Rwanda Khan

'Never has humanity been more depraved than in Rwanda'
Title: The Shallow Graves of Rwanda
Author: Shaharyar M. Khan
reviewed by Rugambwa Bob Ukwishaka
New Times, Apr 28, 2007

This book is an account of post Genocide Rwanda by the first post war UN Secretary General's Special Representative to Rwanda, Shaharyar M. Khan, a Pakistani diplomat who arrived on July 4, 1994.

Deriving its name from the shoddy work of quick removal of visible evidence of murders by the killers by burying their victims in shallow graves, the book gives hindsight into the killings that rocked the country for a hundred days.

Shaharyar, gives a description of his first trip through Kigali with Gen. Dallaire, the nightmarish scenes of dead bodies and skeletons picked bare by dogs and vultures, the relentless efforts of the few medical teams to revive the injured who still had a chance at life, by taking you through King Faisal Hospital and the ICRC hospitals where some of the patients were left to die quietly.

With no kiosk selling a coke, or even a box of matches, he goes on to paint how the country came back to life, giving the reader a chance to appreciate the journey the country has moved so far.

With a completely dead economy, no infrastructure, human crises of disease, a high influx of refugees, fear of revenge killings by the locals who had been in the country before war, Shaharyar tries to relive his experience as a Special Representative tasked with securing the quick end of the civil war through the return of the cease fire that had been earlier signed.

From his arrival in Kigali, the state of affairs, no water, or electricity, or even infrastructure, Shaharyar drives you through the horror that reigned in places as Nyarubuye Church, a centre among the multitude of them, where massacres took place, and an unplanned meeting with its survivors, to the humanitarian crisis of fleeing refuges to Goma, in Congo after Kigali had fallen to the RPA, due to panic that was caused by the extremists telling the locals that the RPA was planning revenge killings.

The book gives an account of the so many claims of double Genocide and the turn of events in each accusation.

Through negotiations for talks, opposition from the RPA about negotiating with criminal elements thus dignifying them, the appointment of the Broad Based Government of National Unity, the visits by many dignitaries to Rwanda and the UNAMIR who were operating on a threadbare budget, the attempts to revive the economy as well as the whole country, Operation Retour, where refuges were urged through minister-addressed meetings to return home, the central government's complaints of rearming in the camps, thus need to forcibly close them, long negotiations of renewing the free evacuation of these IDPs to the forcible closure of IDPs citing insurgency activities in the camps.

The visit of the then UN Secretary General Boutros-Ghali to Rwanda, the changing attitude toward UNAMIR, the judiciary, and over crowded prisons, to the departure of the five government ministers from the transitional government, including the Prime Minister Faustin Twagiramungu, his comments about planned killings by the RPA, how by so doing he virtually confirmed the Garson report which he had vehemently contradicted merely eleven months back, their replacement, and on till his mandate expired.

As he completes his story, in a chapter he titled "The UN and Rwanda, What went wrong?" he closely examines whether or not Genocide could have been predicted, painting the international communities' failure to distinguish between civil war and genocide, failure to act on the telegram sent by Gen. Dallaire, leading to indictment of UN Bureaucracy, before he goes ahead to claim the UN played a heroic role in saving lives of harassed Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

He tells the story of UNAMIR's failure to peace-build that led to the initial stand off of the Rwandan government and eventual hostility towards UNAMIR 2.

He concludes by drawing lessons from peace-keeping mission in Rwanda, giving what lacked for an adequate mission in the troubled country, to help make more effective missions to other countries. 'The shallow graves of Rwanda,' is almost a personal dairy of Mr. Shaharyar, of his stay in Rwanda as the SRSG, but goes an extra mile to include a close examination of what could have been done and what should be done in future.

~ reviewed by Rugambwa Bob Ukwishaka ~




Jackie Jura
~ an independent researcher monitoring local, national and international events ~