Search for Perpetrators of the Rwandan Genocide

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Commentator Leroy Sievers covered the Rwandan genocide and its aftermath for ABC's Nightline. Recently he travelled to Congo to look for the perpetrators, this time working for the International Crisis Group, an anti-conflict organization. He says there can never be closure after the horror of the slayings.


Commentator Leroy Sievers covered the genocide in Rwanda for ABC's "Nightline." Recently he traveled to Congo, this time working for the anti-conflict organization the International Crisis Group, looking for the perpetrators.


Monsters exist. I know. I've met them. They are commanders of the Rwandan Hutu militia, the FDLR. Some of them took part in the Rwandan genocide in 1994, then drove their people into Congo. I covered that exodus and watched tens of thousands of people die before my eyes. There were bodies everywhere--young, old, children sitting next to the bodies of their parents, not understanding what was happening. They, too, would be dead within hours.

The things I saw then have haunted me for a decade. I have wished that those responsible would suffer the worst fate possible. And now I was back in Congo to interview these guerrillas. I was shaking their hands, hands covered with blood. A colleague who lives in Africa said, `If you worry about that, you'd never be able to shake anyone's hand in this region.'

We hiked through the jungle for more than an hour to get to their camp, and they refused to talk. I tried to convince them; I told them they needed to tell their side of the story, that they were misunderstood--all the arguments journalists use on reluctant subjects. I felt dirty saying those things to these men, and I failed.

The commander and some of his men escorted us back to the nearest village. I walked with two of the soldiers. Were they rapists, murderers? Probably. Certainly some of their comrades were. The soldiers said the commander told them they'd be killed if they talked to us. It was a tough hike. When we all made it across a stream on a particularly flimsy log, we shook hands and laughed. We stopped to share our water. The commander drank and handed me the bottle. I passed. I had shaken his hand; I wasn't going to drink from the same bottle.

I can't put into words what I was feeling: anger, revulsion, hatred, shame, guilt. I couldn't comprehend what our interpreter must have been going through. He had been speaking to these same Hutu guerrillas, shaking their hands, laughing, trying to convince them to talk. His wife, a Tutsi, was killed during the genocide, murdered before his eyes. He paid her killers to shoot her rather than use machetes to hack her to death. He was spared because he was Congolese. Now he's a fairly well-known singer in Congo, and on the drive back, waiting by the side of the road while we fixed a flat tire, he sang a song he wrote for his wife.

Unidentified Man: (Foreign language sung)

SIEVERS: The last words are, `Wherever you are, I still love you.' He doesn't know what happened to her body. How could he shake hands with those men? He remembers the faces of his wife's murderers. Every time he meets the FDLR guerrillas, he looks for them.

Justice will never be served here. There will be no closure. How can any of us live with that?

Unidentified Man: (Foreign language sung)

MONTAGNE: Commentator Leroy Sievers is a journalist based in Washington, DC.

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