Rwanda 1994, the 'forgotten' genocide the School Reporters vow to publicise
- 3 April 2014
- From the section Student reports
A few weeks ago we met Liliane and heard the story of what happened to her 20 years ago.
She told us about things that were so terrible and upsetting that we thought that everyone would surely know about them.
We were wrong.
We asked people in our town (Leatherhead) their memories of 1994.
They told us about the great event that saw Nelson Mandela become leader of South Africa.
They mentioned the death of a famous racing driver called Ayrton Senna and the rock star Kurt Cobain and told us that England didn't qualify for the World Cup in the USA that summer.
Nobody mentioned what happened in Rwanda.
We also discovered that those people aren't alone - we found a recent report said that 80% of young people had never heard of the events that happened in 1994 in Rwanda.
We couldn't decide what to be more shocked about - Liliane's story or the fact that no-one knew about it.
We decided that we had to do something about it.
We decided that we wanted to make a film and write a book about what Liliane had told us so that at least a few more people might understand what happened in Rwanda and why we must stop it from ever happening again.
What was so utterly dreadful about Liliane's story?
She told us about how she watched her family being murdered just because they belonged to the 'wrong' group of people. And how gangs of killers like those that attacked her mum, dad and brother murdered nearly one million other fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, brothers and sisters in just 100 days.
She told us how angry she was that the outside world stood by and did nothing to help when they could have done.
Liliane told us about a genocide.
So our School Report this year is about the anniversary of something that happened 20 years ago and about our attempt to tell people about it.
We're going to try to report on our effort to make a film about Rwanda and also to write a book about it and our wish to send a copy of both to every secondary school in the country.
We will also share our need to tell all the powerful and well-known people in the country as well so that they can make sure that what happened to Liliane never, ever happens to anyone else.
How are we getting on so far and what have we learned?
We've done lots of research, sent lots of letters and emails, filmed interviews and sent questions to people who were eye-witnesses.
We've been really lucky to have found people who have been willing to help us.
We've filmed interviews with journalists who reported from Rwanda in 1994 like Lindsey Hilsum from Channel 4 News and Mark Austin from ITN News and will be putting questions to others like James Mates, Roger Hearing and David Belton.
What we heard so far has made us even more determined to finish what we have started.
Lindsey told us the night the genocide started in April 1994, about how she got phone calls from Rwandan friends who pleaded with her to rescue them and the terrible feeling she had because she knew there was nothing she could do to help them.
She remembered seeing "road blocks and dead bodies; drunk men with machetes and blood on the machetes" and hospitals with "blood running in the gutters".
Mark also remembered seeing scenes that led him to conclude that he would never report anything so upsetting: "I have covered many wars and natural disasters but nothing has come close to what I saw in Rwanda."
It was also really painful to hear that Mark and Lindsey don't think that the world has remembered what happened in Rwanda and that something like it could happen again.
Lindsey said: "I worry about whether the lessons have really been learned. I wonder how many people are going to lose their lives before we do something".
They told us about what had happened in Darfur and what was going on at the moment in Syria and the Central African Republic…and the world again is not doing much about it.
Documentary and book
All this made us determined that we should do something about it ourselves - even if we only managed to get one or two people to understand about what happened in Rwanda.
Of course, we're aiming a bit higher than that and we hope to send our film and book to every secondary school in the country.
We also want to talk to the powerful people in this country to make sure that they know how seriously we feel about remembering Rwanda and stopping something like it from ever happening again.
We wrote to David Cameron asking if we could show him our film but we didn't get anywhere. We'll keep on trying - we owe it to Liliane.
P.S If anyone feels the same way and can help us spread the message please do get in touch!