The Observer (Kampala)

Uganda: Some Happenings Are Simply Strange

Available from Aristoc Booklex. The Rwandan genocide, 1994. Whatever the conventional explanations -the age-old hostility between the two largest ethnic groups, the ethnic classification made by the Belgians, the resented dominance of one group over the other- something is still missing to complete the puzzle.

In her third and latest book dealing with aspects of those terrifying one hundred days, Immaculee Ilibagiza (Left to Tell, Led by Faith) speaks of the apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the small, out-of-the-way village of Kibeho in 1982, and the Virgin's predictions of the "rivers of blood" if the Rwandan people did not do more repentance, pray and love one another more.

Tied in the whole Rwandan tragedy is also the mystery of evil. How could it happen that men turned on their wives and children and killed them because they had the blood of "the other"?

How could men get out of bed morning after morning and, instead of going to till the fields, went out to hack to death, and chase people, even infants at the breast, deep into the Rwandan swamps and hack and hack until the screams were no more?

Ilibagiza, whose first book, Left to Tell, has been read by many and has left a deep impression, follows the lives of eight of the visionaries, and three in particular, Anathalie, Alphonsine and Marie-Claire, the last of whom literally tortured and persecuted the other two until the Blessed Virgin appeared to her too.

These three are the only ones whose witness has been acknowledged by the Catholic Church. Of the other five, two I found of special interest: Vestine and Sagatashya. Vestine was born into a Muslim family and brought up as such.

Vestine had little interest in Islam or in Christianity, the religion she studied at school. Still, she believed in a greater power and an afterlife, and she instinctively avoided any activities she thought harmful for her soul.

Interestingly, unlike her peers, she didn't care about new clothes, dances, parties or wasting time with idle gossip. She valued family and friends and tried to live modestly. She also had a kind character.

Sagatashya, however, had never attended school and, strange for a Christian visionary, was actually a pagan. Neither of his parents were baptised and he had never set foot in a church. He and his family were illiterate, didn't own a radio and knew nothing about religion.

Yet, if we are to believe the word of this innocent soul, he says he was instructed by Jesus Christ in a vision to go through the countryside and tell people to purify their hearts, which he did.

Whether or not we believe in miracles there is no doubt that strange happenings do occur; some of these are attributed to God, His angels and saints, and others to the devil. What is not in question is that there are phenomena that science, psychology and other human branches of knowledge cannot explain. Read this appealing book and make your own judgment.

Book: Our Lady of Kibeho.

Author: Immaculee Ilibagiza.

Publisher: Hay House Publishers, 2008.

Volume: 210 pages.

Cost: Shs 39,900

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