If everyone else jumped off a cliff, yes,
you’d get in line. That’s how it was.
The national radio said they would kill us all
if we let them live.
We are not barbarians — we are no different from you —
but this is a poor country.
We couldn’t afford 800,000 bullets,
much less the guns to fire them,
so most of the work had to be done
with ten-cent machetes
made in China.
It helped to be a little crazy: the cockroaches
looked so much like neighbors,
like friends from childhood, even
your own wife.
At first they screamed, but then
they’d grow silent, waiting for the end,
already frozen inside.
It wasn’t always pleasant, but we worked
together, in friendly competition
to see who could land the first blow
or do the most killing.
We chanted songs & slogans from the radio.
Some people did not even find someone to kill
because there were more killers than victims.
I saw people whose hands had been amputated,
those with no legs, and others with no heads.
I saw everything.
It went on for a hundred days, until the rebels came.
Afterwards, we burned our clothes
& buried the machetes in the backyard,
using the blades to dig the holes —
there was a nationwide shortage of shovels —
& firming with a foot that rich volcanic soil
where anything will grow.
Written in reaction to the movie Hotel Rwanda, which I saw on Monday night as part of a History Film Series at Penn State Altoona. It’s an amazing film, in part because it portrays one man who did not jump off the cliff — a true hero. The portion in italics above is taken from the testimony of one of the killers, a man named Gitera Rwamuhuzi, courtesy of the BBC.