The story of two UN officials and one hundred days of horror in Rwanda
The Triumph of Evil centres around two United Nations officials. One is a Rwandan who is accused, during the 1994 genocide, of having commandeered UN assets and having been involved in the killing of at least 32 people, including UN colleagues. The other is Charles Petrie, a French/British national, who with a small group of associates attempted to force the United Nations to bring this man to account for his actions.
The mixed medium book (part narrative and part graphic novel) is based on real life events. It uses eyewitness accounts to reconstruct the 1994 Rwandan genocide in which 850,000 people were massacred in one hundred days. It follows the main protagonist through repeated attempts to hold to account a UN colleague accused of being intimately implicated in that atrocity. And in doing so, it takes the readers through an account of the major international crises - from Sudan to the Congo, from Gaza to Myanmar - of the past 30 years.
While the focus of the tale is on the United Nations, it could have been just as easily set in the Vatican, as it tried to hide the emerging scandal of pedophile priests, or a Bush Administration White House trying to deny the evidence of torture in Abu Ghraib, or even closer still the double standards and growing disregard by some western populist governments for human rights and justice.
Ultimately, this is a story about systems, bureaucracies and free will. It is about individuals abrogating their sense of responsibility to the logic of institutions. This is a story about injustice and the insidious way in which evil triumphs. Evil triumphs by allowing time to diminish the significance of its acts, to the point where they seem almost banal. When individuals are eventually confronted by evil, it is cloaked in such a mantle of ordinariness that instead of acting, they can retreat into doing nothing.
2019 will be marked by commemorations of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Rwandan Genocide. The Triumph of Evil wishes to be a timely contribution to efforts to ensure that the experiences of the people who lived through (and died in) one of the greatest targeted assassinations of the second half of the twentieth century will be remembered. It resonates also with the commemoration of the seventieth anniversary of the signing of the Convention on Genocide - the mechanism that was to ensure that never again would such atrocities be tolerated by the international community.
One final note, however critical of the UN system this story may seem, the author has never lost his commitment to the values and principles of the UN. He continues to believe that an institution created to confront the scourge of war and to serve the peoples of the world has an essential role to play in today's uncertain world.
This project is supported by Aegis Trust, who provided exceptional access to the files of the Genocide Memorial in Kigali - including the initial footage of the video - and Momentum Productions, who produced the video.
The authors will donate one third of their profits from this book to the survivors' network Collectif des Parties Civiles pour le Rwanda (CPCR)
Days 31-40: Routine sets in
Tutsis in Kigali go into hiding. The southeast of the country is emptied.
This time the banging on the door was even more violent. By now Josette’s family had run out of money. The fact that her father was an employee of the UN no longer provided protection. Quite to the contrary, it implied wealth. The family had handed over possessions when the cash ran out, but now everything was gone.
When, the day before, Josette’s father had told the soldiers he had not even enough money to buy them a few beers, he had been badly beaten with rifle butts. Now he was lying on the living room couch in great pain, barely able to move.
Josette heard the pounding on the door from the back of the compound where she was hanging up the laundry. With laundry hanging from the line, a small bathhouse was hidden from view, and Josette quickly stepped into it.
From her hiding place, Josette saw the soldiers burst into the compound. She thought she recognized the person in the lead, but couldn’t in the moment situate who he was and where she had seen him. They shouted for everyone to come out of the house. Josette’s mother stepped out and was stabbed in the stomach with a bayonet. Josette’s younger sister, Esther, followed. A soldier swung his machete and severed her arm at the shoulder, so that it hung by her side by only a strip of flesh. She staggered around the compound in a state of shock.
Ignace finally made his way out. He pleaded to be allowed to look after his daughter, but the leader of the group had him held against the wall of the house and demanded that he surrender his UN radio and his gun. Ignace attempted to strike out at the soldiers but they beat him with clubs and the butts of their AK47s, and hacked him with their machetes.
When Esther stumbled to a position near the bathhouse, Josette grabbed her and pulled her into the hiding place. She snatched a piece of cloth from the washing line, tied it to Esther’s upper arm and tore away the flesh that had held the arm to her body. Delicately, Josette placed the arm on the ground. Dazed, Esther turned back towards the front of the house. “No, stay and hide with me,” Josette pleaded, but Esther refused to remain alive with her parents dead. She begged of Josette – “Afterwards will you bury my arm with the rest of my body?” – and then stumbled away.
Esther joined the rest of the family. Her mother looked up and screamed when she saw Esther returning. A soldier raised his club and crushed her mother’s skull. Ten members of the household aside from Josette and Esther remained alive - Alphonse, his wife and their three children, Clothilde and her daughter, and three cousins. The one in charge ordered his soldiers to arm their weapons and open fire. Ten more dead.
As they prepared to leave the compound, a soldier aimed his gun at Esther. “Don’t waste a bullet,” the leader said. “She will soon be dead.” Esther lay down among the bodies of her family.
When the group finally moved on to the next house, Josette remembered where she had seen its leader, and who he was.
After a little while one soldier came back alone. Esther raised her head and begged him to kill her. He fired a single shot.
Through all this, Josette lay crunched up in a ball against the inner wall of the outhouse. Her tears flowed, her body trembled, but she was silent. After a long period of quiet outside, she rose to her feet and, peering through the crack of the door, saw the bodies of her family, lying near the open gate.
Josette waited some more. Straining to listen, she heard some activity further along the street, but it was faint. When there was absolute silence, she made a dash for a gate at the back of the compound that gave onto the neighbour’s plot.
The gate creaked as she entered the compound, and a dog barked. The seven-year-old son of the neighbour came to the window. He spotted her and shouted “Cockroach! Cockroach!”
Josette ran to the gate of the compound and out into the street. Nobody seemed to have been roused by the noise. At one end of the street, a group of Interahamwe were grilling meat over a fire that had been lit in a ten-gallon drum. The other end of the street was empty. Hugging the wall with her back, Josette crept into the next compound. There was a light in the window of the house. She went to it and peered in. A man and woman whom she knew well were sitting around the table. Josette tapped on the windowpane. They looked up at her. There was a moment of hesitation. The man then got up, walked to the window and drew the curtains shut.
The Triumph of Evil –June 10
Tuesday, 11 June 2019
By day sixty day of the Genocide more than seven hundred thousand Tutsis and moderate Hutus had been killed.
In the very first days of June the Security Council was presented with the conclusions of the special mission that the Secretary General had sent to the region between 22 and 27 May, under the leadership of his Chief of Staff, Iqbal Riza. The report, the…
Triumph of Evil – June 3
Monday, 3 June 2019
On the very last day of May, Captain Mbaye was driving back to UN headquarters, when a mortar shell landed behind his jeep.
Shrapnel entered through the back window and hit Mbaye in the head, killing him instantly. The mortar had been one of the many fired by RPF forces at the Rwandan Army checkpoint.
Gromo made it to UN headquarters just as Captain Mbaye’s body arrived…
The Triumph of Evil – May 27
Monday, 27 May 2019
By day fifty of the Genocide some six hundred thousand Tutsis and moderate Hutus had been killed, and many others were in hiding.
On returning from his mission to Rwanda, the High Commissioner for Human Rights sent a report to the Security Council. He had travelled to Kigali and Byumba, and had spoken to representatives of both the interim government and…
Triumph of Evil – May 17
Monday, 20 May 2019
By day forty, while the world body argued over semantics, close to half a million Tutsis and moderate Hutus had been killed. More than a million people had been made homeless.
The efforts to produce a Presidential Statement in April had highlighted the differing positions on Rwanda and the political interests behind them. After the Presidency passed from New…
The Triumph of Evil – May 15
Wednesday, 15 May 2019
Florence was now sheltering eighteen people, and the conditions in her house had become intolerable. She made desperate telephone calls to the U.N. for help. And finally, in mid-May, Gromo Alex got the go-ahead from the UN to dispatch an armed personnel carrier to evacuate her. The operation was scheduled for the morning of 16 May. In total secrecy,…
The Triumph of Evil – May 7
Tuesday, 7 May 2019
By day thirty, approximately 300 thousand Tutsis and moderate Hutus had already been murdered.
It is only towards the last days of April that the UN Security Council received from the UN Secretariat the much-anticipated report on options for the UN mission. Following the withdrawal of the Belgian contingent, the UN mission was down from its initial 2500 men to 1700…
The Triumph of Evil - April 28
Sunday, 28 April 2019
By day twenty of the genocide more than one hundred thousand Tutsis and moderate Hutus - men, women and children alike - had been murdered.
Within the UN Security Council the mass killings were a continuing subject of discussion. The picture was confused. The long-awaited report from the UN Secretariat had yet to appear. The only information provided by the UN Secretariat…
The Triumph of Evil – April 21
Sunday, 21 April 2019
Working closely with Captain Mbaye, Gromo moved those Tutsi UN staff and their families who were located in the most isolated parts of the capital to the households of other UN staff. Florence took in a great many. Gromo was at pains to ensure that the houses were adequately supplied.
And then one morning, Gromo came to see Florence. He had trouble holding back his tears…
The Triumph of Evil – Florence Ngirumpatse
Wednesday, 17 April 2019
The days turned into weeks but the violence was far from dying down. The targeted political killings that dominated the first hours were supplemented by the frenzied involvement of the Hutu population in the murder of all Tutsis, whatever their politics. Day and night, there was the unrelenting sound of whistles, screams and shouts. It was now impossible…
Triumph of Evil – April 14
Sunday, 14 April 2019
Between day one and day ten of the Genocide more than thirty thousandpeople -Tutsis and moderate Hutus - had been killed.
In April 1994 the UN Security Council consisted of five permanent members (China, France, Russia, the UK and the US), five members who were starting their second year (Brazil, Djibouti, New Zealand, Pakistan, and Spain), and five new members…
Triumph of Evil – April 10
Wednesday, 10 April 2019
In those early days of the genocide, it couldn’t have been a simple matter to induce individuals to kill. Those many involved in the killings in Kigali were city dwellers, who would have had few opportunities to participate in the preparatory phase of the genocide. Interahamwe militia leaders would have had to keep a close eye on their men to ensure…
Triumph of Evil – April 7
Sunday, 7 April 2019
The event that triggered the Rwandan Genocide occurred between 20h00 and 21h00 on the evening of 6 April 1994. A Dassault Falcon plane carrying the Presidents of Rwanda and Burundi was struck just as it was making its final approach onto the runway of Kigali airport. The first surface-to-air missile tore off a wing. The second missile hit the tail. The plane burst into…
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