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May 13, 2024 French

Octavien Ngenzi : « Je ne crains personne. Mes mains sont trop claires, je n'ai jamais sali depuis ma naissance »

Card Number 31623

Monier, Éric
26 mai 1994
Time zone
Octavien Ngenzi : « Je ne crains personne. Mes mains sont trop claires, je n'ai jamais sali depuis ma naissance »
Transcription du reportage « Fuir pour vivre », diffusé sur France 2 le 26 mai 1994 dans l'émission « Envoyé spécial ».
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- A wounded and traumatized child: "In our flight, we met the militia. They locked us in a house and they started shooting. Everyone was killed". A little girl, injured in the arm and in the head: "We had taken refuge in a church. And then they came. They took stones and they started to break everything. They also threw grenades. one side I received a stone [she shows part of her skull] and there they hit me [she shows another part of her skull]. They wanted to exterminate all the Tutsi".
- These refugees are almost all Hutu. Rightly or wrongly they fled before the troops of the Rwandan Patriotic Front, the Tutsi rebels who had come down from the mountain to put an end to the massacre of their own. How many are there every day to cross the Kagera River, this river which marks the border between Rwanda and Tanzania? No one really knows. But it is estimated that more than 1,000 people per day use this crossing point. A table, chairs: derisory furniture for a hasty escape. For others, it is a few heads of cattle that are pushed ahead either. From what, do we believe, to get out of it, to escape misery, but for how long? To those who crossed the river that day, people spoke vaguely of a refugee camp. But they don't know what awaits them. The important thing for them is to flee. Flee the horror of summary executions, hell on earth. A refugee: "In Rwanda we hadn't seen anything yet, it's getting worse and worse… They massacre people, cut them into small pieces, beat them with spades. They are also shot. Yesterday in Nyabigega they There were at least 50 dead. In Musanze they gathered them in a school, they massacred them".
- 2,000 Tanzanian shillings per family, with furniture and livestock, for many all their savings. Tanzanian fishermen turned smugglers are making a fortune these days. Their destination is here: 15 kilometers from the river, Benaco, the largest refugee camp in the world. 200, 250, 300,000 people maybe. A city as big as Bordeaux built in 72 hours.
- A city yes, but a city stripped of everything. Without sanitation, without electricity, without running water, a city hastily set up by the United Nations and a dozen non-governmental organizations. Many were already working in other camps in the region, in Uganda, Kenya, or Rwanda.
- A city of ants where most of the time is spent in search of the essential: water. The camp would not exist without this lake. It is because of him that these refugees stopped there rather than elsewhere. It is thanks to him that they are alive. This lake, a gift from heaven, a poisoned gift. In this lake at least 200,000 people drink and wash themselves every day. Not to mention that it also serves as a drinking trough and drainage system.
- In less than a week, Médecins sans frontières has already installed seven pumps and six large tanks of 15,000 liters each. Tanks in which the water is chlorinated. A minimum to avoid the worst. It is now a question of increasing the distribution capacity to be able to close the access to the lake.
- Joël Boulanger, medical officer for MSF France: "Given that there are 200,000 people, we should barely manage five liters of fleet per person. Five liters which is the minimum standard in an emergency. Five liters of fleet is not a lot a day. When it's hot, when you have to eat, wash and everything".
- And half an hour later, mission accomplished: chlorinated water is flowing from the taps. But the water problem is not yet solved. No one knows the real capacity of the lake, its level is dropping every day. For some experts, in less than a month it is dry.
- Octavien Ngenzi: "According to the national census, we were around 47,000 people in my commune. Today, in the camp, we are around 3,000. We do not know the fate of the rest of the population". Kabarondo was the name of his village. It is today that of this little piece of camp, huts made of branches and plastic tarpaulins. Octavien Ngenzi was the bourgmestre of Kabarondo. He retained the prerogatives. It is indeed on the 11 mayors present in the camp that the United Nations relies to try to organize things and come to the aid of the refugees who, their fright past, are now giving in to despair.
- A refugee sitting near his radio set: "We live like birds here, like animals in the forest! I am alone, I don't know where my wife and children are. I don't know how long I'm going to stay here. We hear on the radios that there are a lot of battles back home! Even in Kigali too!".
- God only knows how they managed to keep their butcher knives on them. As a security measure, the Tanzanians confiscated at the border all objects closely or remotely resembling a weapon. They settled on the edge of the road that crosses the camp from side to side. They work for a pittance but they work. As much to earn money as to keep their last treasure, dignity, as long as possible.
- "Pneumonia, dysentery, pneumonia, pneumonia, cholera, pneumonia, diarrhea and vomiting": seven deaths declared that day in Benaco. A very low figure for a refugee camp of this size. But the little undertaker also knows well that if an epidemic broke out here, the deaths would then number in the hundreds every day.
- Among them real nurses, graduates. But the majority have never touched a compress in their lives. Not easy to follow a training, the 100,000 syringes sent by MSF are still on the road. And the vaccination of all children from six months to 15 years begins in 48 hours.
- Crisis unit under the tent of the High Commissioner for Refugees. The day before, an unidentified commando would have kidnapped two refugees. The whole camp is buzzing with rumors and the mayors are nervous. A bourgmestre of the camp: "We will try to set up a coherent security structure. But in the meantime, such malicious people can still come forward to kidnap our people. Are we still going to allow them to take our people like that? Or are we going to put up some resistance to any team of people who are going to show up, illegally, to take people from us again?".
- Jacques Franquin, UNHCR camp manager: "During the first weeks people settled in the camp, they didn't have time to think about that. But now all the feelings they had will go back to the surface and we can have phenomena of revenge. I am sure that here there are people who, being in Rwanda, have perpetrated crimes or whatever. There are others who have been victims. It's a city of 200,000 people who have also been in a state of shock. All of this must be resolved in the most humanitarian way possible. At least for the moment".
- It's true that the mayors of the camp are nervous and that we say very bad things about them: that they did nothing to prevent the massacres, that some of them were at the head hordes of killers. Éric Monier addressing Octavien Ngenzi: - "Did you yourself try to stop this massacre?". Octavien Ngenzi: - "Ah yes, yes. Many people would witness it because they saw me going up, going down with the wounded towards the hospital". Éric Monier: - "And you couldn't do anything?". Octavien Ngenzi: - "They were treated at the hospital!". Éric Monier: - "Are you afraid for your life? Are you afraid that there are people looking for you or trying to take revenge for such and such a thing?". Octavien Ngenzi: - "No, no. I fear no one. Because revenge against what? My hands are too light. I have never soiled since my birth. And the population would witness it. I am sure and certain".
- Meanwhile for NGOs, the race against time. New bet of the three sections of MSF, France, Holland, Spain: to vaccinate 96,000 children in 10 days. Vaccinate them first against measles. For us, a childish disease if not benign, in any case under control. Here a formidable and sneaky enemy capable of killing thousands of children in a few weeks. It is also an opportunity to detect cases of malnutrition: they are still rare but their number is increasing.
- Humanitarian volunteers and information professionals. Journalists and volunteers, two worlds that distrust each other and live together in the midst of misfortune. Benaco is undeniably a media success, an indecent success that will undoubtedly save them all. NGOs admit it: donations are pouring in for Rwandan refugees.
- Sebastião Salgado, the most famous photojournalist, is there too. But his own work is long-term: five or six years dedicated to refugees, immigrants, displaced persons of all kinds throughout the world. His look, that of a man revolted by the political errors of Westerners in Africa. Sebastião Salgado: "There is such an immense flow of information that you could almost say that we have set up an industry for these refugees. Once we have materialized the refugees, it lands a quantity of press, a quantity The resources of the United Nations are enormous here for 200,000 people in this camp. But when you imagine the amount of resources that we use here, we could perhaps have used them a little earlier! UN soldiers are staying in Rwanda. So as not to break Rwanda up like we broke it. But we had no resources! The resources were for Bosnia, maybe for Mozambique. But today The amount of money we spend here today is perhaps greater than the amount we had to spend to keep Rwanda in peace! And we didn't do it".
- In Rwanda it is already too late. In the midst of the fighting, on April 21, the United Nations, on behalf of all the countries of the world, decided to withdraw almost all of its blue helmets from Rwanda, leaving these people to their destiny. The Benaco camp is only one of the consequences of this resignation, the least macabre.