Nightline Congo Series, Part 1

Seven years after the genocide, the Tutsis, who have regained power, are still dealing with the forces that tried to exterminate them. Their army has kept tens of thousands of Hutu militiamen across the border and on the run in the Congo. The ones who come back, the ones they capture: ‘We don’t want to keep you in prison,’ the lecturer tells them. ‘We want to reintegrate you into society.’ Does he mean it? Maybe not, but it’s the only available option.

(Group singing)

TED KOPPEL (VO) ‘We thank our captors,’ they sing. ‘We are well taken care of. We are happy.’ Do they mean it? Maybe not. But they have no available options either.

(Commercial break)

TED KOPPEL (VO) Tourists don’t come here anymore. They used to come in droves, especially after the movie “Gorillas in the Mist” was released. Some of the film was shot in this region, but it’s much too dangerous now for tourists and for the gorillas.

(OC) In this place, the words genocide and ecocide not only co-exist, they are closely related to one another. The attempt, in 1994, to exterminate the Tutsi people in Rwanda has led, among many, many other deaths, to this grim tableau of elephant and gorilla skulls. And this is only a small part of what lies inside.

(VO) Before the park was officially closed to tourists in 1998, this used to be a visitors center. Now it’s a storage room for skulls. As disturbing as these pictures are, what they represent is even more troubling. When hundreds of thousands of people are starving, the elephants and the gorillas in the park are seen quite simply as food. Kasharaka Vishi Quabo (ph) is the park’s chief warden.

Mr. KASHARAKA VISHI QUABO: (Foreign language spoken)

TEXT:

They started to kill the gorillas in 1966. There were 258 gorillas, and now there are 130. All the elephants have been killed. There were 350, and all of them are dead.

TED KOPPEL (VO) In some cases, the Hutu militiamen have killed elephants and gorillas for meat. And since the game wardens are afraid of venturing into areas of the park controlled by the militia, the animals are also unprotected from poachers among the refugees. There are 132 rangers who live and work at the park, although they haven’t been paid in almost five years, and the buildings in which they live have during that time been looted and burned down twice by militiamen. They are doing the best they can to protect the remaining gorillas. They track some of the families on a daily basis. Would they, we wondered, take one of our digital cameras and record what they saw? We would pay them, we said. We’ll show you what they found in a few minutes.

But first, we need to take a detour to illustrate a problem. We don’t have a pile of human bodies to show you. People are dying here in the eastern Congo at the rate of 2500 a day, and most of what we saw looks like a damn picture postcard. This Tutsi village, for example, lies nestled against lush green hills. The huts look new. They are. These people are all refugees. They’ve been on the run for four years. They just built the huts, and now they are hoping that the soldiers in that army camp across the valley will protect them from the Hutu militia raids, which tend to come at harvest time. The gardens are overflowing with crops, not quite ready to be harvested. It looks as though there’s plenty of food. It just can’t be eaten yet.

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