Skip to main content

International Reflective Writing


Rwanda: The Poetry of Genocide


The Rwandan genocide of 1994 wasn't an isolated event. It was the most horrific in a string of mass murders perpetrated by the Hutu against the Tutsi, and vice versa, since 1962, when Belgium granted independence to Rwanda and Burundi, two neighboring nations in Africa’s Great Lakes region.


Rwanda: Where Tears Have No Power

Haki Madhubuti

Who has the moral high ground?
Fifteen blocks from the whitehouse
on small corners in northwest, d.c.
boys disguised as me rip each other’s hearts out
with weapons made in china. they fight for territory.

across the planet in a land where civilization was born
the boys of d.c. know nothing about their distant relatives
in Rwanda. they have never heard of the hutu or tutsi people.
their eyes draw blanks at the mention of kigali, byumba
or butare. all they know are the streets of d.c., and do not
cry at funerals anymore. numbers and frequency have a way
of making murder commonplace and not news
unless it spreads outside of our house, block, territory.

modern massacres are intraethnic. bosnia, sri lanka, burundi,
nagorno-karabakh, iraq, laos, angola, liberia, and rwanda are
small foreign names on a map made in europe. when bodies
by the tens of thousands float down a river turning the water
the color of blood, as a quarter of a million people flee barefoot
into tanzania and zaire, somehow we notice. we do not smile,
we have no more tears. we hold our thoughts. In deeply
muted silence looking south and thinking that today
nelson mandela seems much larger
than he is.

Haki Madhubuti, “Rwanda: Where Tears Have No Power” from Heartlove: Wedding and Love Poems © 1969 by Haki R. Madhubuti. Third World Press, Chicago, IL.
Source: Heartlove: Wedding and Love Poems (Third World Press, 1998)

Haki R. Madhubuti (born Don Luther Lee on February 23, 1942 in Little Rock, Arkansas, United States) is a renowned African-American author, educator, and poet. He received a Master of Fine Arts degree from the Iowa Writers' Workshop at the University of Iowa, and served in the U.S. Army from 1960 to 1963.

Madhubuti is a major contributor to the Black literary tradition, in particular through his early association with the Black Arts Movementbeginning in the mid-60s, and which has had a lasting and major influence, even today. A proponent of independent Black institutions, Madhubuti is the founder, publisher, and chairman of the board of Third World Press (established in 1967), which today is the largest independent black-owned press in the United States.


Mothers Sing a Lullaby

(after the 1994 Rwandan genocide)

Susan Kiguli

Mothers sing a lullaby

As the dark descends on trees

Shutting out shadows.

The sensuous voices swish and swirl

Around shrubs and overgrown grass

Hiding mountains of decapitated dead

And the glint of machetes

That slashed shrieking throats.
In these camps without happiness

Mothers maintain the melody of life

Capturing wistful wind

To sing strength into the souls of children

Who have never known

The taste of morning porridge

Or heard the chirrup of crickets in the evenings.
Mothers sing a lullaby

For the staring faces

Who cringe at the sound of footsteps

Whose playmates are grinning skeletons.
Mothers become a lullaby

Silencing the sirens of sorrow

Restoring compassion to the nation.





Susan Nalugwa Kiguli, born on June 24, 1969 in Luweero District, Uganda, is an internationally recognized Ugandan poet and literary scholar. Currently (as of 2011) a senior lecturer at Makerere University, Kiguli has been an advocate for creative writing in Africa, including service as a founding member of FEMRITE,  as a judge for the Commonwealth Writers' Prize (African Region 1999), and as an advisory board member for African Writers Trust.  As a poet, Kiguli to date remains best known for her collectionThe African Saga; [4] as a scholar, for her work on oral poetry and performance. 


Ndahiro Bazimya (Rwandan Poet)

I am the son of scholars

Soldiers, warriors, dancers

Politicians, Farmers

Herders, poets

Athletes, survivors’
I saw my father’s destiny


Despite all who opposed

Who wait

With teeth gnashing and weapons ready

For his downfall

And through which in strength and integrity

will never come.
I have listened to my mother’s voice

Painting a picture through brown eyes

Of her childhood

About her family’s noble lineage and dignity

And the horror that changed it all

Through murder and destruction

Men prayed for death, not gods
My parents were pioneers

Rising above hate

The pride of Africa in their skin

As they led the way
In that I was conceived in

Third born of a new ara.
Blood of Africa

Born of the Western world

Raised with new ideas

While holding tradiition

The son who will

Blaze through a new world

While keeping in his heart an old one.


←  Go back                                                  Next page