I have been to Nyamata
Author: Chipochedenga Mercy Jumo
Originally Published at Peace and Conflict Monitor on: 05/05/2004
I have been to Nyamata
And will forever carry the lingering smell of death, a repugnant reminder of the peace we take for granted back home, a reminder of how the world turned away as blood desecrated the soil that suatains life
I have been to Nyamata, to the church, a national shrine, riddled with bullets, stained with the blood of her children,
Believers razed as they huddled below the gentle virgin, the mother of peace
I was at Nyamata And walked through the vaults of death Tears streaming down my face as skeletal remains met the eye, mouldy heads with cavities, gaping in vindication, the last laugh, for they did not die in vain
I’ve been to Nyamata…
Where children breathe the rancid smell of human decay and cling to the iron bars separating them from death which glares at them daily, the sacred bones of their fathers, mothers, siblings, some their amputated limbs
I keep wondering what this exposure will do to these little minds that have already experienced so much in so few years.
Will seeing and living amongst corpses really teach our children Never Again or are we the so called development workers, human rights activists, government and international aid agencies experimenting with the children only to evaluate unforeseen results and go conferencing on the lessons learnt long after the damage has been done?
As terrorism winds its way around the world can the open graves of Rwanda be recommended for replication elsewhere with the hope that non burial teaches us the important message of how not to?
I am just thinking, just wondering
I’ve been to Nyamata…
I saw acres and acres of dusty mounds, each adorned with a cross, fields where Rwanda planted her children
I crossed rivers that once flowed of human bodies on their way to Lake Victoria.
I spoke with the unsung heroine, the living ghost of Nyamata, physically and spiritually scarred, maimed by horror, the woman who survived extermination twice buried and shielded by corpses of family and friends a week long at a time,
the one who was eaten alive by maggots and bears permanent scars on her face and leg, I remember her.
Will she ever see those stories told about her? If she does what other use than to rekindle a fire within her soul?
Her way of life is no better for the countless times she has lifted up her skirts for sympathisers to see the scars.
Just a dull pain private yet public of the interviews she has given about the husband and children she lost that day and the countless rapes that planted a seed of death in her body.
Have we have turned sacred places into museums with the affected peering through the fence as they do at Nyamata relegated to the margins of their own story?
The ceremony around the genocide worries me. I am wondering how much is spent in telling the story at expensive forums and in glossy publications. Would it make a difference to forego the pomp and ceremony, the aeroplanes, conferencing, hotels and cocktails, just this once, in respect of the dead
I thought I should tell you of the Dusty red soil roads of Rwanda
coloured by the blood of her children,
neighbours turned vile by war
killing and raping their own
Rwanda, how your womb wept and wrenched,
They preserve Nyamata, Rwanda’s vaults of shame yet hope for regeneration and healing, so mankind may remember, ‘never again!’
I went there, with sisters for peace who wept as if Nyamata had just happened and vowed to claim their place and raise their voices higher than the army generals and heads of states in discussions of war and peace
I have learnt from you Mary, you too Abdu that we are one. This is an important message. How do I bring Nyamata home so that like the children of Rwanda, being Ndebele or Shona becomes less central to our lives as Zimbabweans? I have also been wondering, maybe if ever, through bringing Nyamata to each personhere, and you to others,
the ghosts will be laid to rest and Nyamata will live in our memories and never happen again?
June 2000, field visit organized by the Women Partners for Peace in Africa (WOPPA) Conference in Kigali, Rwanda. The Central African Republic of Rwanda experienced an ethnic blood bath which claimed over a million people, displaced and maimed thousands in 1994.
Chipochedenga Mercy Jumo
 Chipochedenga Mercy Jumo
wrote this poem on her return from Nyamata, Rwanda (June