Lace up your jungle boots and join Paul on a 3,000 mile journey from Johaneberg to Kampala, A stanger passing through who finds himself surrounded by rioting mobs, mortars fired into sky, witnessing genocide trails and having dancing monkeys stealing his lunch! Discover ancient Kingdoms, drunken nights by crocodile rivers and the answer ot the question which nationalities gorillas most enjoy punching. Entertaining , inquisitive and tetchy join Paul’s journey of discovery in a whistle stop tour of African history past and present.
Genre : Travel/ History/ Adventure100,000 words
As I pick up my note pad Nizeyimana's eyes flicker right at me, an intense glare, our eyes lock, a dismissive yet haunting glare. With his large dome shaped forehead, his blue shirt seeming to be bursting over his heavy frame; he has an intimidating presence. In the last court room the defendant wasn’t easy to identify, here you know straight away. His eyes and mine entwined, as if our surroundings have evaporated, our souls connected for a moment examining each other. He gives a half sadistic laugh almost belittling, then his eyes leave mine, he turns back to his lawyer to comment on me, he chuckles once more. This is Captain Idelphonse Nizeyimana, charged with genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. His dark presence is one of control and intimation. He was part of the inner circle that were the architects of a million murdered, one of the eight most wanted men after the genocide. Despite a five million dollar bounty on his head he evaded arrest until 2009. If this was 1945 it is the equivalent of sitting only a few feet from Heinrich Himmler or Adolf Eichman.
In court it is soon made clear the captain was stationed at the army’s training academy, second in command. He is accused of being directly responsible for training young recruits, preparing them to commit genocide and then ensuring they did so. The military training academy launched the militias, the soldiers would intermingle with them directing them to targets, carrying out rape and massacres, setting up roads blocks whilst Nizeyimana lent his authority so that no one participating would ever fear interruptions or charges from the state.
Just before I entered they were talking to a witness who had been shot. The court was shown a sketch he’d drawn of where he’d been shot, the questions resume;
‘Would you be able to point out the captain?’
‘I would be able to point out the captain. I would be able to point him out even though I would not want to.’
‘Is he in the room’
‘Where in relation to the chair. Is he in the defence section?’
‘What is he wearing? ‘
‘He is wearing a blue shirt’
‘Your honour the witness has pointed out the accused.’
Stoic, the captain looks down for a mini second and then resumes his emotionless stare. A minute later he turns to his lawyer and says something and chuckles with a smirk.
From the outside you see the shelves of bones; you step in and see two rows of foot high concrete pews with wood planks, perfect for a quiet church prayer. Another step with my eyes focused on the pew it suddenly hits me, a smell, an unearthly smell, making the air entering my mouth thick and heavy; the stench of death. A hypnotics power my eyes are drawn upwards; the walls, the walls are covered in the blood stained clothes. Dirty old clothes drenched in blood their hanging from the support beams on the ceiling, stuffed into the holes where the window once let in light. The stench of death is clamoring toward me. Every wall, ceiling is bursting with the drooping clothes of the massacred; the unearthly stench of their dried blood filling the air of where they once stood. Draping from the ceiling there’s no choice but to walk under the hanging clothes of the dead. I sit alone at the front pew for a moment, coffin boxes with purple cloth covering them rest in front; the stench of death crawling toward me. It’s quiet, I want God to say something; for it to make sense. This was a house of the Lord, now the cold dark house of death, screaming, pain, agony. Prayer, prayer but God did not come. The skulls look like a photo, I can detached from them but the clothes, the clothes make it real, horrific. The particles from their blood stained clothes fills the air I breathe. In here they gathered, huddled for safety, desperate in prayer. The priest betrayed them and this simple small place of sanctuary became a slaughter house. Hundreds of victims of all ages, their blood stained clothes circle my body and hang above my head. Where was God? Where was he? I thought I can just sit and pray here, the others have drifted out but I need God to say something. I slowly rise to my feet unable to stay any longer.
Everyone is daunted, mesmerized as they head back towards our bus. They don’t notice the plaque with the names of the victims. Firmly and passionately my thoughts snap in an instant ‘ I will not walk bye, I will remember them‘ I have to read every name. I stop and find myself praying.
‘ Our father who art in heaven, bless their souls. May they now be free from torment and pain and be seated in the kingdom of the father. ‘
I want to believe there souls are at rest, that they are in heaven. The futile hope and faith that the people called out in as they were hacked and burnt alive is the faith that now drives my soul in its need to comprehend why it happened – evil is real but anger, revenge will not heal wounds or remove the stench that surrounds my body, only through an unshakable belief in goodness can we rebuild when evil has triumph. In time the clothes will deteriorate, the smell will go; they will disappear. I expected a church, a quiet place to sit and prayer, maybe light a candle. I did not expect to step into the middle of the genocide, the voices, smells all around, these are no longer pictures or news reports; deaths lingering shadow has touched me.
As I drive along away I can here their screams in my head, the terror, the tears, I put my head into the breeze trying to take away the dusty air of the church from my smell. I was there but minutes fifteen years after the horror of that smell permanently stained on your soul is enough to drive you to desperate never ending despair. Years after that smell was made, the scent of death from that dark day is in my senses, the air passing through my lungs, I hang my head out the window. I’m desperate for the rush of the wind to take it away. The blood particles are flowing through my lungs. My body feels heavy, unearthly, please, please wind blow away this feeling, put fresh air back in lungs. We drive pass a group of people just getting on with their Sunday tasks. I’m dazed. How? Why? But further down the road I find a subtle smile coming through my face. They have survived; they have rebuilt and if after the experience here they can return from the clutch of evil then there is hope for us all.