insinuating ourselves. A Peace of Africa is a must-read for anyone, particularly Quakers, planning to work, volunteer or visit in East Africa.
The legacy of colonialism today still affects almost all aspects of African life. Zarembka describes the significance and origins of tribalism and land divisions that actually created ethnic states that today are a root cause of so much corruption and violence. Because Friends United Meeting was heavily involved with humanitarian relief during and after the 2008 post-election violence, we Friends should be particularly interested in learning more about why the violence targeted those that it did. After having led Friends Peace Teams in East Africa for so many years, Zarembka has been able to draw parallels to Europe, including the Third Reich. His theories about why some multi-ethnic countries survive and some do not are compelling.
In addition to sharing facts and figures, the author takes us on a moral/spiritual journey as he describes his work establishing the African Great Lakes Initiative (AGLI) for Friends Peace Teams. Included are many personal vignettes that help the reader understand how AGLI has been able to build a Peace Center in Kenya and establish throughout East Africa teams that teach the Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) and Healing Relationships in Our Communities (HROC). Their work and Zarembka's commitment is impressive. The reader is confronted with the horrors of ethnic cleansing as well as the many successes healing the victims as well as their attackers. The author's experiences leave many questions for missionaries. Clearly, A Peace of Africa would be an excellent selection for a book discussion group.
North American Friends who are led to work with farming projects in Kenya will be particularly interested in the extensive data about agriculture and rearing animals. Friends who are on finance committees need David's insight into the wide differences that exist between how Westerners and Africans think about money. American educators have little to no idea how different attitudes and practices in Africa are compared to those in the west. Even something like corruption, that we assume is frowned upon, is looked at through an entirely different lens in Africa. It was appalling to learn how much money the United States and other governments donate but how little they actually DO.
The lasting impression the reader is left with is David Zarembka's commitment to the Quaker Testimonies of Peace, Simplicity, Equality and Integrity. These values permeate his life, his work and this book.
Lake Worth, Florida
Posted by QuakerBooks on April 12, 2011 11:50 AM
From Genocide to Relief
The Rationale for Genocide
There was one little child, probably three years old, just big enough to walk. The others had gone ahead, and this little child was behind following after them. The little fellow was perfectly naked. I saw one man at a distance of about seventy-five yards, draw up his gun and fire — he missed the child. Another man came up and said, “Let me try — I can hit him.” He kneeled down and fired at the little child, but he missed him. A third man came up and made a similar remark, and fired, and the little fellow dropped.
Such is the reality of genocide. One can pray for the soul of this little boy who never had a chance in life. The totally innocent are slaughtered as if they are no longer human beings. In talking with many survivors of the Rwandan genocide that I know personally, the wedge between life and death was no more than some chance happening. Note that we only hear the stories of those who survived, as dead people tell no tales. A young Rwandan who was thirteen years old at the time of the genocide told me this story. At one point, he had on an oversized coat. An interahamwe (“those who work together,” youth militia who were responsible for much of the killing during the genocide) seized him by the back of the coat in order to kill him. He quickly shed the coat and ran through the forest with the interahamwe in fast pursuit. As he ran, another man who had been hiding in the forest became scared and ran. The interahamwe then ran after the other man and probably killed him. The boy was saved because someone else took his place.
Solange Maniraguha, one of the lead HROC facilitators in Rwanda, was also saved. On the first day of the genocide, the interahamwe attacked her house. They broke through the roof, entered, and killed her parents. Then the one who killed her parents turned to Solange and her sisters and said, “Run, run.” They ran. So the man who killed parents helped save her life. Surveys have found that most of the people who participated in the genocide felt that they had no other choice. In 2002, Scott Strauss, in The Order of Genocide: Race, Power, and War in Rwanda, interviewed 209 genocide perpetrators who were in prison. Before the genocide most of the perpetrators had had good relations with their Tutsi neighbors (positive 87%, “no problem” 11%, negative 2%). Almost all (99%) would have allowed their child to marry a Tutsi. This is not too surprising when one realizes that 69% had Tutsi family members. The 5% who were married to Tutsi wives or were hiding Tutsi were most reluctant, but felt forced to commit atrocities. Only a small percentage, perhaps 5%, were “true believers” and killed willingly. The largest percentage (64%) said that they were coerced by other Hutu to participate. If someone actively opposed the genocide, he was frequently killed himself. Most of the killings were done in large groups — 76% were in groups of over ten people. In other words, it was mostly mob killings.
What does one do when one’s government is the motivator and instigator in a plan to kill one’s neighbors, including perhaps one’s relatives? How many people have the moral strength to resist when there is a great possibility of being killed? Like everyone, I fantasize that I would have resisted, but that is in the comfort of my quiet study. Can anyone really predict how he or she would have responded in such an impossible situation?
What was the rationale behind all this senseless killing? The architect of the genocide, Theoneste Bagasora, with his extremist group called “Hutu Power,” had this underlying goal: If they could get all the Rwandan Hutus to participate in the genocide and exterminate all the Tutsi, then there would be a conspiracy of silence. This would develop into Hutu solidarity and their reign over Rwanda would be secure. Since everyone participated, everyone would be guilty. This is why they worked so hard to force people to participate. With this unity in crime, there would be total impunity for everyone. I think that this justification is one of the greatest horrors of the Rwandan genocide. Nazi Germany killed their millions of victims in concentration camps out of sight and sound from most Germans because Hitler, Himmler, and Goebbels did not want to upset the German population with direct knowledge of the magnitude of the Holocaust. Most Germans could claim that they did not really know what was going on — although I think that they had to be blinding themselves to the people missing around them. Others, of course, were willing participants.
At this point, I need to add a few words that I left out of the quote at the beginning of this section:
There was one little child, probably three years old, just big enough to walk through the sand. The Indians had gone ahead, and this little child was behind following after them. The little fellow was perfectly naked, traveling on the sand. I saw one man get off his horse, at a distance of about seventy-five yards, draw up his rifle and fire – he missed the child. Another man came up and said, “Let me try the son of a bitch; I can hit him.” He got off his horse, kneeled down and fired at the little child, but he missed him. A third man came up and made a similar remark, and fired, and the little fellow dropped.
This is from the testimony of Major Scott J. Anthony, First Colorado Cavalry before the United States Congress, House of Representatives, “Massacre of Cheyenne Indians,” in the Report on the Conduct of the War (38th Congress, 2nd session, 1865), page 27.
The extermination of the Native Americans in the United States and the marginalization of the few remaining Native Americans is the same rationale as that of the Hutu Power group in Rwanda. Although it took about three hundred years rather than one hundred days, there is today a conspiracy of silence in the United States about this genocide.
Peace of Africa Blog |
April 12, 2011 12:09 PM
April 12, 2011 12:09
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