Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Final Truth

No one knew of Rwanda or where it was. Many massacres and still no one knew. Then the genocide in 1994, and still no one knew of Rwanda. The great leaders of every country in the world did know about the genocide, the hideous, barbaric crimes of hate. They denied it, calling it a civil war and did nothing!

The movie Hotel Rwanda, a Hollywood film, directed by Terry George was filmed in South Africa, using South Africans and Americans, no Rwandans. This movie made a hero of a man named Paul Rusesabagina, played by Don Cheadle. Paul Rusesabagina and Rwandan president, who was former head of the RPF Paul Kagame have become public enemies of each other. In An Ordinary Man, Rusesabagina alleges "Rwanda is today a nation governed by and for the benefit of a small group of elite Tutsis...Those few Hutus who have been elevated to high-ranking posts are usually empty suits without any real authority of their own. They are known locally as Hutus de service or Hutus for hire." He has also criticized Kagame's election to president. On April 6, 2006 Kagame said, "(Rusesabagina) should try his talents elsewhere and not climb on the falsehood of being a hero, because it's totally false." George Bush presented Paul Rusesabagina with The Presidential Medal of Freedom it is a decoration bestowed by the President and is, along with the equivalent Congressional Gold Medal bestowed by an act of Congress the highest civilian award in the United States. It is designed to recognize individuals who have made "an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors. Mother Theresa received this medal also. Paul Rusesabagina is very active with Save Darfur and the Genocide there. He is also active in the situtions in the Congo, and Uganda. He did risk his life being a Hutu and hiding hundreds of Tutsi's.
General Romeo Dallaire, a Canadian head of the UN is a hero. He reached out for help over and over again but to no avail. General Dallaire shoud have gotten this medal and deserved it. So did many other people, that risked their lives and the lives of their families hiding Tutsi's. The movie did one good thing it put Rwanda on the map, and people became aware of the atrocities of the genocide.
Governments felt guilty after the movie and NGO's started going into Rwanda by the hundreds. Governments set up organizations and wealthy philanthropists invested in this country that had been completely destroyed. The governments and people in the United States and Europe liked the lovable Paul Kagame. He was the hero who led the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF). They came into Rwanda and stopped the genocide.

There has been a miraculous comeback for Rwanda but still a lot to do in the villages. We can't deny the poverty that still is very much alive in the villages and even in parts of Kigali. Tourists are visiting and money is being spent by the millions in Rwanda. The streets and country are safe and clean. I believe many governments felt guilty and many of us that became aware felt we had to do something. So we bought tickets and off to Rwanda to do service work and help the people that had suffered. We were able to give hope and strength to a country that had suffered beyond what most of us can comprehend. Yet out of our hearts and good conscience we were volunteers and servants to Rwanda.

What about the countries surrounding Rwanda?

Uganda in Civil war with rebel militias for the past 20 years, the main man destroying the lives of many in Northern Uganda, Joseph Kony. He has murdered thousands, raped and kept women as sex slaves, giving them to his soldiers as gifts. Abducted boys and forced them to kill their parents, then giving them drugs and alcohol to brainwash them so they are desensitized and made killers.

Burundi, one of the world's poorest nations, is emerging from a 12-year, ethnic-based civil war. Pierre Nkurunziza, a Hutu former rebel leader, became the first president to be chosen in democratic elections since the start of Burundi's civil war. A country of extreme poverty, and militias also demoralizing their countries people. The original inhabitants of Burundi were the Twa, a Pygmy people who now make up only 1% of the population. Today the population is divided between the Hutu (approximately 85%) and the Tutsi, approximately 14%. While the Hutu and Tutsi are considered to be two separate ethnic groups, scholars point out that they speak the same language, have a history of intermarriage, and share many cultural characteristics.

Traditionally, the differences between the two groups were occupational rather than ethnic. Many Burundis sneak into Rwanda as they can speak Kinyarwanda and seek refuge. Their country is in great despair. And much needed help. Why aren't we there helping? No Hollywood movie yet?

Democratic Republic of Congo known as the Congo. The DRC's president Joseph Kabila is corrupt and afraid. His father a man of integrity and democracy was assassinated and Joseph fears if he is like his father the same will happen to him. So he remains a spineless, thief and liar, while his country is deteriorating rapidly. One of the largest countries in Africa and known for it's great rich resources. Over 400 tribes and 400 languages. Their are over 50 rebel militia groups fighting each other. Attacking the villages at night and in the day now. Gang raping the women in front of their husbands and children as they watch and cry helplessly. Daughters and mothers taken into the forests some never to be seen again. Many return to the villages, they are traumatized. As they had rocks, rifles, sticks, razors on the sides of the sticks forced into their vagina's. Rifles have been put into a woman's vagina and the trigger pulled. They are unrapeable now, so of no use to the men. These traumatized women are sent back to their villages where they are ostracized by their families and the communities. Many are pregnant or have babies with them. This baby is their reminder of the pain and torture they experienced in the forests of the Congo. Now Joseph Kony from Uganda is in the Congo building an army in the North to strengthen his forces. Ndunka is a tutsi rebel and killer. He's very flamboyant and doesn't think twice about killing women, children, or the endangered Silverback Gorillas. These men and groups have been tormenting their people and stealing the natural rich resources. When will we feel guilty enough to reach out and help these countries? We did it for Rwanda, aren't these countries worth helping and in need of assistance. Why do we forget them? They need us, without us they will suffer torturous deaths and our hands are covered in their blood. Why? You are now aware of their existence. You can help change the lives of these women and children. We must begin the healing process for these women and children as a unified global community.

Let's not be ridden with guilt before we act. Together as a global effort we helped and rebuilt one country. We must believe that we can do this again. We have the resources and money. The United States will have more money once it stops the unnecessary wars that it has created by George Bush and Dick Cheney for Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Sloth, Wrath, Envy, and Pride.

This is my final entry on this journey and blog. More travels and blogs to come. I would like to thank everyone who took the time to read and look at the images. I hope you have been enlightened with awareness and compassion. May the great spirit of the universe keep you safe and give you all that you need.

With love and admiration for the people I have encountered in Africa. May you find peace and love for yourselves and your neighbor. I pray that this blog will give these people hope, they need it desperately!!!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Congo - Heart of Darkness

Rwanda - The Heart of Africa - clean - proud - poverty - progressing - survivors - hope - help - inspiring - beautiful - magical - healing - tranquil - peace
Congo - Heart of Darkness - dirty - shame - extreme poverty - regressing - helpless - hopeless - violence - struggling- ignorance - fear - war

Going into the Democratic Republic of Congo is like entering Hell on Earth, harsh words but the truth. Over 400 tribes and over 400 languages. Lingala, Swahili, and french are the most common languages. Be sure you are inside by night fall, or the bandits will get you.......... I think sexual violence, war, and extreme poverty is normal there, to injure someone is not even a second thought, it's normal daily life. So how do we civilized people help change a destructive way of thinking that is so detrimental to its people.
The Congo is so very rich in it's resources, gold, diamonds, copper, nickel, tanzanite, so many minerals.
Rich dense forests, the Congo River, the Silverback Mountain Gorilla's that are killed and their hands are sold as ash trays. And the lowland Gorilla's live in danger too. In 1994 4.3 million people were killed. Many died from hunger. More died in the Congo in 1994 than the Vietnam War.
I stayed at a small B&B while in Bukavu, a city on beautiful Lake Kivu. Bukavu supplies the electricity for Rwanda and Burundi. Arriving on a Saturday, after trying for weeks to get someone to drive me there and no one would do it. I finally had friend's help me cross the border into a different world, than Rwanda. The streets were not paved, huge pot holes everywhere, you didn't drive on the left or right, it was where ever you could trying to miss a pot hole. Buildings torn and worn down. February 3, 2008 an earthquake was additional damage Bukavu didn't need. Poverty and disease was everywhere, dirty, trashy, slums, red dust in your hair, ears, and even mouth. I wondered why I wanted to be here???
I met Claude a pastor and the manager of the B&B who was friends with pastor and Dr. Denis Mukwege. He runs the Panzi Hospital in Le Mera, but his specialty is the trauma center for sexual violence. He has been helping women and children for over 10 years, that have been traumatized by sexual violence, it's used as a weapon of war. Rape is what many Congolese do when they get angry or don't get their way. Example: A man working as a gardener didn't feel his salary was sufficient, he didn't discuss this with the owners of the house, he raped their 6 month old baby, she died, he is in jail. He said he was angry they owed him so this is what they deserve. STOP THE VIOLENCE!!!!!
So Claude took me to meet Dr. Mukwege on Sunday, the following day of my arrival. There were many people at the gate to the hospital, we couldn't drive in. Claude got out to see what was going on, he said we can walk in. The energy was strange but it was strange from the beginning.
We get inside, and people are pushing and shoving me, Claude was about 7 heads in front of me. I caught up, then we were taken to a courtyard where there were rooms all around. Berky Dr. Mukwege's secretary took Claude and I into a room and locked the door. Also Eve Ensler was their advocating STOP THE VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN!!!

translation: "I'VE SAID NO TO RAPE, HAVE YOU?"
Story: Soldiers do not have a good reputation for helping and safety. They have a bad reputation for rape, stealing, bribery, so they are feared by the people. A man who makes uniforms for the soldiers, stole a uniform, a gun and a knife. He robbed a man beat him, stabbed him, and killed him. The victims family and community started beating up the man dressed as a soldier, thinking he was dead they left. His family arrived realized he was alive, took him to Panzi Hospital. The people and community heard he was at Panzi Hospital went to get him out so they could kill him, because he killed, they still think he is a real soldier. They were angry with the hospital for helping and protecting a bandit. Meanwhile, during the night or early morning the man dressed as a soldier died. When the crowd came to the hospital to get he body, Dr. Mukwege told them he had died. So then they wanted the body so they could burn it. Dr. Mukwege refused to give the body to these people, called the police several times, no response from the police. The angry crowd barged into rooms broke medical equipment, injured doctors, nurses, and interns. Several of the hospital staff walking around with huge bandages on their heads. I witnessed this violence. The hospital closed it's gates and no one was allowed to enter the grounds. The patients in the trauma clinic were traumatized thinking they were in a safe environment. Is there a safe place in the Congo today, I didn't seem to see or feel it. Dr. Mukwege decided to get his staff together and they would carry this man's dead body to the Governors house. On the way the crowd got angrier throwing stones, rocks, whatever they could find. Finally the police appeared because the rioting had now been taken into the streets. They shot several times, I don't think anyone was hit. But Dr. Mukwege finished his journey with the body to the Governor's house and laid him on his steps. True story swear to God!!!!

Me & Dr. Mukwege
Dr. Denis Mukwege is the founder and director of Panzi General Reform Hospital in Bukavu, South Kivu, Democratic Republic of the Congo, where he performs life-saving fistula surgeries for women who have been brutally raped and mutilated in the Congolese war. Dr. Mukwege is a doctor, a pastor, an advocate for women's rights, an advocate for educating men on the seriousness of rape and trauma, a gentle man, with a heart that is the light of the Sud of Kivu. It was a great honor to have had the opportunity to meet him and visit his clinic. He has devoted his life to helping these women and young girls that have been traumatized by sexual violence. He treats thousands of women a year. The physical and emotional scars these women bear is heartbreaking, and inhumane. This is war, war against women and girls.
There's so much here that I will never understand. What I have seen on the fields of war has led me to question God's purpose. But there is something......... spiritual in this place. And though it may be forever obscure to me I cannot but be aware of it's power.

I met one of the women I sponsor, Devotee, in Walungu a village south of Bukavu. I felt safe going there, but later heard rebels or bandits were in the area. Devotee was very sick with Malaria, she's 22 years old.
She has 2 boys one 4 years and he other 2 years. She was very weak, but had the strength to smile and gratitude I was there. I think we do what we can till our destiny is revealed to us. I do not presume to understand the course of my life. I know I am grateful to have partake in all this.....even if for a moment.

Many villages, many people suffering, hungry, tired, helpless, and hopeless.
The Congo's infrastructure is the country's main problem. After Sese Seko Mobutu ruled as dictator for 32 years (1965–1997) he went into exile to Morocco Lawrence Kabila became president, he was for justice and wanted to help his people. He was assassinated in 2000, an American Ambassador to the Congo was the last person to see Lawrence Kabila - within one hour he was dead. His son Joseph Kabila became president in 2000. He was reelected in 2006. He is not like his father. He pockets his peoples money, takes bribes and is a fearful and worthless leader. He took 26 million dollars from his people and built homes around the world. When authorities questioned this he gave the judge 2 million dollars and....... the end.

Many rebel groups have formed (about 50 through out the DRC) in the deep forests of the Congo, the Mai Mai, the Interhamwe (hutus from Rwanda's genocide), the Rasta, Nkunda a very evil man dressed in riches, and Joseph Kony has moved from Northern Uganda to build an army in the Congo, the devil is in hell. Nkunda & Kony are wanted by the UN for War Crimes against Humanity. Then the Congolese soldiers are as dangerous and corrupt as the above mentioned.
All of these rebels go into villages, burn the houses, rape the women and girls, take them into the forest to gang rape them daily for months, years, till they can no longer be used for sex because their vagina's and internal organs are destroyed. Send them down into the villages, many times pregnant, where they are rejected by their families. They end up in trauma clinics or centers for sexual violence. They take the boys and make them soldiers, by having them kill their families. The boys are desensitized and given drugs and alcohol so they can murder again and again and again. But some run away and if they make it, they are in centers or churches, getting counseling and hoping to one day have a normal life. How can life ever be normal after these experiences? I guess they transform from victims to survivors and help others to recover. I went to 2 of these centers, one North, that had 300 women and boys, it had been attacked by rebels a few weeks ago and they were traumatized all over again. How can we as individuals, come together to help change take place, to help women and children feel safe. To let them know it was not their faults, they were a victim to hideous crimes of war. Search for organizations that are helping the people of the Congo, now that you are aware, you are responsible as I am. No one should endure being tortured!!!
Final insight: Democratic Republic of Congo the country of riches, her land has been raped by her people, her people have been raped by her people. May the Congo find a way to live in peace and harmony. May the tribes live equally. May the rebel militias be arrested and tried for their crimes against humanity of sexual violence, mutilation, and murder.
May the survivors of sexual violence become strong, gain self esteem and live with honor and dignity as a survivor. I pray for their safety, I pray for their sanity, I pray for their lives. I must devote myself to a set of moral seek a stillness of my mind. It is the only way for me to enter these places and return. I've changed, I am a warrior for truth, equality, and justice for every living being on our planet. May we all find compassion in our hearts and peace in our minds.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Rwandan Art and Artists

In Rwanda the art of basket weaving is very common for the women in the villages as a source of income. They make several types, one is the Peace Basket.

They carry these baskets with something to give, when they go visit a friend, family member, or neighbor.
When they leave they usually have something that was given to them from whomever they visited. This could be rice, eggs, corn, beans, etc. So the women make these baskets and sell them as every household will have a couple. Their food supply is stored in these baskets. They make them in many sizes and the tourists love them, so it's a good source of income for the village women.
There is also the fruit basket.

Beading from paper is a new and very big source of income for the village women they sell them to tourist in the markets and to vendors that have stalls in the markets.
It's amazing and they look like real beads, they are absolutely beautiful. Different sizes, colors, and designs. The Acholi women from Northern Uganda make these paper beads also.

PEACE baskets and PEACE.............
They come from Patonga a war zone, where their babies and villages have been burned. Their sons kidnapped to be boy soldiers and their daughters to be gang raped by the rebel militias, their ages can be from 5 years and older. The man in charge of these hideous acts of terror is Joseph Kony the leader of the Lord's Resistant Army (LRA). The LRA fought a 20-year war against the government in northern Uganda. Two million people were displaced. He is accused of numerous war crimes, including abducting and mutilating civilians and forcing thousands of children into combat. He has been charged with war crimes against humanity by the Ugandan Military, the Sudan Military, the Congolese Military and the United Nations . He lives in seclusion and is well protected by his soldiers that he drugs and brainwashes. Joseph Kony is one of the most evil men on our planet today and must be stopped, his actions have proven he needs to be locked up for the rest of his life, so he cannot harm another human being.
The two women I met had few teeth from the soldiers knocking them out as they were gang raped and beaten. Their husbands were killed and they are trying to survive. Their realities are our worst nightmares. My problems are nothing compared to theirs. In reality I don't have any problems only blessings. Meeting these women has been a great blessing and honor, because they teach me to be strong, courageous, and persevere. They have been a gift in my life. I only wish I leave them with hope, and they know that someone does care about them, and wants to help them have a better life. I promised I would help these women rebuild their lives, I can't do this alone, so if you can help please email me.

Wood carving is also a big art in Rwanda and other East and Central African countries. The carvers are very good and their are some very old carved African masks, especially in Kenya and the Congo.

Textiles of Rwanda, several different colorful patterns.

Art made from cow dung and dirt made into a clay, it's very soft and fragile. But so beautiful. Usually the colors are black and white, gray, rusty color of the Rwanda earth, and yellow mustard.