Feb. 14, 2005
Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo
There are a lot of reasons why Theo should be dead, instead of talking to us over tilapia in a cheap fish restaurant in Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo.
If he hadn't had $1,000 in his house he would have been dead. The thousand bought him an extra day. If they had cut the phone wires immediately in his neighborhood he would have been dead. If he had not had a friend who was a Major he would have been dead. And if his wife did not work for the U.S. Embassy, he would have been dead. But Theo was alive, and he was wiping his eyes with one of his big hands. It was a story he did not like to tell, he said, but he was going to tell it anyway.
Theo was tall. My first question to him at the airport was whether he was a Tutsi. Tutsis are tall, supposedly, and they were slaughtered by Hutus in Rwanda in 1994. Theo wouldn't say whether he was a Tutsi or not.
He knew they were coming for him. I asked him how he knew.
"They told us," he said. "We're going to get you."
Three points stand out from Theo's story. I will try and use his words:
1. "When there is a mob of 500 people around your house ready to kill you, you don't see anyone. You don't recognize any faces. You don't see anything."
2. "The most humiliating thing is when you have a wife and children and they are looking to you. You can't even lie to them, that you will be killed soon. Not in days or hours but in 20 minutes. You can't even lie to your children because they know. The only thing you can do is pray."
3. "Rwandans here don't like to talk about it. When the other lady comes don't talk about it because she will cry. I think only the Jews undertand what it is like. I can't say understand, because you can't understand it. So I would say only the Jews know."
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