The Antelope’s Strategy (2007) Jean Hatzfeld



Dramatis Personae:


Hatzfeld’s Voice


Point of View:


Hatzfeld hangs out at Chez Rose, Mary-Louise’s cabaret near the bus stop in Kinzenze, and his book grew from his encounters with her people and their stories. “Literature may be a kind of willful wandering within what happened, the traces this leaves.”


Key Questions:


(78ff: After the Holocaust in Europe, muteness descended on all the participants; both perpetrators and survivors seemed unable to talk about what happened. What can you say when a Rwandan fate unique in contemporary history requires the families of victims and the families of killers to resume living side by side almost immediately….)


How did it happen? How could genocide have erupted out of a people normally so calm, shy and decorous? Is there such a thing as an 'African character' which can help us explain what happened? To what degree is the injection of racial distinctions into African tribal politics the cause of the genocide?


How do you talk to each other? 



Can the truth be told?  Can genocide be represented in any medium?



Should the truth be told? Just what is necessary to the needs of reconciliation: truth? half- truths? or silence?



Is justice possible? What course is best for the country?


What is best for the psychological health of the survivors, even the killers? Would truth telling be useful or prove destructive? 



(71ff: Three years after the release of the prisoners, Hatzfeld is incredulous at the normalcy of the market scene in Nyamata as he observes people like Angelique Mukamanzi who escaped the church massacre, survived hell in the marshes, joined a band of orphans and then helped raise eight of them. There is Christine Nyiransabimana, who lost her father, was raped, suffered in exile in the Congo, and now is pregnant with her fourth child. Jean-Baptiste Munyankore, the ex-teacher, passes on his bike. He lost his wife and nine children in the marches, yet he has remarried and has three new children. Then the Kibungo Hill gang cycles by, off to the clinic, to go shopping, or to sell something at the market. They still shy away from the cabarets but carry on their lives in the open.)


 (96: HBO Films is in Nyamata to shoot a scene for Sometimes in April down near the marsh. A crowd gathers, drawn by promises of $20 pay, but only extras will earn that much. A boy must do take after take of a scene in which he is cut in the mud. The onlookers are stunned, not by the scene of violence being filmed, but by the idea of a boy making believe that he is being killed in the mud.)




The Kibungo Hill Gang:

Pio Mutungirehe: (116: Life has returned to normal in Kibungo Village… with a few exceptions. Pio, for example, loves soccer, but he shuns the soccer field because that’s where the killers of the hunting expedition gathered every morning. . He claims that he does not have the time any more.)


(187: In 2005 Pio marries Josiane, a genocide survivor. He had spared her while hunting Tutsi in the marshes. Despite her family’s disapproval, she marries him after he returns from Congo.


(223: I recognize my offense but not the nastiness of the person tearing through the marshes on my legs, with my machete in hand.


Fulgence Bunani (81: we speak pleasantly with them now… it is normal to change after things have not gone well.)


(206: Reconciliation is fragile. If there is war with Uganda or Congo…. People no longer sow hatred but they have not thrown the seeds away.


(223: Most of all I think about my savage state back then. That’s often what disturbs me. Men are not aware of their natural bent for cruelty. If they are nudged along by bad government, if they are afraid of soldiers, if they hear rumors, they can quickly go bad.


Alphonse Hitiyaremye (10: return from prison: mockery and ridicule) (13: re-education camp… emphasis on forgiving wives; return home: lost cabaret…fields now a wasteland) (79: The real truth cannot be told to the Tutsis. How can we tell of how we lived it so zestfully, how hot we were… how we cracked jokes while hunting, how we shared a Primus around on good days. How we gang-raped unlucky girls… I prefer to talk [to Tutsis] in a cabaret. You can offer the bottle with good intentions, exchange compliments, propose lending a hand during harvest. In that way you talk it over. His wife says that the men can explode if they talk, but the women whisper such things every day.) (112: The survivors always feel death at their heels. The killer doesn’t feel pursued by anything, not even the stench of death he worked in each day.)  


(128: In the gacacas the major roles are played by the prisoners released by presidential decree. They want to show their gratitude to the state, and they enjoy denouncing comrades who made fun of them while they were in prison. Justice? We received a free pardon because the pardon was necessary in the country’s new situation. Many of the killers participated without being involved in the deeper ideology. We farmers have kept a little innocence after all and are more useful on the fields.)


(203: Hutus accept the hard work in the fields more readily than the survivors who are still desolate. They go on suffering and show themselves to be vulnerable. Hutus? They are reinvigorated: they thought themselves finished forever. We organize agricultural cooperatives with the Tutsi farmers, but friendship? That is another matter. I know I have not been forgiven by them, but by the state. Trust has been driven out of Rwanda and it will be this way for a generation.


(222: We found it easier to wield the machete than to be mocked and reviled.  I killed, I was imprisoned, and fear found its mark. Then fear of evil is with me stil.


Consolee Murekatete  (124: wife of Alphonse but also elected a judge of the gacaca court in the Kayumba neighborhood. (inyangamugayo: persons of integrity) The word gacaca: soft grass. In ages past Rwandans would sit underneath the umuniyinya tree where the people’s justice would be dispensed. Even after colonial courtrooms were introduced, the gacaca continued to be convened to manage village disputes perhaps too delicate for the colonial authorities’ consideration: accusations of sorcery, adultery, illegal labor. The verdicts of the gacaca were not supposed to be crushing; instead, they should promote reconciliation among neighbors.)


(137: During the genocide, she had openly rebuked her husband for participating in the killings. She refused to sleep with him “I am afraid of this foul thing… He smelled of death and Primus.” She speaks out about Hutu behavior in the villages during the genocide. They ate meat, too much meat. They got drunk. Many wives seemed pleased and even went off to participate in the plundering of Tutsi possessions. One never heard a pitying word for the Tutsi women who had been our neighbors. After we returned from exile, life back home took its revenge. We will never again enjoy abundance, but we can live together acceptably. I won’t forget the lesson I learned: Man cannot be trusted. The image I will keep of him is unimaginable wickedness.)


Pancrace Hakizamungili (9: return from prison) (15: return home… back to work in fields….first beer) (16: ‘forgiveness’?... state authority instead) (80ff: We were taught in the retraining camps to return with the faces of lambs, to bear the difficult life with the survivors with patience: no speaking directly of the killings, no apologies except at the gacaca hearings.) 


(205: The negationists in exile blow on the embers of hatred. We Hutus suffered but not like the Tutsi. They were not cut in a program of extermination. We are not weak and traumatized like the survivors.


(223: I have seen myself greedy and bloodthirsty, but I am chastened… I have been purified by wickedness.




Ignace Rukiramacumu (10: an old man when he returns from prison: dreams of urwagwa) (19: work in fields… arms recover habits of a lifetime…urwagwa) (78: he remembers everything, but the real truth cannot be spoken aloud: that can be shocking for a survivor, dangerous for a killer. The Hutu fears the Tutsi’s revenge, and the Tutsi fears the authorities…) (111: Death became ordinary and unnatural: what I mean is we stopped paying attention to it. I never thought that death could whip around to claim me. The truth of the genocide is in the mouths of the killers (who manipulate and conceal it, and the dead.)  (120: Innocent considers Ignace to be the worst, the foulest of the gang. To Hatzfeld, he seems the most impenetrable. He has returned to his large home and his bountiful land. He can be very forthcoming. In prison he told Hatzfeld that it is just as damaging to acknowledge the truth to yourself as it is to tell it to the authorities. Even in your heart of hearts it is riskier to remember rather than forget. In his youth he had worked his way up towards wealth through tireless labor, tough business practice, and strict discipline. He had also soaked up anti-Tutsi rancor in his impoverished youth. He even named his last son 'Habyarimana'. He believes that had the RPF been defeated, the leaders of the genocide would now be regarded as patriots.)


(127: the gacaca make him uncomfortable: say too much and you aggravate a colleague who will then implicate you. Say too little and you aggravate a Tutsi who will accuse you. 129: The prison time served s not anywhere near the killings committed… but reconciliation is necessary. It promotes the sowing of every productive field.)


(202: How successful has reconciliation been? Hutus accept reconciliation more easily because they have lost less, but it is an obligation for all Rwandans.


(224: Old age has attacked me, poverty has attacked me, and regrets as well. Things have spoiled.


Other Killers:


Leopard Twagiirayezu (22-32: the celebrity 'contrite killer'…always at the forefront in school, then in the killings, and he is the first to see the light in refugee camp…at home, he marries a Twa, and they become notorious for their fighting and drinking: He becomes a celebrity of guilt and barters his willingness to testify against other Hutus for drinks in the cabarets… finally, he is murdered.)


Joseph-Desire Bitero (92-95: local mastermind of the killings….For him it is not only difficult to speak but dangerous. He was a nice kid from Nyamata who became a teacher and had no quarrel with his neighbors, but he got involved with politics, rose swiftly in the party youth movement, then the interahamwe, and wound up one of the chief planners and directors of the killings which took the lives of 5/6ths of his Hutu neighbors in the Nyamata region. His understanding of the genocide froze solid the day after the last machete blow. He claims he was a cog in a terrible machine. Impervious to remorse, he is also incapable of imagining how others see him. He and his Hutu comrades believed that their actions would prevent the return of the Tutsis to the throne and the return of the Hutus to submissive humiliation. “I came to manhood at the worst moment in Rwandan history, educated in absolute obedience, in ethnic ferocity.”


Elie Mizinge: (111: The Nyamwiza marshes smelled more of death than of slime. It was the odor we resented, not death. We the killers, we've forgotten none of our fateful misdeeds. The lives we took are well lined up in our memory. In prison, I remembered the dead in the swamps and shook from fear. Later when I was pardoned, the fear went away.)


(129: The cutting was a turbulence of the mind that cannot be judged. Faced with such culprits, justice cannot exact anything except through killing or pardon.)


(206: Now the situation seems proper because no one is thinking of mistreating the rival ethnic group. The survivors forget nothing of the killings. I hope to one day be reconciled with my neighbors.


Jean-Baptiste Murangira (132: He had risen to the middle class before the genocide as a census supervisor. He married a Tutsi and saved her from the machetes by agreeing to go on the killing expeditions. He joined an association of repentant detainees in prison. But he returned to his wife and discovered that he had lost his house and all his possessions. His repentance has not won over his Tutsi neighbors. His job gone, he must now work the fields with his wife. In gacaca he has stuck to his confession and wishes to advance the politics of reconciliation. He minimizes his involvement and denounces his accomplices with precision. Result? He is poisoned by a neighbor (in the ancient Rwandan traditional manner), and although he survives, he is broken by the experience. His wife hopes that he will return to prison and gain some distance on his wrong doings so that he can return to his land with the strength to work in the fields.)





Angelique Mukamanzi (12: prisoner release: shock at news) (88: To have a conversation with those Hutu people who saw everything? It would dishonor us. I cannot tell my boy, but he will learn everything. He’s already starting to learn through the poison of hearsay. (109: I remember only certain parts of being hunted as a prey. Only someone killed in the marshes could remember it accurately.)


Janvier Munyaneza (12: prisoner return: good health of prisoners; RPF orders)


209: The Hutus wrongdoing becomes less serious when life agrees to smile…. But do not ask that 60 year old woman; for her, reconciliation will never happen.


Claudine Kayitesi (3: post-genocide identity: proud to be a survivor and a Tutsi… new home in mudugudu. New marriage….yet she feels damaged and defiled forever by the killings) (13: prisoner return… sees murderer of her sister) (16: prisoner return: no apologies…. nightmares return, then fade) (130: Justice? It is impossible for us to relieve our grief even with full bellies.)


Berthe Mwanankabandi (17: no apologies… runs into her ex-teacher: a murderer) Between what we experienced and what they’re saying a chasm keeps growing. They tell the facts, but they cannot communicate the emotional experience. That cannot be told and is therefore becoming less and less a reality. There is a truth that will always elude anyone who did not live through the genocide. (98: Who can represent the feelings we had in the marshes, hiding as the interamhawe waded by? Who could photograph our looks as we passed a clump of bodies?) (102: Before the genocide death terrified me. During the killings death was commonplace and everywhere. After the genocide, I felt nothing at burials or funerals. The aid workers forced us to perform elaborate ceremonies for the dead. Sometimes, while sleeping I dream of the dead in the marshes and sometimes living people appear dead. I awaken with a terrible anguish as if I have gone to the land of the dead.)  (104: we bear witness to the dead and their plight, but we can only see death sideways. I can hear the blade, but I cannot know the feelings of the woman before the machete.) (130: Delivering justice would mean killing the killers. But that would be another genocide. Killing them is impossible. Pardoning them unthinkable. Being just is inhuman. It surpasses human intelligence. Priority must be given to the fields.)


(151: Africa is a place of farming and of war. Our destiny lies with ourselves, not the whites. The organization of the genocide itself belies the notion that Africans are incapable if organizing themselves. Whites speak of poverty, discouragement or ignorance as the root cause but truly it is greed. When they were killing Tutsi, the Hutus did not seem poor or discouraged or ignorant. They feared the ikotonyi, but more, they desired the Tutsi land and wanted to eat their cows.


(208: Time has brought improvements, but when a drought settles in, when money goes into hiding, when food becomes scarce, fear shows up again at the door… particularly if you have been raped.


Innocent Rwililiza Hatzfeld’s primary contact (17: ’forgiveness’? Only the Western aid organizations use terms like that) (38ff: Kayumba Forest: ‘initially, the intellectuals led and philosophized about the situation, but as the days passed they lost their credibility…. The longer the hunts lasted the more important the herdsmen and smugglers became.’ They ceased to have any identity beyond status as prey )  (88) At the beginning we met every day at the cabaret to talk it over, hash it out, but eventually we came to realize that these endless rehashings would keep us from fitting back into life. We have respectable lives now and we don’t want unpleasant rumors about rags and lice to come back. Telling how we survived is like running yourself down in front of others. The survivor did everything possible to survive, not to live. It’s the Tutsis from abroad who are running the show now. They are wary of the Hutus but do not fear them, and so they profit. We Tutsis are powerless to voice our anger, sadness, and longing for what is lost. It is torture.


(97: Hatzfeld talks with Innocent about the remarkable lack of photos or film of the actual killings, not only of this genocide but of other massacres as well. Innocent says that is lucky. Survivors cannot repress their shameful memories, but at least they can keep them to themselves. And with time they no longer need to review them so often. Images of the killings underway would be unbearable. Photographers had no place in the scenes of killing, and pictures of our monkey life in Kayumba would be inhuman. The only important pictures from a genocide would be of the preparations and leaders, the evidence of their premeditated crimes. Or of the results: the bodies piled, the bones in the churches, again as evidence.)


(106: The dead alone here fully experienced the genocide. We speak of the genocide but only in collaboration with the dead. Because the dead exist in our narratives, they may be dead for the living, but they have never disappeared for the survivors.)


(131: Justice would bring the country to its knees. No one feels justice has been served. So this hideous secret will be passed on from family to family, generation to generation. We cannot demolish a Hutu population of 6 million who work hard, behave humbly and obediently. A few hundred thousand weak and unstable survivors will grumble and disappear with the next generation. So we turn a deaf ear to any words of reconciliation.)


(148: African character? Our climate is blessed. Blacks envy and fear whites; whites received more respect than even village elders at meetings. We do not have the power to inflict damage on other regions of the world (as whites do), so we brutalize ourselves. No catastrophe drives Africans to such violence, only greed.


(211: Reconciliation? Hutus need Tutsis because of the meat and milk, and because they are less adept than Tutsis at planning projects, except for massacre projects of course. But the Tutsis are more dependent on the incomparable Hutu workers. The politics of reconciliation, that’s the equitable division of distrust.


(226: During the genocide, my every man for himself strategy was to race flat out all day long like the antelope, but now I can’t deal with that threat. In the forest, I was dealt the fate of a game animal, and I accepted it. I felt no humiliation… not until later. I stepped on a mine near Kigali, and then spent several solitary years, learning how to cope. Now I am threatened by a greater humiliation: I see Hutu families doing well, I see killers doing the daunting work of clearing the fields and making the harvest. Why do we who ran so hard find ourselves falling behind as also-rans?


Eugenie Kayierere (39ff: Kayumba Forest: sitatungas (forest antelopes) You had to latch onto a gang….scattering in all directions: the antelope’s strategy… no shame in appearance or lack of dress, eaten by lice, living like animals: the lowest form of animal) (55ff: she acknowledges that if she had had children before the genocide, she would not have survived. After surviving the forest (one of six out of six thousand), she was reunited with her husband Jean-Claude and then children came.) (110: Our ordeal ends at the gates of death. What is behind those gates belongs to the dead.... Describing the way the dead were demeaned, chopped up, stripped naked, cut short, how they pleaded for mercy, screamed, vomited, bled-- One must be polite, even to the dead, respecting their privacy.


(150: Agriculture and stockbreeding are Africa’s gifts to her people. When land dries out, Africans envy others’ lands. Ethnicity? War scares us more than the whites. When an African hears the rumble of danger, he retreats to his people: the last hope. Africa is vast and ancient, and savagery always lies in wait. I am proud to be a Tutsi, in spite of everything.)


Mediatrice (58ff: Kayumba Forest… Hutu Home… Exile… Congo rainforest ‘I believe Africans are the nicest people in the world. But they are greedy among themselves. It isn’t the whites who blow up the glowing coals of massacres… it was envy and fear of poverty.’ Her identity so annihilated that she could not think of anything to say, even to herself. Yet now, she can embrace a second life.)


Jeannette Ayinkamiye (18: the fields cry out for workers) (69: she survived the hunting in the marshes, but her mother and sisters did not. She fears the next genocide will come unless the cause of the first is found…. Her life has been difficult since the killings, shifting from job to job, trying, failing, trying again, finally finding a man and having a baby. Hatzfeld’s point: the economic origins of racism)


Sylvie Umubyeyi (20: prisoner return; Hutu women are rewarded while Tutsi women continue to suffer… Now, she runs a bakery in Nyamata with Gaspard…. (murderer’s apology in bakery) (85-88: I have learned how to speak of what happened thanks to a Belgian psychologist. I released my heart not from fear but from helpless distress…. My self-confidence has returned… Those intellectuals in prison will speak about everything except about their wrongdoing. The Hutus of the hills who are ashamed and must endure sad faces and bitter words, they are quick tempered and act abruptly. That is not good. We need their arms to feed the population. We must help them to speak. It’s an ancient obsession of Rwandan society, this suffering from one’s own secrets. Talking with the strangers from the north was easier. Our destinies will never find a chance to escape from Rwanda. We are going to live together. We must talk to one another. My heart cannot always be on red alert.) (105: I no longer fear my own death. I fear machetes, but not death. No. I'm waiting.) 


Mary-Louise Kagoyire (82: I try to camouflage what I feel whenever I speak to a Hutu… I am proud to be a Tutsi, but I cannot say this out loud.)  (101: After experiencing the fear and shock of death during the killings, I can feel sadness at the news of someone’s death or devastation at the death of a friend, but I no longer feel the anguish of fear.) (130: Justice: The gacaca courts prevent vengeance as it proves lenient to the killers and profitable to the welfare of the country. It satisfies the authorities, the international donors, and as for the sorrow of the survivors, that’s just too bad.)


(164: Before the war, she had lived on one of the best homes in Nyamata. Now she rents the old house and lives in a much humbler house. She has opened a cabaret and is back at work, but she has cashed out her fields and herds and chosen a new life on the computer.


(207: I accept my wearisome second life, I consent to a good understanding with the Hutus, but I reject friendship. No one can live in trust again.


(225: I hid in a Hutu neighbor’s doghouse, lying on the animal’s excrement. In three days I lost all worth in my own eyes… but the human respect I owe myself leads me back to life. The only promise I made to myself was to be a mama to the orphans. Promise kept. Not happiness, but living in friendship.


Cassius Niyonsaba (82-83: The harsh politics of reconciliation forbid survivors to speak in any fashion about the killings, except at gacaca…. I must never say in public that I will never marry a Hutu wife… Separatists are threatened with punishment. The foreign aid workers urge us to forgive, but we close our hearts to them. If lips repeated what the heart is whispering, they would sow panic, revenge, and killings in every direction….)


(155: A fourteen year old, living near the Nyamata Memorial: the only member of his family to survive the massacre in the church there. He wears a huge scar on his forehead. 


Francine Niyitegeka (83: We talk in the market and at the cabarets without qualms….except about that. Hutus mention the killings in the gacaca only through self-interest…. When drunk, they incriminate their comrades still in jail…. But they never ask us how we felt, how we feel….) (103: Our fear of the machetes and the suffering were greater than our fear of death. After witnessing the death of her infant and being clubbed, there are no questions left except ‘Will there be a big hunt the next day?’


(235: If a person has at some point understood that she will not survive, such a person has seen an emptiness in her heart of hearts that she will not forget. The truth is, if she has lost her soul even for a moment, then it is a tricky thing to find a life again.)


Jean-Baptiste Munyankore (84: During the gacaca we can talk but not otherwise… Two people came to my home to ask forgiveness. They did not come sincerely, only to avoid prison… we said nothing, only exchanged civilities…. I listened so that would go away sooner…. As they left, they said they had done me a kindness by failing to catch me in the marshes.)  (108:  The dead can be divided into two categories: those who screamed and those who died calmly.  We saw so many die, so much death that death lost its mystery. There was no more decent sadness or dignity left.  These days death has perked up again. fell sadness again at funerals.)