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08.10.2008 Feature Article

Let`s pray against 'Sometimes in April'…as Ghana goes to the polls

Come December 7, 2008, millions of Ghanaians will again go to the polls to choose among the candidates presented by the various political parties, whom they deem fit to serve and not to rule them as a people.

Under normal circumstance, one would expect this to be a simple task for any well-meaning Ghanaian to perform.

However, unfolding events in these few months to the elections raise a lot of questions as to whether or not Ghanaians will become more united or divided after the elections due to the uneasy calm hovering across the length and breadth of the country.

Various media reports of violent clashes among supporters of the various political parties and beating of war drums by some politicians seems to be giving some level of room for this speculation.

I am therefore writing this article of emotions to let all Ghanaians know how much we cherish with no mean our small country of diverse cultures and different people, with specific reference to the breath-taking HBO movie titled 'Sometimes in April'.

The very day I watched that movie, I wept and prayed that 'God forbid' the ugly horrific scenes I saw should never find space and time in Ghana.

I therefore fervently pray that each and every Ghanaian, no matter one's position should grab a copy of this movie to come to terms with the message I'm trying to send across.

It will thus not be too much of a demand to ask those beating war drums to be cautious of their activities since 'God forbid' they could plunge the entire nation into chaos.

Probably, they might have forgotten that we have only one Ghana and nothing else and for that matter we can't risk our lives for 'mere' intellectual exercise.

No! That will obviously be a big shame for Ghana, a country that so-much pride itself as a beacon of democracy in not only the West-African sub-region but the entire Africa, a continent struggling to make amends with its past.

For me, the experience of Rwanda alone and not to even talk about the equally dreadful and sorrowful experience of neighbouring Ivory Coast, Somalia and the Darfur region of Sudan is enough for Ghanaians to learn from in order not to chart that tortuous course of grieve and pain.

That nerve-racking experience of Rwanda evokes passion and emotions considering the innocent lives it claimed and I do know for sure that the always peaceful and fun-loving Ghanaians will not want to go that way.

I even doubt how many Ghanaians have a passport, let alone can afford to purchase an airline ticket to travel outside the country 'God forbid' if there is an outbreak of violence after the declaration of the election results.

My piece of advice to every Ghanaian, especially followers of these political parties is that most or virtually all the politicians they claim to be fighting for can afford to fly their families outside the Ghana, leaving the rest of us to battle our fates out.

Therefore, as the Akans will say 'se wonim owuo hwe nna', literally meaning, if you have not seen a dead person before, just take a look at a man sleeping.

This should tell each and every Ghanaian on whose backs these politicians rise to power that when trouble is looming, it is never heralded by a flag, probably that of Ghana.

I take solace in a statement once made by Martin Luther King Jnr “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

In April 1994, one of the most heinous genocides in world history began in the African nation of Rwanda. Over the course of 100 days, close to one million people were killed in a terrifying purge by Hutu nationalists against their Tutsi countrymen. This harrowing HBO Films drama focuses on the almost indescribable human atrocities that took place a decade ago through the story of two Hutu brothers - one in the military, one a radio personality - whose relationship and private lives were forever changed in the midst of the genocide. Written and directed by Raoul Peck (HBO Films' “Lumumba”), the movie is the first large-scale film about the 100 days of the 1994 Rwandan genocide to be shot in Rwanda, in the locations where the real-life events transpired.

HBO describes the movie as both “an edge-of-the-seat thriller and a chilling reminder of man's incomprehensible capacity for cruelty”.

'Sometimes in April' is an epic story of courage in the face of daunting odds, as well as an exposé of the West's inaction as nearly a million Rwandans were being killed. The plot focuses on two brothers embroiled in the 1994 conflict between the Hutu majority (who had ruled Rwanda since 1959) and the Tutsi minority who had received favored treatment when the country was ruled by Belgium. The protagonists (both Hutus) are reluctant soldier Augustin Muganza (Idris Elba), married to a Tutsi and father to three, and his brother Honoré (Oris Erhuero), a popular public figure espousing Hutu propaganda from a powerful pulpit: Radio RTLM in Rwanda.

The drama is set in two periods, which unfold concurrently: In April 1994, after the Hutu Army begins a systematic slaughter of Tutsis and more moderate Hutus, Augustin and a fellow Army officer named Xavier, defying their leadership, attempt to get their wives and children to safety. Separated from his wife Jeanne and their two sons (whom he entrusts to the care of his reluctant brother), Augustin gets caught in a desperate struggle to survive. Barely escaping the purge, he's haunted by questions about what happened to his wife, sons and daughter (who was a student at a local boarding school). In 2004, looking for closure and hoping to start a new life with his girlfriend Martine (who taught at his daughter's school), Augustin visits the United Nations Tribunal in Arusha, where Honoré awaits trial for the incendiary role he and other journalists played in the genocide. In the end, through an emotional meeting with Honoré, Augustin learns the details of his family's fate, giving him closure and, perhaps, hope for happiness in the future.

Below is a run-down of the turn of events at the time which has a lot of lessons in stock for Ghanaians to learn from: April 6, 1994 President Habyarimana and Burundian President Cyprien Ntaryamira are killed when the Rwandan leader's plane is shot down as it is about to land at Kigali Airport. Hutu extremists opposed to the Arusha Peace Accords are believed to be behind the attack.

Day 1-estimated death toll 8,000

April 7, 1994

The Rwandan Armed Forces (FAR) and Hutu militia (the Interahamwe) set up roadblocks and go from house-to-house killing Tutsis and moderate Hutu politicians. 10 Belgian UN peacekeepers are killed. UN forces, unwilling to breach their mandate, fail to intervene.

April 8, 1994 The Tutsi Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) launches a major offensive to end the killings and rescue 600 of its troops based in Kigali under the Arusha Accords.

Day 4, estimated death toll, 32,000

April 9-10, 1994 French, Belgian and American civilians are rescued by their governments. No Rwandans are rescued.

April 11, 1994 At the Don Bosco school, protected by Belgian UNAMIR soldiers, the number of civilians seeking refuge reaches 2,000. That afternoon, the U.N. soldiers are ordered to withdraw to the airport. Most refugees are killed after their departure.

April 15, 1994 Belgium withdraws its troops from the U.N. force after ten Belgian soldiers are slain. Embarrassed to be withdrawing alone, Belgium asks the U.S. to support a full pullout. Secretary of State Christopher agrees and tells Madeleine Albright, America's U.N. ambassador, to demand complete withdrawal. She is opposed, as are some African nations. She pushes for a compromise: a dramatic cutback that would leave a token force in place.

Day 8, estimated death toll: 64,000

April 16, 1994 The New York Times reports the shooting and hacking to death of some 1000 men, women and children in a church where they sought refuge.

April 19, 1994 Human Rights Watch estimates the number of dead at 100,000 and calls on the U.N. Security Council to use the word “genocide.” Belgian troops leave Rwanda; Gen. Dallaire leader of the ill-fated U.N. Security Council is down to a force of 2,100. He will soon lose communication lines to outlying areas and will have only a satellite link to the outside world.

April 21, 1994 The UN cuts the level of its forces in Rwanda by 90% to just 270 troops. Day 18, estimated death toll: 144,000

April 30, 1994 The U.N. Security Council passes a resolution condemning the killing, but omits the word “genocide.” Had the term been used, the U.N. would have been legally obliged to act to “prevent and punish” the perpetrators. In one day, 250,000 Rwandans, mainly Hutus fleeing the advance of the Tutsi RPF, cross the border into Tanzania.

Day 21, estimated death toll: 168,000

May 17, 1994 The UN Security Council issues a fresh resolution saying that 'acts of genocide may have been committed'. It also agrees to send 5,500 troops with new powers to defend civilians, however deployment is delayed by disagreements between the US and UN over the financing of the operation.

Day 41, estimated death toll: 328,000

May 22, 1994 RPF forces gain control of Kigali airport and Kanombe barracks, and extend their control over the northern and eastern parts of Rwanda.

Day 49, estimated death toll: 392,000 June 22, 1994 With arguments over the deployment still continuing, the Security Council authorizes the deployment of French forces in southwest Rwanda—”Operation Turquoise.” They create a “safe area” in territory controlled by the government. However, killings of Tutsis continue in the safe area.

Day 77, estimated death toll: 616,000

July 4, 1994 The RPF takes control of Kigali and the southern town of Butare. Its leadership claims it will form a government on the basis of the Arusha Accords.

July 13-14, 1994 Refugees fleeing the RPF advance in northwestern Rwanda flood into Zaire. Approximately 10,000-12,000 refugees per hour cross the border into the town of Goma. The massive influx creates a severe humanitarian crisis, as there is an acute lack of shelter, food and water.

July 18, 1994 The RPF announces that the war is over, declares a cease-fire and names Pastor Bizimungu as president with Faustin Twagiramungu as prime minister.

Day 100, estimated death toll: 800,000

The Chronicle
The Chronicle, © 2008

The author has 68 publications published on Modern Ghana. Column Page: TheChronicle

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