The Alchemy of Despair 

The Alchemy of Despair

I've been reading Shake Hands with the Devil, Romeo Dallaire’s account of the failure of humanity in Rwanda. I’m only as far as January 1994, before the genocide, but already there are warning signs and the Arusha Peace Process is looking shaky. The public mood is violent and unpredictable, and the Interahamwe are already destabilising communities.

On several occasions, Dallaire describes rowdy crowds blocking roads, stopping traffic and shutting down movement across Kigali. He later learns that these are traps—deliberate attempts to bait the Belgian UNAMIR troops into attacking the crowds, causing chaos and leaving the extremists able to kill a few Belgian soldiers. This is because, the extremists reckon, if Belgium loses 10 soldiers, they’ll withdraw all their troops from Rwanda. The Belgians were the most trained and organised companies there, and the hope is that if the Belgians withdraw, the peacekeeping mission will be left fragmented and ineffectual, creating space for their Hutu Power objectives.

I’m explaining all of this because its gotten me thinking about how different the situation is here in Zimbabwe. As the economy has declined and bad governance has increased, local authorities have become less and less able [or willing] to maintain the basic functionalities of water, sewerage, rubbish collection, etc. In Harare’s high density areas, the cholera outbreaks that were warned about for years have begun, and young children are dying from the disease. Political greed and shortsightedness is killing Zimbabwe’s children. What then do the mothers, the communities, do with this?

What grief must a mother feel when she loses a child to something like cholera. I think about a place like Argentina, where the Mothers of the Disappeared turned their grief into anger, outrage, a passionate determination to set things right. Here in Zimbabwe, the combination of history, culture, intimidation and psychology has left the mood feeling much more one of helplessness and resignation. What is the alchemy of despair. When enough pain piles on top of itself, is it eventually transformed into anger? If it simmers long enough, does it distill into outrage? Can something catalyse this metamorphosis? Or does hopelessness run too limp to ever be refined into that white hot passion of conviction?

Romeo Dallaire
Mothers of the Disappeared

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Comment when you say it like that it makes a lot of sense

Wed Apr 5, 2006 2:18 pm MST by bob stevens

Comment when you say it like that it makes a lot of sense

Wed Apr 5, 2006 1:53 pm MST by bob stevens

Comment I know I'm off topic but today is the best day as she has said

Mon Apr 3, 2006 3:44 pm MST by tim smith

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