Fifteen years ago, in a small country, nearly a million people died. In ten months. Three thousand of them a day. Violent, gory, gruesome, horrific deaths. Swords, spears and daggers butchered them, cut their bodies, disfigured their faces. Few had the luxury of a swift bullet.
When the blood dried, one in every eight Rwandans lay dead.
Years later we justified our silence and our inaction, we assuaged our guilt, we consoled the bereaved with the excuse that we did not know, we had no idea how bad it was while the genocide was on.
But what will we say to Zimbabwe? We have not only known, our editors and analysts have vied with each other to predict how bad it could become. Yet we stand and watch. We say it is Africa’s problem, that the continent’s struggling and barely stable neighbours should help each other. We find an easy scapegoat in Mbeki. He’s a readymade villain already tainted by his theories on AIDS.
The truth is that we don’t care. Zimbabwe has nothing to offer us. Certainly no oil. Not even coffee. Or cocoa. For those we loot other Africans.
Their real estate has no value. They haven’t heard anyone say: location, location, location. They aren’t neighbours with China. Or Russia. Or even Venezuela.
Their bombs are primitive, not good enough to do more than kill and maim a few hundred at a time. Their guns are from European landfills. Not flashy. Not nuclear. Not worth the trouble of taking away.
And oh, they are black. Silly of them. If they were brown, we might have considered looking in their direction. Doing a little more than filling newspaper op-eds with their story. If they were yellow, we might have talked to their leaders. Perhaps sent in the UN.
And if they were white, our armies would be there already.
Oh we know your blood is red, but we can’t see it. It hides beneath your clotted skin.