She was already in her 70s when she fled from her native region of Kinigi in the north of Rwanda. The war which in 1994 uprooted her from a neighbourhood she and her numerous relatives had occupied for several generations was led by Paul Kagame. The latter has been hailed by the like of Blair and Clinton to be among the so called “new breeds of visionary leaders” of Africa.
Goretti Nyiramahinja managed to walk seventy kilometres all the way from Ruhengeri through Gisenyi and on to Goma UN camp just running away from the advancing killing might of the Tutsi National Resistance Army/Rwandan Patriotic Front in June 1994. Until 1996 she had survived the harsh life of refugee camps. When her camp was bombarded by Rwandan Patriotic Army forces, she flew among the hundreds of similar old women who could not run any further into the jungles of RDCongo and were brutally murdered using old used hoes to knock their brains out of their skulls by Kagame’s men, sometime in the watchful docile face of the UN and other NGOs whose mission is normally to protect the vulnerable.
Kagame’s men killed many people whose real number will never be known. Today Nyiramahinja’s body may be one of those buried in huge mass graves in the Goma area of the DRCongo, found by the UN investigators. It has taken now sixteen years to acknowledge odious crimes committed against this old woman and others like her in hundreds of thousands, this hoping that the initial draft of the UN report does not disappear or simply be watered down. It wouldn’t be the first UN report to know a similar fate.
Western governments have individually or collectively been blamed for letting these savage carnages happen. But what people forget is that when the politicians in Europe or USA take oath to serve their people, they swear to uphold the interests of their countries. Their foreign policies and subsequent actions taken on the ground in Africa for example must suite the needs of their people and their interests. So if their interests are to loot or pillage Africa you cannot blame them because they are serving their peoples’ interests thus fulfilling their foreign policy. Nyiramahinja’s death could be understood under such perspective.
A serious problem arises when, in pursuing their interests and fulfilling their foreign policies in Africa, western powers are assisted by African intermediaries, the so called progressive leaders of the continent. The like of Yoweri Museveni and Paul Kagame make easy the work of external predators by fighting their wars, sharing the result of their hunt, and killing as many fellow Africans as they so wish to fight off any internal dissent and opposition.
How many people have died since 1981, in the Luwero and Rwanda wars or until today in the Congo wars carried out and supported by ‘enlightened revolutionaries’ Museveni and Kagame in the Great Lakes region of east and central Africa? Should we continue to blame the foreign politicians who are serving the interests of their people, or should Africans blame these stunt minded politicians who are instead slaughtering their own people?
I am certain that if Nyiramahinja had still been around, the question wouldn’t have been difficult to answer. Part of her extended family in Uganda died because of Museveni’s wars. Other members and people connected to her in the Ruhengeri and Byumba regions were killed during Kagame’s invasion of Rwanda. Probably none of her surviving relatives will ever know where to trace her remains. Will the yet-to-be published UN report on crimes committed in DRCongo at any time in the future restore some dignity to that old woman? This is an important question still pending about addressing ongoing and western backed impunity of political leaders of the Great Lakes region.