Over the past two decades, the eyes of the world have been riveted on a
small state in the vast interior of Africa. Before the 1994 genocide, pre-
cious few Westerners had heard of Rwanda, home of three intermarried
groups: Tutsi, Hutu, and Twa.
In the spring of 1994, we — individuals like me, a member of the in-
nocuously named “international community” — watched from the side-
lines as group turned on group in a horriﬁc slaughter. Our gaze was a
combined expression of horror, fascination, and the despair of know-
ing we had to help but not knowing how. As we waited to intervene,
Rwanda was literally decimated: 10 percent of the population butchered.
As one Rwandese diplomat commented, wryly, “Rwanda was rescued by
Killing squads went door to door, hill by hill, on the hunt for those they
deemed “cockroaches.” The oﬀense of the targeted citizens was being clas-
siﬁed by id cards as members of one of the country’s small minorities —
the Tutsi. In a mere one hundred days, nearly one million people were
killed, many by neighbors, even family members.
As the genocidaires fled over the border to Congo in July 1994, Rwanda
lay in ruins: churches and schools turned into massacre sites, roadsides
turned into open graves. Those who witnessed the horrors and managed
to survive faced the tormenting task of rebuilding when every semblance
of normality had vanished.
Hundreds of conversations I’ve had over the past sixteen years reveal
an untold tale. Laden with personal burdens but driven by an ethic of
responsibility, women stepped forward. In villages, mothers made sure
bodies were buried. One initiated a countrywide adoption program that