“As with a Harvest”
Nyamata is a town in southeastern Rwanda. Its name means "place of milk," from the Kinyarwanda words nya ("of") and amata ("milk"). From Nyamata, it's about an hour north by car to the capital, Kigali, and just as far south to the border of Burundi. The town is a collection of rolling hills, each with its own community on top. It has a main road that runs through it, in much the same way that a highway would run through a small town in the American midwest. The landscape is covered in labyrinthine banana groves, swamps packed with short papyrus stock, and imposing eucalyptus forests. From the surrounding foliage, you can hear the consistent, punctuated chatter of ibis birds and, every so often, the explosive whistle of the talapoin monkeys.
Each family in Nyamata lives in a house made of clay and straw covered by sheets of corrugated metal. The houses are accompanied by a modest plot of land with a small garden and a few goats, chickens, or cows. Nyamata's community buildings, such as the school and town hall, have the same clay and straw complexion as the houses. There is a soccer pitch—a cleared field, really—on which there is constant activity. There are a number of cabarets, which range from legitimate taverns to humble general stores that function as a bar. There is also a church, the only architecturally modern building in Nyamata, which is one story tall, made from bricks, and has a high ceilinged sanctuary in the middle. The church stands out in Nyamata like a splendid European cathedral stand outs in an old city square.
Innocent Rwililiza lives in the central area of Nyamata and works at the town hall. He is tall with closely cropped hair and in his late thirties. He wears khaki pants and a collared white shirt with a single pen in the breast pocket. Innocent is a teacher, which is one of the highest positions that one can hold in Nyamata. He's an educated man. He's charismatic and well-liked, and wherever he goes people come up to him to conduct a routine checkup on life’s happenings.
Innocent's parents were from Ruhengeri, a town in northwestern Rwanda. His father was an assistant veterinarian. He had a brother and two sisters. Innocent and his family are Tutsis. When Innoncent was still a child, his family—along with many of the other Tutsis families—was sent out of Ruhengeri to clear land and take up farming on Kanombe hill, just outside Kigali. "We lived in a straw hut," says Innocent. "It was over twelve miles on foot through the bush to go to school each day. Sundays were spent clearing land, of course. I went to primary school, then secondary school, and I became a teacher. I married and came down with my wife to live in the center of town in Nyamata, because the arable land on the hills was packed with people." This was in the late 1980s.
"At that time," says Innocent, "Nyamata already deserved to be called more than a village, with a worthy market and a church built to last. Houses had sprung up quickly, and the streets were much changed. One saw businesses of all kinds, a minibus station for Kigali, cabarets with local drinks or export beers, a secondary school, a very modest hotel, and a cultural center with a pretty lawn. Nyamata seemed well on the way to becoming a town," he says. "With a population that was slightly more Tutsi than Hutu, we felt comfortable here."
"On the morning of April 11, there was a great uproar in Nyamata," remembers Innocent, "out in the streets, soldiers had begun shooting in earnest." It was spring of 1994. The Rwandan genocide had come to Nyamata.
"In the panic, a crowd rushed to the town hall. We stayed in the courtyard there for about two hours, waiting for words of protection. When the mayor came out, wearing his official blue outfit, he told us, 'If you go home, you will be killed. If you flee into the bush, you will be killed. If you remain here, you will be killed. You must leave here in any case, because I do not want any blood in front of my town hall.'" The mayor was a Hutu. The people in crowd gathered outside town hall were all Tutsis.
"The women, children, and the weak or infirm started to walk to the church," continues Innocent. "Me, I thought, This business has taken a twist: they will kill there, too, that's for certain, and besides, I don't want to die in a church... I ran all day without any destination. I spent the night in the woods and reached Kayumba the next day. There, we wound up some six thousand able-bodied people, about a mile and a half from Nyamata, waiting in the eucalyptus forest for whatever was to come."
The Interahamwe militia arrived in Nyamata the next day. One of the survivors, a twelve year old boy named Cassius, describes what happened:
"The day the killing began in Nyamata, in the big market street, we ran to the parish church. A great crowd had already gathered, because it's part of Rwandan custom to take refuge in God's houses when the massacres begin. Time let us have two days of quiet, then the soldiers and local police came to patrol around the church, yelling that we really were all going to be killed. We hardly dared talk, or breathe—I can remember that. It was not yet noon when the Interahamwe arrived singing: they threw grenades, they tore down the railings, then they rushed into the church and started slicing people up with machetes and spears. They wore manioc leaves in their hair, they shouted full force, laughed with all their heart. They struck with swinging arms. They cut anyone, without choosing."
"From the top of Kayumba," says Innocent, "we could see smoke and hear the grenades on the day of the massacre in the church. My wife and child had taken refuge inside. Four days later, I met a mama in the woods who had escaped the slaughter. She told me, 'Innocent, I bring bad news: I saw your wife during the melee in the church. Given the state in which I left her, I must tell you that she is no longer of this world.' I was shattered, but I yet had hope. I told myself, If no one has seen her body, perhaps she managed to escape, too."
Jean Hatzfeld is a French journalist who went to Rwanda in 1999, five years after the genocide. In his book, Life Laid Bare, he interviews Tutsi survivors. Each survivor, including Cassius and Innocent, gives their account of what happened. Hatzfeld writes, "In 1994, between eleven in the morning on Monday, April 11 and two in the afternoon on Saturday, May 14, about fifty thousand Tutsis, out of a population of around fifty-nine thousand, were massacred by machete, murdered every day of the week, from nine-thirty in the morning until four in the afternoon, by Hutu neighbors and militiamen, on the hills of the district of Nyamata, in Rwanda. That is the point of departure of this book."
And that was just in Nyamata. Throughout all of Rwanda the genocide lasted over 100 days. The estimated number of Tutsis murdered ranges from five hundred thousand to one million.
Hatzfeld returned to Rwanda several years later to conduct a second set of interviews, this time with the Hutu killers. These interviews are published in his book, Machete Season. He conducts the interviews with Innocent as his translator. The interviews take place at a local penitentiary in Rilima, a town outside of Nyamata to the north and west. The road to the prison is dotted with the houses and gardens of prison personnel, as well as some storerooms. The prison has high brick walls. Inside the prison there is a spacious open air grounds with a small garden and several large facilities, including a barracks. The prisoners wear light pink uniforms.
Each day of the interviews, Hatzfeld and Innocent arrive at the prison, park along the outer wall, and check in with the guard. They exchange pleasantries with the warden and his crew while the guard goes to get the interviewees. "Innocent," says Hatzfeld, "a nervous and excitable soul, is constantly running into innumerable acquaintances, both imprisoned and free, with whom he simply must strike up endless discussions."
They conducted the interviews under an acacia tree in the garden of a prison house. Hatzfeld and Innocent interviewed a gang of killers from Nyamata. There are ten of them. Being in a gang together means that they would meet up together on the soccer pitch each morning of the genocide—along with the other Hutu men in the village—and go out with their machetes as a group, searching for Tutsis.
Hatzfeld and Innocent also interviewed an eleventh man, one who was not in the gang. His name is Joseph-Désiré Bitero. He was an Interahamwe leader. The Interahamwe were the Hutu militia who instigated the genocide and gave the orders of how it was to be carried out. In Kinyarwanda, Interahamwe literally means, "those who work together." Work was what they called hacking a Tutsi to death with a machete. Joseph-Désiré was on the soccer pitch each morning, but he wasn't just another man in the crowd. He was giving the orders.
Joseph-Désiré, like Innocent, is charismatic. Hatzfeld describes watching Joseph-Désiré go from his prison cell down the corridor to where they were conducting the interviews. He says Joseph-Désiré “claps former drinking or killing companions on the back, fires off a joke, winks and rolls his eyes, and asks how everyone is doing, testing his popularity while trying to renew old ties. He seemed jolly, said hello nicely, and would gladly have offered us a beer if he'd had one handy."
Innocent knew Joseph-Désiré before the genocide. They were friends. "I've known him since our school days," says Innocent, "and we later became colleagues and friends since we were both teachers. When he was made president of the Interahamwe, much feared and much renowned, we were in opposing camps, but that didn’t prevent us from sharing a Primus and some laughs.”
Joseph-Désiré had been sentenced to death for being a leader during the genocide. He agreed to the interviews while awaiting his punishment. Hatzfeld says of Joseph-Désiré's trial, "He had pleaded guilty, but his confessions hadn't been accepted because he denied the essential fact of his crimes, disclaimed responsibility for his actions, and said he was simply following orders. He showed no remorse about his victims, either, and during our interviews he never once seemed to understand the monstrosity of his actions."
They interview Joseph-Désiré. He skirts around a lot of the questions. He says, "I was more implicated because I was more faithful to the party then... If I hadn't acted, it wouldn't have changed a thing, because everyone was in agreement, each in his own capacity. I tried my best to support what was considered the right thing at the time." He's saying that he ended up in a leadership position because he had done his job well in the party. And if he didn't do what he did then someone else would have stepped up to take his place. Hatzfeld and Innocent accuse him of being evasive.
At one point in the interview Innocent interrupts one of Joseph-Désiré's excuses and sternly tells him that someone who won't confess has no right to complain. Hatzfeld backs him up. He reminds Joseph-Désiré that he was an educated person and the leader of killers. He should've known better. "I was a teacher," Joseph-Désiré replies. "I was a committed party member, I obeyed I killed. In a party, a leader can’t just do what we he wants. Yes, I had a teaching diploma, but it wasn't for me to think about our activities' political slogans. That's not what you're there for when the situation gets hot. All I had to think about was implementation." Hatzfeld and Innocent don't buy it.
Hatzfeld, reflecting on the interviews, makes a comment about Joseph-Désiré. "Of all the men in the gang, Joseph-Désiré is the only one who concretely envisaged the genocide beforehand.” A few months before the genocide Joseph-Désiré went around to each Hutu home to make sure their machetes were sharp. In the days before the genocide, Joseph-Désiré was in meetings with higher ups, who surely would’ve known what was going to happen. He didn't just participate in the genocide. He planned it.
Hatzfeld also notes, “on the first day of the killings, he was conspicuous in the main street, waving his machete, and then he led the way into the church.” The church he's referring to is the church in Nyamata. The one where the Interahamwe showed up singing, where they threw grenades, where they started slicing people up with machetes and spears. Joseph-Désiré was outside that church waving his machete and singing the loudest of anyone. He was not only there when Innocent's wife died. He was the one who led the charge of men who killed her.
"After his arrest," recounts Innocent, "we ran into each other in court and I burst out at him: 'You, you knew everything for a long time and you never gave the slightest warning to save at least my wife! Maybe you even killed her with your own hands in the church.' He mouthed conciliatory words in response, but he dodged the answer."
Joseph-Désiré and Innocent were friends. Then the genocide starts, which Joseph-Désiré knew about all along. Then Joseph-Désiré led the group of killers into the church where Innocent's wife cowered in fear, while Innocent watched from a nearby hilltop. Now, Joseph-Désiré is looking Innocent in the face and denying all responsibility for what happened.
Joseph-Désiré was an Interahamwe leader. He knew about the genocide before it started. He gave orders for other men to kill. He killed people with his own machete. Joseph-Désiré was a teacher, an educated man—not some ignorant, backwaters savage. He was in the church on the day Innocent’s wife died. Maybe he even killed her with his own hands. Joseph-Désiré is a killer. Innocent and Hatzfeld know it, his comrades know it, the tribunal that convicted him know it. Even Joseph-Désiré himself knows it. But he still won’t own up to his actions. Perhaps he’s just making excuses to evade responsibility, like Innocent and Hatzfeld claim. But perhaps there’s something more going on here.
The idea of the fundamental attribution error suggests that we tend to attribute our own wrongdoing to situational factors, whereas we attribute other people’s wrongdoing to dispositional factors. Nowhere is this more true than with war crimes. This specific applications of the fundamental attribution error is called the Moralization Gap. This is how cognitive scientist Steven Pinker describes it:
The Moralization Gap consists of complementary bargaining tactics in the negotiation for recompense between victim and a perpetrator. Like opposing counsel in a lawsuit over a tort, the social plaintiff will emphasize the deliberateness, or at least the depraved indifference, of the defendant's action, together with the pain and suffering the plaintiff endures. The social defendant will emphasize the reasonableness or unavoidability of the action and will minimize the plaintiff's pain and suffering. The competing framings shape the negotiations over amends, and also play to the gallery in a competition for their sympathy and for a reputation as a responsible reciprocator… People consider the harms they inflict to be justified and forgettable, and the harms they suffer to be unprovoked and grievous.
Pinker observes that it is in the perpetrator’s best interest to convince everyone that he no longer is capable of doing any harm. As Pinker puts it, “He may start out by claiming that his harm was an unfortunate result of unique set of circumstances that will never be repeated—that is, that the action was unintentional or unavoidable or that the harm it did was unforeseen.” If you trace the perpetrator’s motivation, then of course he’s going to blame everything on situational factors. And he’s also going to say that the situation has changed. And now that the situation is different, there’s no chance that he’ll perpetrate those crimes again.
There’s another reason not to admit to dispositional guilt. As Pinker points out, “There is a vast psychological difference between a crime that everyone privately knows about but not everyone acknowledges and one that is ‘out there’ as common knowledge.” In other words, if a perpetrator were to admit full guilt, then they would be saying that the fault was theirs—not the situation. That is a huge psychological burden. If instead they maintain that the blame lies with the situation, then they don’t have to admit that they are the kind of person who would do something so awful. They can still maintain a positive self-image. Pinker writes, “perpetrators rationalize a harm they committed out of self-interested motives (reneging on a promise, robbing or raping a victim). But people also rationalize harms they have been pressured into committing in the service of someone else's motives. They can edit their beliefs to make the action seem justifiable to themselves, the better to justify it to others.”
One of the killers, that Hatzfeld interviews, Pio, gives his interpretation:
“At the start of a genocide, there is a cause, a reason, and people who find it worthwhile. The cause does not drift around there by accident; it's even fine-tuned by the intimidators: the desire to win the game for God. But the people it tempts are the ones who just happen to live there. And I was there, at home, when the temptation came calling. I'm not saying I was forced by Satan and the like. Through greed and obedience I found the cause worthwhile, and I ran down to the marshes. But if I had been born in Tanzania or in France, I would have been far away from the commotion and dirty bloodshed.
"Simple people cannot resist a temptation like that, not without biblical rescue, not on the hills, anyway. Why? Because of the beautiful words of complete success. They win you over. Afterward the temptation cannot go to prison, so they imprison the people. And the temptation can certainly show up just as dreadful further along.”
There is one story told in terms of situational factors, to which Pio and Joseph Désiré lay claim. And another is told in terms of disposition, to which Pinker alludes, and Hatzfeld and Innocent totally accept. Pinker is certainly right that if you follow the trail of the perpetrator’s motivation, then you come to the conclusion that it’s in his best interest to claim himself not guilty via situational factors. Perhaps that’s enough to explain why Joseph-Désiré makes that claim. He admits to being a part of the genocide. But he contests that it’s the situation that forced his hand. He says that he didn’t have a choice. What he did isn’t permissible. But it’s not unjustified, either. And, of course, Innocent points to the contrary. You can’t blame the situation. You have to blame Joseph-Désiré.
In July 1961, a prominent Yale psychologist and his team put out an ad in a local Connecticut paper. The psychologists were looking for men who were willing to participate in an experiment they were running on learning and memory. The experiment would take less than a couple hours and pay $4.50. Of the men who wrote back to the ad, the psychologists selected forty. The men were from all different backgrounds. They ranged from 20 to 50 years old. Some of them were teachers, some were engineers, some were salesmen. Each man arranged an appointment for their time in the laboratory. The psychologists made sure each appointment had two men scheduled at the same time, as the experiment required a pair to participate.
One of the men to participate was a postal worker from New Haven. Let’s call him Dave. He was paired with an accountant of Irish-American stock, who we can call Jim. When Dave and Jim arrived at the lab, they were met by an experimenter in a grey coat who introduced himself as Dr. Grey. After both men introduced themselves to Dr. Grey, he gave them their payment. He told them that the money was theirs for coming in, regardless of their performance in the task. Once they settled up the payment, the experiment began.
Dr. Grey gave a synposis of the motivation behind the research. He reiterated that the experiment looked at learning and memory. He told the men that it’s well known to psychologists that rewards affect learning. “But actually,” he explained, “we know very little about the effect of punishment on learning, because almost no truly scientific studies have been made of it in human beings.” This experiment would be a first step toward understanding that relationship.
“For instance,” he continued, “we don’t know how much punishment is best for learning—and we don’t know how much difference it makes as to who is giving the punishment, whether an adult learns best from a younger or an older person than himself—or many things of that sort. So in this study we are bringing together a number of adults of different occupations and ages. And we’re asking some of them to be teachers and some of them to be learners. We want to find out just what effect different people have on each other as teachers and learners, and also what effect punishment will have on learning in this situation. Therefore, I’m going to ask one of you to be the teacher here tonight and the other one to be the learner. Does either of you have a preference?” Neither man had a preference. Then Dr. Grey presented Dave with a choice of two folded slips of paper inside a hat—on one of them was written teacher, on the other student. Dave picked one, unfolded it, and read, “teacher.” That means Jim would be the learner.
Dr. Grey took Dave and Jim to the next room. It was a small, white-paneled room with a chair, a desk, and a small aparatus consisting of lights and buttons. This is where the student would sit. Dr. Grey asked Jim to sit. Dr. Grey fastened Jim’s arms to the chair, which he told the men would help prevent “excess movement.” Then Dr. Grey took an electrode, applied some electrode paste to Jim’s arm—“to avoid blisters and burns”—and connected to the electrode to Jim. The electrodes, said Dr. Grey, were attached to a shock generator in the other room. Jim asked if the shocks were dangerous. Dr. Grey replied, ”Although the shocks can be extremely painful, they cause no permanent tissue damage.” Jim shrunk a bit in the chair and mentioned to Dr. Grey that he had been diagnosed with a minor heart condition a few years ago. Dr. Grey wasn’t concerned.
Jim’s job as the learner would be to learn a list of word pairs. For example, he would learn the pairs red-apple, fast-waltz, tea-time. Then Dave, as the teacher, would read Jim the cue word, red, and Jim would have to respond with apple. But instead of a free response, Jim would be given four options—such as, fire-apple-hair-face—and he’d have to select the number of the correct one. In this case, he’d press 2. Once Jim’s job was explained, Dr. Grey and Dave left him in the room and went to the room where Dave would test Jim and operate the shock generator. Dr. Grey escorted Dave to his table. In from of him sat the shock generator—Type ZLB made by Dyson—which was a large metal box with a row of switches ranging from 15 volts to 450 volts, in increments of 15. The switches were clustered into sections that went from “Slight Shock” and “Moderate Shock” on one end to “Danger: Severe Shock” and “XXX” on the other.
Dr. Grey applied an electrode to Dave’s arm, so that he could get a sense of what it felt like. Dr. Grey flipped a switch, and Dave gave a little jump. That was 15 volts, said Dr. Grey. He explained Dave’s job. Dave, as the teacher, had a microphone in front of him, so that Jim could hear him, but Jim could only communicate through by selecting a number. While the rooms were adjacent, they were mostly soundproof. Dave’s job would be to read the list of word pairs to Jim. Then for each pair he would read the cue word, followed by the four potential options for the target word. If Jim selected the correct word, Dave said “correct” and moved on. If Jim selected the incorrect word, Dave said “incorrect,” read the correct cue-target pairing, and applied a shock. Each time Dave applied a shock, it was 15 volts higher than the previous. “When you get to the bottom of the list,” said Dr. Grey, “repeat it over again, and continue giving shocks, until the learner has learned all the pairs correctly.” Once he has done that, then he moves onto the next list.
Dave begins the teaching regiment. He reads the list of pairs. Then he goes back to read the first cue word, “black.” He reads the potential target words, “cat-night-cup-hat,” and Jim responds by selecting 3. “Correct.” Then he moves onto the next one. “Wood,” reads Dave, “stove-cabin-leg-stick.” Jim responds 1. “Incorrect. Wood-leg.” Dave applies 15 volts to Jim. Dave continues through the first list. Jim gets five wrong, up to 75 volts. Dave finishes the first list, sweeps his hand across his chin, looks behind him at Dr. Grey writing on a piece of paper, then continues. On the next list Jim gets seven wrong, up to 180 volts. Dave squirms in his chair before applying the 180 volt shock. Then on the next list Jim gets eight wrong. Dave applies the 300 volt shock, and he hears a muffled scream from the next room, “Ow!” He looked back at Dr. Grey. Dave says, “I think that last shock really hurt him. Should we stop?” Dr. Grey looks up from his papers. He replies, “Please continue.” Dave acquiesces.
Dave begins on the next list. When he administers the 315 volt shock, he had can hear Jim pounding on the wall. He continues. When he administers the 330 volt shock, he hears Jim shout, “This hurts! Let me out of here!” Dave turns again to Dr. Grey. “It sounds like he said he doesn’t want to go on.” Dr. Grey responds, “Whether the learner likes it or not, you must go on until he has learned all the word pairs correctly. The experiment requires that you continue.” Dave protests again. Dr. Grey assures him, “ It is absolutely essential that you continue.” Dave continues.
When Dave applies the 345 volt shock, he hears nothing. Jim doesn’t press a button in response. Dr. Grey looks up, “Allow 5–10 seconds before considering no response as a wrong answer.” Dave turns around, looks at Dr. Grey, then faces the shock generator again, visibly distressed. He lets out a nervous laugh. Dave turns back to Dr. Grey, “Are you sure about this?” Dr. Grey responds sternly, “You have no other choice, you must go on.” Dave turns back toward the shock generator and continues. Dave goes until he gets to the XXX section, 435 volts. He shakes his head and lets out another nervous laugh. He flips the switch for 435. When he flips the switch for 450 volts, the experiment is over.
Dr. Grey tells Dave that he is going to go into the other room to check on Jim. When he leaves, another man comes in the room. His name is Stanley Milgram. He asks Dave a few questions. The questions were open-ended but forceful. “Why did you continue to shock the learner after you heard him yelled?” Dave does his best to answer. He murmurs something about the instructions of the experiment. Milgram asks a few more questions. Once he’s finished with the questions, he debriefs Dave. The experiment had not actually been concerned with learning and memory. That was a subterfuge. It was instead an experiment on obedience to authority. Dave performed as what Milgram called, an “obedient subject.”
That’s when Jim and Dr. Grey came out from the other room. Both of them were confederates in the experiment, acting according to a script. The shocks were not actually being applied to Jim. The only real shock had been the 15 volt example shock on Dave at the beginning of the experiment. Milgram—who was actually the psychologist in charge of the experiment—made sure that Dave understood what had happened and that he had not actually caused Jim any harm. Milgram did his best to console Dave. “If it’s any consolation, most people go all the way to 450, too.” Of the forty men that participated in Milgram’s experiment, twenty-six of them, like Dave, applied the 450 volt shock. Not a single one of them refused to continue before the 300 volt shock.
Joseph-Désiré grew up around Nyamata. His family lived on the hill of Kinazi, about 15 minutes up the road from Nyamata toward Kigali. His parents, like most Hutus, were farmers. They were middle class—not poor, not rich. He had three brothers and four sisters. He liked to play soccer and watch games with his friends. Joseph-Désiré says of his family home, "I lived in the house where I was born and where I expected to die."
Joseph-Désiré's parents encouraged his education. He wanted to be a teacher. "When I was a child, I saw teachers as special people, honored at ceremonies, much listened to, well-dressed—so admirable." When Joseph-Désiré finished primary school his grades were good enough, and he was accepted to the teacher's college.
Joseph-Désiré did well there. He began to attract attention because he was smart, well-educated, and, above all, very charming. Innocent—who was a colleague of Joseph-Désiré’s—remarks on his disposition during this period. "At heart, [Joseph-Désiré] was a really jolly guy, who smiled at everything and nothing. He enjoyed meeting people. He was nice. He'd shared a drink and conversation with any comrade at all."
Then Joseph-Désiré got interested in politics. "When I wanted to join a party there was only one: The MRND." That is the National Revolutionary Movement for Development (the acronym MRND is the French ordering of those words). The MRND was founded in 1975 by Juvénal Habyarimana, who led a coup overthrowing the previous regime. In 1978, because of a new constitution, the MRND became the only political party in Rwanda. In the election that year Habyarimana was reelected with 99% of the vote. Joseph-Désiré isn't exaggerating when he says that the MRND was his only option.
He explains, "It was the party of President Habyarimana, the burgomaster [Nyamata's mayor], civil servants, and Hutus like me. After other parties appeared, it never occurred to me to change. I preached the ideas of the president, which seemed most profitable for my Hutu brothers, the ideas that addressed the threat of rebels and of oppositionist political figures. I figured those ideas would prevail because of our majority, the army, and government negotiations. That suited me fine."
Hatzfeld remarks on Joseph-Désiré's background: "Let's simply note that there is no evidence of any event in his childhood, any cause of humiliation or resentment, which might have fed a personal desire for revenge, and that for a young teacher, climbing the social ladder but living on a meager salary, this party in power for twenty-five years, the party of his cousin the burgomaster, was the only pathway to success—unless he tried his luck in the capital or in the army, which was risky for a farmer's son who had never set foot outside Nyamata."
So what inspired Joseph-Désiré's hatred for the Tutsis? In order to understand that, we have to look closer at the history of the social circumstances in which Joseph-Désiré grew up. As Joseph-Désiré puts it, "I was raised in the fear that the Mwami—the Tutsi kings—and their commanders might return; that was because of all the stories old folks told us at home about unpaid forced labor and other humiliations of that sad period of us, and because of the awful things happening to our brothers in Burundi."
The Hutus and Tutsis are considered subgroups of the same ethnicity. They speak the same language—Kinyarwanda (some of them speak French, the Rwandan colonial language, as well). They share a common cultural background. They even share the same religion: over 90% of the country is Christian. There is nothing that distinguishes them physically. If you had fifty Hutus and fifty Tutsis mix in together, standing shoulder to shoulder, you wouldn't be able to separate them into two distinct groups, unless you knew each person individually.
The biggest difference between them is a class divide. Historically, the Tutsis have been an aristocracy. Before World War I and the colonization of Rwanda and Burundi by Belgium and Germany, the Tutsis were the ruling class. The colonial powers favored the Tutsi minority. The Tutsis held all of the power and wealth, and the Hutus resented this. The Hutu majority first revolted against the Tutsi aristocracy in 1959 and took power, which they retained through the time of the genocide. When Joseph-Désiré says that he fears the return of the Tutsi kings, he is talking about this period before the first Hutu revolt.
"You will never see the source of a genocide," says Joseph-Désiré. "It is buried too deep in grudges, under an accumulation of misunderstandings that we were the last the inherit. We came of age at the worst moment in Rwanda's history: we were taught to obey absolutely, raised in hatred, stuffed with slogans. We are an unfortunate generation." Joseph-Désiré grew up during those three decades between the first revolt in 1959 and the genocide in 1994. The worst moment in Rwanda's history.
As Hatzfeld himself admits, there is no event that caused Joseph-Désiré to hate the Tutsis. Rather, it was something he inherited. He was raised in fear of the return of the Tutsi kings. He heard stories of what it was like when Hutus lived in servitude. He was told to blame the Tutsis for the misfortunes of his people. But notice that it wasn't a cultural prejudice like slave owners had in the American South. Joseph-Désiré didn't hate the Tutsis outright. He shared beers with Innocent, who was a Tutsi. They were friends. Slave owners didn't sit down with slaves at the end of the day to knock back a beer and shoot the breeze. No, Joseph-Désiré's prejudice was more subtle than that.
Joseph-Désiré explains, "I was born surrounded by Tutsis in Kanazi. I always had Tutsi acquaintances and thought nothing of it. Still, I did grow up listening to history lessons and radio programs that were always talking about major problems between Hutus and Tutsis—though I lived among Tutsis who posed no problem. The situation was going to pieces due to the impossible gap between the worrisome news and the mess on the country's borders and the peaceful people who lived next door. The situation was bound to come apart and to go into either savagery or neighborliness."
Joseph-Désiré rose in the political ranks and became president of Nyamata's chapter of the Interahamwe. The Interahamwe are considered a terrorist organization now, especially after taking responsibility for the genocide, but they didn't start that way. When Joseph-Désiré joined, the Interahamwe was just the youth wing of the MRND. And he was the president for his village. That was a big honor for him, especially as a farmer's son who had never set foot outside Nyamata. "It was an absorbing activity that could bring small advantages. We had a good time at the formal political events. We wanted the superiority of power and all its satisfactions." Joseph-Désiré’s career with as an Interahamwe leader grew out of his ambition.
Joseph-Désiré says of his initial role with the Interahamwe, "My job was to enroll young Hutus, to keep them from going astray into crime or into the wrong parties. I urged them to listen to the president's speeches; I organized gymnastic exercises, games, and meetings to explain our policies. But the war took a wrong turn. The Rwandan army could not hold the front, and we suspected a cover-up of their defeat. That fanned the politician's brutality and thirst for vengeance. We militants were intoxicated by orders, and we acquiesced."
He goes on, "It's too complicated, because the meaning of the word Interahamwe shifted in the time between my nomination and the massacres. When I accepted, I had not thought of killing, except perhaps if a pressing need arose. I mean, I had no thought of killing for killing's sake."
Joseph-Désiré is saying that the situation around his killing was too complicated. But was it really too complicated? Hatzfeld doesn't think so. Joseph-Désiré was an educated man. He killed people. He should've known better. There's nothing complicated about that. After all, Joseph-Désiré knew that the genocide was coming. Two months before the massacres started, he went around to all of the Hutus in Nyamata to make sure their machetes were sharp. He met with the higher ups in the days proceeding the genocide. He was front and center waving his machete in front of the church.
Innocent also claims Joseph-Désiré knew what was going to happen. "His character changed completely after January. If I came into our neighborhood cabaret, he'd stop talking until I left. If our paths crossed, he would change direction and look away; suddenly he began avoiding conversation with me, refusing all contact. We hadn't quarreled about anything, or fallen out over a hurtful word, but he had already expelled me from his circle. He preferred putting in hours at closed meetings with influential people. He was still friendly, but only to his Hutu compatriots."
But Joseph-Désiré claims the opposite. He didn't actually know what was going to happen. It was a slippery slope. He started out with innocuous work, like preaching MRND doctrine and leading physical exercises. When the group asked him to make minor compromises, it was either accept wholeheartedly or forfeit all of the progress he had made in his career. "When the decision about the killings reached us, duty kept me from backing out. It was beyond difficult: things were rushing along too fast for us to think as we do today, six years later." He continues, "Let us say that the chaotic situation had come to seem too natural to me. The things that went without saying, the obligations—it all happened so fast there was no room left for any kind of hesitation. You were either pushed into flight by cowardice or drawn to your machete by obedience."
Hatzfeld and Innocent don't buy this. How on earth could you not know that something that momentous was about to occur? Especially when you're in on the ground floor of it. All of the signs were there! How could you not have known what was about to happen?
But this always easier to say in retrospect. There's a passage from Nassim Nicholas Taleb's book on the unpredictability of consequential events, The Black Swan, that captures this nicely. "Events," says Taleb, "present themselves to us in a distorted way. Consider the nature of information: of the millions, maybe even trillions, of small facts that prevail before an event occurs, only a few will turn out to be relevant later to your understanding of what happened." Taleb says the book that gave him first glimpse into this was William Shirer’s Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent, 1934–1941. Taleb first read it when he a boy, during Lebanon's civil war of the 1980s. "Shirer," he says, "was a radio correspondent, famous for his book The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. It occurred to me that the Journal offered an unusual perspective." He continues, "the diary purported to describe the events as they were taking place, not after. I was in a basement with history audibly unfolding above me (the sound of mortar shells kept me up all night). I was a teenager attending the funerals of classmates. I was experiencing a nontheoretical unfolding of History and I was reading about someone apparently experiencing history as it went along. I made efforts to mentally produce a movielike representation of the future and realized it was not so obvious. I realized that if I were to start writing about the events later they would seem more …historical. There was a difference between the before and the after."
As Taleb says, "encountering Shirer’s book provided me with an intuition about the workings of history. One would suppose that people living through the beginning of WWII had an inkling that something momentous was taking place. Not at all."
It’s possible that the same thing is true of the Rwandan genocide.
The catalyst of the genocide was the assassination of the Rwandan president, Juvénal Habyarimana. His plane was coming into land at the Kigali airport. On the plane were Habyarimana and the Burundian president, Cyprien Ntaryamira, seven Rwandan and Burundian staff members, and a French crew of three. At 8:19 pm on April 6, a surface-to-air missile hit the left wing of their craft. Moments later a second one hit its tail. The plane went up in flames and crashed into the garden of the presidential palace, killing all the passengers. The genocide began the next morning.
Before the assassination, tensions percolated, but nothing like the genocide had began in earnest. Élie, another of the killers interviewed by Hatzfeld, explains, "I think the idea of genocide germinated in 1959 [the year of the first Hutu revolt], when we killed lots of Tutsis without being punished, and we never repressed it after that. The intimidators and the peasants with hoes found themselves in agreement. As for us, we told ourselves that the Tutsis were in the way but this idea was not always in our thoughts. We talked about it, we forgot about it, we waited. We heard no protests about our murders. As with farm work, we waited for the right season. The death of our president was the signal for the final chaos. But as with a harvest, the seed was planted before."
What Joseph-Désiré is saying is that there is the period between 1959, the year of the first Hutu revolt, and April 6, 1994, when the president’s plane was shot down. That's when the conflict was building, but without any obvious steps toward genocide. Then there is the period from April 6, 1994 at 8:19 pm, when the missiles struck the president’s plane, to April 7, 1994 at 9:00 am, when the first killings of the genocide began. Joseph-Désiré says that it all happened so quickly. That’s because it did. The three decade period of tension tipped into a full-scale genocide during a twelve hour window.
In the early 1970s, a prison inmate sent a letter to a psychology professor. He wrote,
I was recently released from 'solitary confinement' after being held therein for 37 months. The silent system was imposed upon me, and to even whisper to the man in the next cell resulted in being beaten by guards, sprayed with chemical mace, blackjacked, stomped, and thrown into a strip cell naked to sleep on a concrete floor without bedding, covering, wash basin, or even a toilet. The floor served as toilet and bed, and even there the silent system was enforced. To let a moan escape your lips because of the pain and discomfort resulted in another beating. I spent not days but months there during my 37 months in solitary.
I have filed every writ possible against the administrative acts of brutality. The State courts have all denied the petitions. Because of my refusal to let the 'thing die down' and 'forget' all that happened during my 37 months in solitary, I am the most hated prisoner in— Penitentiary, and called a 'hard-core incorrigible.'
Professor, maybe I am an incorrigible, but, if true, it is because I would rather die than to accept being treated less than a human being. I have never complained of my prison sentence as being unjustified except through legal means of appeals. I have never put a knife on a guard's throat and demanded my release. I know that thieves must be punished, and I don't justify stealing even though I am a thief myself. But now I don't think I will be a thief when I am released. No, I am not rehabilitated. It is just that I no longer think of becoming wealth by stealing. I now only think of 'killing.'
Killing those who have beaten me and treated me as if I were a dog. I hope and pray for the sake of my own soul and future life of freedom that I am able to overcome the bitterness and hatred which eats daily at my soul, but I know to overcome it will not be easy.
We don’t know the name of the man who wrote this. But we do know who he sent it to. The inmate had written to the professor because he read about a study which the professor had conducted. Today we know it as the Stanford Prison Experiment, and the professor who conducted it was Philip Zimbardo.
To begin the experiment, Zimbardo and his colleagues put an ad in the local Palo Alto paper for paid participation in an experiment on prison life. They got 70 responses. “We selected two dozen of the most mature, emotionally stable, normal, intelligent young men that we could find,” said Zimbardo when testifying before a Congressional hearing on prison reform. “These were what I would call the cream of the crop of this generation. They were primarily middle class or well to do. In every way they were within the normal range on every dimension. They were quite homogenous to begin with.”
They assigned half of the participants to be guards and half to be prisoners, as decided by a coin flip. Simply put, there were no dispositional differences between the guards and the prisoners. The guards were to serve 8-hour three-man shifts. Zimbardo, acting as the prison warden, told them that they should do whatever was necessary to maintain law and order. On the first morning of the experiment, the prisoners were picked up by the Palo Alto police, who had agreed to arrest and process the participants like they would anyone who had actually performed an armed robbery. They brought the prisoners to their prison and locked them up in their cells. “Now,” recalls Zimbardo, “they were getting paid $15 a day for this work—which was very good pay. Being an experiment, they thought it would be fun and games.”
They constructed their prison in the basement of Jordan hall, the psychology building on the Stanford campus. They closed off a corridor, and replaced the doors with bars. These were the cells. Down the hall a ways was a toilet, which prisoners had to put on a blindfold to visit. Opposite the cells, they left the door on one of the rooms, a small closet. It had no light, and was only about two square feet on the ground, though large enough to stand up in. This was “The Hole,” solitary confinement.
Each prisoner got a uniform and a number. They were no longer to be known by their names, but only by number. They wore a dress, with no underwear, a heavy chain on their right ankles, rubber sandals, and nylon stockings over their hair. The guards wore khaki uniforms. They each got a whistle and a billy club. They wore mirrored sunglasses, which Zimbardo fancied after seeing the movie Cool Hand Luke. They planned for the experiment to go on for two weeks.
“At the end of only six days,” says Zimbardo, “we had to close down the mock prison. It was no longer apparent to us or most of the subjects where they ended and their roles began.” The guards had become sadistic. Some of the prisoners had to be released after only a couple of days, because of psychological breakdowns. “Some of the guards,” says Zimbardo, “were so brutal that, for example, we had a rule that you could not be kept in solitary confinement for more than an hour… One of the guards kept a prisoners there for 3 hours without eating and was going to keep him overnight and none the other guards would intervene.”
"In large measure,” concludes Zimbardo, “we are and do what is determined by situations that we are in. Very often these are non-obvious and subtle, so we are unaware of them. Very often we avoid situations where we might be controlled and finally we label as weak or deviant people in those situations that we are not in when they behave different from us. We would also behave that same way, but we don't enter those situations to see.
"Each of us carried around in our heads a very favorable self-image. We could not imagine hurting somebody without just cause, in fact, without a lot of provocation. However, there is a large body of research literature that says most people, even a majority, can be made to do almost anything if you put them in psychologically compelling situations, regardless of their morals, ethics, values, attitudes, beliefs, or personal convictions." The real story of the Stanford Prison Experiment, to Zimbardo’s mind, is that anyone—including ourselves—could find themselves behaving like the prison guard under the right conditions.
Once the genocide started, why didn’t Joseph-Désiré abandon ship? Why did he stay on with the party and commit genocide against the Tutsis? It was his decision to raise his machete against his neighbors. Nobody raised his arm for him. Isn’t that an inexcusable decision no matter what his alternative choices were?
Joseph-Désiré gives an account of his thought process. "For someone who had been recruited by politics the only choice was to run away or become an organizer. Run away? As I told you before, I never considered that. Or the possibility that the authorities had the wrong perspective. I told myself that if the job had to be done, it had to be done quickly and completely. When war threatens your land when you can rely on the strength of the majority, of the party that's best for your intellectual and material well being and when you enjoy the confidence of the authorities, you do your utmost without counting the cost."
He continues, "The highest authorities corrupted a war based on grudges piled up since the Tutsi kings and turned it into a genocide. We were overwhelmed. We found ourselves faced with a done deal we had to get done, if I may put it that way. When the genocide came from Kigali, taking us by surprise, I never flinched. I thought, If the authorities opted for this choice, there's no reason to sidestep the issue.”
Listen to what another killer, Pio, has to say: "Anyone who had the idea of not killing for a day could get out of it, no problem. But anyone with the idea of not killing at all could not let on, or he himself would be killed while others watched. Voicing disagreement out loud was fatal on the spot. So we don't know if people had that idea." It was kill or be killed.
Hatzfeld himself relates the story of someone who dissented, Isidore Mahandago. It’s tragic:
"It was close to noon on April 11, the first day of the Tutsi hunt on the hill of Ntarama. Isidore Mahandago was sitting on a chair in front of his terres-tôle house, resting after a morning of weeding. He was a Hutu farmer, sixty-five years old, who had arrived twenty years before in Rugunga, on the Ntarama hill. Some strapping fellows armed with machetes came singing up the path that ran near his house. Isidore called to them in his deep old voice and lectured them in public, in front of the neighbors: 'You, young men, are evildoers. Turn on your heels and go. Your blades point the way toward a dreadful misfortune for us all. Do not stir up disputes too dangerous for us farmers. Stop tormenting our neighbors and go back to your fields.' Two killers approached him, laughing, and without a word cut him down with their machetes. Among the band was Idisore's son, who according to witnesses neither protested nor stopped to bend over the body. The young men went on their way singing." Isidore Mahandago did the right thing. And he was cut down immediately, without discussion.
That was Joseph-Désiré's alternative course of action.
You can maintain that he still should've chosen that over committing genocide. And maybe that's right. But think about it from his point of view. He had built his career up. He trusted the MRND. It all happened so quickly for him. He had his family to think about. Was he just supposed to give up on all that?
Before Milgram ran his experiment on obedience to authority, he told one of his psychology classes—a group of fourteen Yale seniors—what he planned to do. He asked them to predict the results. Out of 100 hypothetical participants, how many would go all the way to 450 volts? Pretty much everyone agreed. No one would do it. The students’ estimates ranged from zero to three, with an average estimate that 1.2 subjects would make it to the full voltage. And it’s easy to imagine how they got that number—at least one person in a hundred might be sadistic enough to enjoy giving the shocks, right? Milgram also got together a group of forty psychiatrists. He asked them the same thing. What do you think will happen? Same as the students, they thought there would maybe be one person who went all the way, but more likely it would be no one.
The students and the psychiatrists projected what they thought would happen based on dispositional factors. But that, of course, had almost no impact on what followed. It was all about the situational factors. Milgram went on to run many different versions of the experiment. In each one he would add or subtract a single variable—always a situational factor—to see how it affected the results. He found with these small changes, he could modulate the percent of participants who complied between 90% and less than 10%. Here is a list of twelve ways that situations can influence behavior, based on Milgram’s findings. You can think of it as the Situationist’s Cookbook:
Reasonable justification. In the Milgram experiment, they used a cover story to get people to apply the shocks. Instead Milgram could have sat down with a new subject and told them, “I am running a study on blind obedience to authority. I will have you apply shocks to the gentleman in the other room, and when you don’t want to continue anymore, I’ll instruct you to go on to see how you respond.” But then they wouldn’t have done it. You don’t get blind obedience to authority just by asking for blind obedience to authority.
Contractual obligation. The participants didn’t necessarily sign a contract in the Milgram experiment. But the pretense for a verbal contract to participate in the experiment was there. The experimenter told participants that they would get paid just for showing up and it didn’t matter what they did next. Milgram and his colleagues were interested in how people perceived their obligation to authority—not to actual contracts—so they minimized the influence. But it can still be a strong situational influence nonetheless.
Meaningful roles. Milgram gave participants meaningful roles to play: the teacher and the student. These are roles that everyone is familiar with. There is this classic idea in psychology called a script. When you are in a certain situation, with a specific set of roles, then you behavior according to a script. For example, there’s a script for being a diner in a restaurant—you, the waitress, and everyone else have roles, and you know approximately how the interaction is going to play out. So you follow the restaurant script. People are comfortable when they follow a script, and they’re more than happy to assume the roles with which they’re familiar.
Basic rules. To some extent, all of the basic rules of the experiment were reasonable before you actually had to implement them. Milgram’s subjects were supposed to mark a no-response as an incorrect answer. It seems reasonable to mark a no-response as an incorrect answer, because that’s how it usually done—leave an answer blank on the test, you miss that point. But what happens when the subject in the other room is incapacitated or possibly dead? At that point it doesn’t make any sense to marking answers correct or incorrect. But you already assented to the basic rule.
Framing Effects. Milgram told the participants that they were helping learners through punishment. It wouldn’t have worked if he had told them they were hurting victims with shocks. In this case, those two prospects are equivalent. He could’ve have told him either one, but he choice to spin it—psychologists call it framing—as the more favorable option.
Diffusion of Responsibility. One of the common questions from Milgram’s participants during the experiment was to ask Dr. Grey if he assumed full responsibility for whatever happened to the learner. Dr. Grey assured the teacher that he assumed full responsibility. This mollified the teachers enough for them to continue, secure in the knowledge that it wouldn’t be their fault if something happened to poor Jim.
Baby Steps: Initial Conditions. The experiment didn’t start off with the teacher giving the learner an XXX shock of 450 volts. It started at 15 volts. And the teachers even got an example of what a 15 volt shock feels like—not that bad. The experiment started with low-stakes initial conditions.
Baby Steps: Actions. The teachers began at an innocuous starting condition, and they didn’t have to go far beyond it in order to progress. Just 15 volts at a time. If 15 volts isn’t that bad, then another 15 can’t make it all the much worse. And 15 more won’t be that bad either. At what point does it become clear that adding another 15 volts is unconscionable? It’s a slippery slope.
Baby Steps: Authority. The experimenter started off as an equitable figure—a professional, a scientist, a serious man. But at some point along the way he transformed from noble scientist to ignoble authoritarian. And just as there is no obvious answer as to which 15 volt increment changed the situation from acceptable to unacceptable, there is no obvious answer as to which instruction made the experimenter go from just to unjust.
Worthwhile Cause. In the advertisement, Milgram made sure to emphasize that the experiment took place at Yale—a venerable institution of higher education. The experimenter told participants that the results of this experiment were important for science. The teachers assumed that their participation was a contributing to the greater good.
High exit costs. In order to defect from the Milgram experiment, subjects had to verbally protest five times before the experimenter would let them off the hook. Subjects usually didn’t give much verbal protest until the 300 volt shock. They would have already had to shock the learner twenty times, and most of the other situational factors had already set in by this point. So once subjects became uncertain about whether they should continue, they had to really put up a fight. That, at least, is one way of framing the exit costs of the experiment as relatively high. It’s easy to imagine situations in which the exit costs are even more severe.
Everyone else is doing it. In one of the alternative versions of the study, Milgram first had his subjects observe other subjects behaving obediently. The results? Over 90% of the participants went all the way to 450 volts.
At one point Joseph-Désiré states, "Everything I said I would say again today. I was tried at a time when the survivors felt too much anger." The survivors felt too much anger. At first glance, that’s an appalling statement. Too much anger? You mean, people were too angry about the time when you and your buddies slaughtered an entire population of Tutsis?
But I don't think he means it like that. He goes on, "They expected some kind of punishment, and the new authorities wanted to give them a spectacular revenge." What he's saying is that they needed someone to blame. Yes, he killed people. He freely admits that. But that's not what he's protesting. He's protesting being blamed for the genocide. And he feels like they're trying to pin the blame on him. But he doesn't feel like he caused the genocide. He genuinely believes that he's the victim of tragic situation. From his perspective they have it backwards. He's a victim of the worst moment in Rwanda's history. Not the cause of it.
Joseph-Désiré feels like a normal guy who grew up in the worst moment of his country's history and had his hand forced upon him. He doesn't feel like a killer. He definitely doesn't feel like he caused the genocide. Marie-Chantal, Joseph-Désiré's wife gives her perspective of the period during the genocide. "He came home often. He never carried a weapon, not even his machete. I knew he was a leader, I knew the Hutus were out there cutting Tutsis. With me, he behaved nicely. He made sure we had everything we needed. One day he even had his stepfather's second wife escorted to Kabgayi because she had Tutsi blood."
"Actually," she continues, "he was steeped in bad politics but not in bad thoughts. He was gentle with the children. I did not want to ask him about he trouble that was spreading everywhere. To me, he was the nice man I married." She adds, "Today, when he sends a note from prison, he does not dwell on the change. He appears cheerful, makes no demands, sends advice and encouragement, hides his suffering."
Hatzfeld derides this as a "heartwarming picture of a war criminal." He still doesn't believe it. But why not? Think about the position Hatzfeld is in. He's sitting next to his friend, Innocent, whose wife and child were killed at Joseph-Désiré's hands. There's nothing complicated about the situation from Innocent's perspective. He's upset. As he should be. Genocide is an atrocity, and no one who gets that close to it would walk away unmoved. But that doesn't mean that it's the right explanation for Joseph-Désiré's behavior. That doesn't mean that the situation isn't more complicated.
Here is another passage from Pio, reflecting on his actions during the genocide: “It is as if I had let another individual take on my own living appearance, and the habits of my heart, without a single pang in my soul. This killer was indeed me, as to the offense he committed and the blood he shed, but he is a stranger to me in his ferocity. I admit and recognize my obedience at that time, my victims, my fault, but I fail to recognize the wickedness of the one who raced through the marshes on my legs, carrying my machete. That wickedness seems to belong to another self with a heavy heart. The most serious changes in my body were my indivisible parts, such as the soul or the feelings that go with it. Therefore I alone do not recognize myself in that man. But perhaps someone outside this situation, like you, cannot have an inkling of that strangeness of mind."
Can you imagine how confusing that would be? It's the weight of your actions pulling against the feeling that you're still the same person you were before. Therefore I alone do not recognize myself in that man.
"One thing that surprises me now," says Innocent, "is that many who promoted the genocide have turned back into everyday people quietly spreading themselves around, sauntering down streets, in Kenya, in Europe, in France. They teach in universities, they preach in churches or doctor patients in hospitals, and in the evening, they listen to music, they supervise children's homework. People say, 'The genocide, it's sheer human madness,' but the police don't even go question the star performers of the genocide in their villas in Brussels or Nairobi. If you notice one of them in Paris, in a fashionable suit and wearing gold-rimmed glasses, you think, Well, now there's a sophisticated African gentleman. You do not say to yourself, There is a sadist who stockpiled two thousand machetes, then handed them out to the peasants of his native hill. And so, because of this neglected duty, the killings can begin again, here or elsewhere."
At the end of the interview, Joseph-Désiré concludes with one last thought. "If a divine miracle were to help me return to my hill, my family, and a job, people would see that I can become an ordinary person again."