Remembering in Rwanda || by Philip Gourevitch


In Kigali last week, thousands of mourners trekked through a thick predawn fog to converge on Amahoro Stadium. By midmorning, in hot, raking sunshine, they filled the stands.

The Army band, with sousaphones flashing, marched to the center of the field, arrayed itself there on a round stage, and began softly playing solemn hymns. President Paul Kagame arrived, along with a dozen other sitting and former heads of state from Africa and Europe. The sky clouded over. The air smelled like rain.

A tall man in a brown suit appeared on the stage. He said that he was Fidel, a genocide survivor, and he started to tell how he was supposed to have been killed. Then the screaming began. The first voice was like a gull’s, a series of wild, high keening cries; the next was lower and slower, strangled with ache, but growing steadily louder in a drawn-out crescendo; after that came a frantic, full-throated babbling—a cascade of terrible, terrified pleading wails.

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