As the Rwandan genocide unfolded 15 years ago, Dr. Laurent Mbanda followed the fighting lines of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) to help administer aid to those who needed it most.
Mbanda is now Compassion’s Regional Vice President of the African region.
1. Where were you when the genocide started?
I was not in Rwanda. I arrived in May 1994 with Compassion to administer relief behind the RPF fighting lines. I was in Nairobi, Kenya, but before that I lived in the USA for 21 years. My parents left Rwanda, running for their lives, when I was 4.
2. How was Rwanda on the ground when you arrived?
Horrific! The country was on fire, it was in disarray, people were dying like flies; displaced people everywhere, bodies rotting everywhere. The military the RPF was trying to stop was visible. I could hear gunshots from where I was.
3. What were your impressions?
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How could a human being do what the Hutu militia did to another human being? How could a government, a leadership of a country, turn against its people and butcher them?
I was angry. It was my people that were being butchered. I was scared for my life even as we went around administering relief where we could.
Initially, I was angry at some NGOs (nongovernment organizations). Many were coming in taking pictures and returning back to raise money. How could they have gone in empty-handed?