Yesterday, I went to see Hotel Rwanda, a heartbreakingly sad account of the massacres of the Rwandan civil war of 1994. The film evokes such intensely raw emotion in order to convey the horrors suffered and the lack of intervention from the UN, that I doubt anyone would be unaffected by it.
The film focuses on the story of the hotel manager of a Kigali luxury hotel, Paul Rusesabagina and his efforts to save the people around him from the massacre. And of all the characters in the film, only one is fictional, based on the Canadian UN commander who led the peace keeping forces in Rwanda. The real commander, Roméo Dallaire, told his version of the story in the documentary Shake Hands with the Devil, which, supposedly, should give a good, factual counterposition to the extremely emotional Hotel Rwanda.
And yet, the worst thing about this film is realising that it isn’t over. Though the civil war may be over in Rwanda, and others have ceased in Angola, Mozambique, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Sudan, they will not win much interest from the western world. Even with the fighting stopped, these countries seem to have little to look forward to, only trying to heal the deep scars of ethnic conflict.
As far as I can tell, in my rather uninformed opinion, these wars are all the predictable results of decolonization gone wrong. Many former European colonies, particularly the Belgian colonies of Rwanda, Burundi and DR Congo, were left to their own device by brutal and inefficient colonial powers that in the end cared little for the consequences of their rule. The sudden decolonization of the 1960s has left large parts of Africa in a surging power vacuum that leaves little hope for stability.
And yet, through all of this death, fear and destruction, life goes on. Not just for us who merely turn off the television or put down the newspaper, but also for the africans themselves. Today, I read an interview with journeyman football coach Paul Leroy, currently the coach of national team of DR Congo. His hope is to spread some joy in the wartorn country by qualifying for the World Cup in 2006, football being the passion of choice for millions of congolese. Leroy’s story is certainly one of how the joy of football is universal, no matter the circumstances.