29. TALKING WITH TITO
On Wednesday morning - our departure day from Rwanda - Bob and Amani went downtown to shop for Rwandan coffee, tea, and must-have souvenirs while Cecile and I went to interview one of Rwanda's living legends - Tito Rutaremara.
In the photo above we're in the hotel lobby before setting out.
In my reading on the Rwandan Genocide I had come across Tito Rutaremara's name many times because he was the political founder of the Rwandese Patriotic Front (RPF). He steered the organization of the Tutsi refugees in Uganda and throughout the Diaspora into a cohesive unit and helped define their goal of "one Rwanda for all Rwandans". He was inspirational in giving the soldiers of the RPF an understanding of what it was they were fighting for.
Tito Rutaremara is presently the Ombudsman for the Republic of Rwanda and so we got the taxi to drop us off at his government office, which is across the street from Village Urugwiro where President Kagame has his office, and where we'd attended the reception on Liberation Day.
We went upstairs and down the hall to his office and after introductions from Cecile, who has visited Tito before, we sat with him in his comfortable meeting room.
I told Tito, who is so relaxing to be around that you can't help but address him by his first name, that I had read about him eight years ago in Paul Gourevitch's book WE WISH TO INFORM YOU THAT TOMORROW WE WILL BE KILLED WITH OUR FAMILIES and a few months ago in Colin Waugh's book PAUL KAGAME AND RWANDA and just that past week in Linda Melvern's book A PEOPLE BETRAYED, which I had bought in the lobby of the Kigali Genocide Memorial the day after our arrival in Rwanda. He was familiar with the first two books but hadn't yet read the latter.
I told him that in A PEOPLE BETRAYED Melvern said that he, Tito, was in Kigali the day the genocide started and that he had warned Colonel Bogosoro that if the slaughter of civilians did not stop then the RPF would attack. Tito nodded his head in agreement and said "And we DID attack."
Tito described how he'd been with the 600 RPF soldiers in the Kigali RPF Headquarters, the CND building (the vacated parliament building of the previous regime), when the Civil War resumed. He described mortars hitting the building, the damage of which I'd witnessed myself in a visit to the building (which is still in use but no photos allowed). We talked a bit about General Dallaire, he being a Canadian and myself being a Canadian. Tito had nothing against General Dallaire but believed he and his forces could have done more to protect the victims of the slaughter.
He told me he had read the Rwanda writings on my "Orwell Today" website and so I gave him a T-shirt and asked him if he'd like to see the book I'd compiled of those writings:
In the photo above I'm showing Tito a picture of himself which is on the webpage about him. See RWANDA RWIGEMA'S HERO RUTAREMARA.
After sitting back down on the couch beside Cecile, I told Tito how impressed I was with the heroic role his Rwandese Patriotic Front had played in the recent history of Rwanda, and how without the RPF soldiers Rwanda would not be the country it is today, because the genocide would have been successful and those who had committed the genocide would be the ones in power. Tito said the credit for stopping the genocide belonged in large part to Paul Kagame, the military brains behind the maneuvers.
Then Tito said that what had happened in Rwanda could happen anywhere in the world where corrupt governments exist.
That's when I started to cry a little bit because I was thinking to myself that if my country, Canada, was ever attacked by an enemy, there would be no army to come to our defense. Tito and Cecile wondered what was wrong and soon I got control of my emotions and stopped crying. Then I told them what I had been thinking.
I explained that in our vast country of Canada, into which would fit literally thousands of Rwandas, we had a meagre population of only thirty-two million people and that our small army was stretched beyond its limit fighting never-ending United Nations wars in places like Afghanistan. Meanwhile, we were being destroyed from within by foreign take-over of our resources and manufacturing industries and immigration from Communist China. I explained that our government is handing us over on a silver platter to enemies of democracy. In other words, Canada is being colonialized, just as Rwanda had been colonialized way back in its history. Rwanda was going forward into independence while Canada was going backward into slavery.
I hadn't meant to unburden myself about my worries for the future of Canada onto Tito's shoulders but I couldn't help it. He's such a good listener and so kind-mannered that I found it hard not to seek his understanding, and I think he did understand.
Then it was time to go because I would be flying out of Rwanda in a couple of hours and we had to get back in time to finish packing and check-out of the hotel. Tito walked us down to the end of the hall and I asked him to pose with me for a picture, which he obligingly did:
Then before leaving the lobby downstairs, I posed for a picture under the official photo of President Kagame, which is, I think, a good picture to end the Rwandan trip on:
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