Now Return My Story, and Wipe My Mouth with Bread | Renée Akitelek Mboya | Donnerstag, 14.09.2023

iv. By Falling from a Tree or Hung Like a Dog

A throwback perhaps, from a circular published on 6 April 1994, in the hours before the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi began:
‘Rwanda (Bizimana) confirmed that President Habyarimana had been assassinated and that at present the recovery of the burned bodies is being undertaken. He noted that the President was accompanied by close advisers also. No doubt it was carried out by the “enemies of peace” he said. The situation in Kigali would be difficult and he went on the express appreciation to the UN for “standing by” the people of Rwanda to date and said he believed that the UN force in Rwanda would have a “beneficial effect” hoping that it would “take steps to limit the situation” on the ground.’
The assassination of Juvenal Habyarimana on 6 April 1994 was the trigger that launched the events we have been keen to explore and imagine here, the 100 days of genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda.
The images of this incident, the charred carcass of the plane, a Falcon 50, in a lush green banana plantation – incidentally the plot neighbouring the president’s own residence — are hard to come by. The manager at the Rwanda Art Museum (the former presidential palace and indeed until recently the Presidential Palace Museum) in Kanombe, Kigali, is always keen to mention that the black box is still missing, rumoured to have disappeared in the six hours during which the site of the crash was blocked off to rescue operations and journalists alike.
I am fascinated by the images I find – by the idea that the images that are missing from this incident, almost 30 years later, might in some way be actively generating their own mythologies, an imagination of the events as they might have occurred. Images of the unknowable but fuel for decades of speculation and intrigue.
Equally I am interested in the accuracy with which this event was imaged and prophesied in the years before it occurred – for example, in this excerpt from the witness statement by Furayide Jean-Paul, an FAR sergeant resident in the Kigali military camp, who mentioned intelligence that he heard from extremist soldiers regarding the death of the President of the Republic:
‘A little before the accident involving the President’s aeroplane, soldiers from Gisenyi and Ruhengeri,…were in the habit of bragging in the camp that the President would soon be dead “by falling from a tree or hung like a dog”. Sergeant Major RUHAMANYA, my roommate, who was part of the Intelligence Unit, was one of those men and was in the habit of telling us in the bedroom the way in which the President was going to die. He seemed to be certain of what he was saying, and it did not seem to be empty bragging.…At one time, around 2 to 3 days before the accident, the same group of soldiers declared that the President was in fact dead.’

What kinds of narratives does an incomplete set of images in themselves generate? Where, in this case, are the overlaps between prophecy and myth and how does the story change as the images age – as we lose details to retellings and resolution?
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