Kwizera Inspirations: Landmine

This is part of a series of posts discussing the real-life places, people and events that inspired scenes and characters in my young adult manuscript, KWIZERA MEANS HOPE.

…Teddy ran to the door.  How odd.  Teddy usually walked with a long, ambling stride.

            He burst through the door.  “There was a landmine accident near a school in Kigogo!”

            My heart stopped.  My sisters go to school in Kigogo.

            “Oh my goodness,” Louise said, squeezing her lips between her fingers.

            “Two children were hurt,” he said.

            I took a few steps back.  “No, no, no.”  Bile rose in my throat.

            “Some villagers found a landmine in a potato field early this morning.  They built a pyramid of stones around it like the UN people taught them to and went off to inform the chief.  The chief told the bourgmestre who told the Byumba prefect, who told the local military commander.  All this took time.  Two kids found the pyramid while the Big Men talked.”

            Oh God, please not Thérèse and Lucie, I prayed.  They knew not to go near such a pyramid, didn’t they?

Such a landmine accident occurred in Byumba Prefecture in my second month there (February 1995).  Some villagers found a landmine in a field, built a pyramid of stones around it as they had been taught, and informed their local chief.  The local chief reported the news to the next person up the chain, and so on, until the news reached the regional government in Byumba.

In the meantime, two little boys found the pyramid of stones and played with its deadly contents.  The six-year-old needed surgery to remove shrapnel from his abdomen.  I visited him in our trauma hospital, his father at his bedside.  The look in the boy’s eyes haunts me to this day.

The eight-year-old had to have his leg amputated and I watched part of that surgery.  Our very able, very calm-under-pressure trauma doctor and co-Team Leader, Dr. Noli, performed the surgery aided by nurses, and surrounded by visitors from a foundation located on the Isle of Jersey.  They had donated a Land Rover to us and spent a few days visiting our program at the same time as the landmine accident.

Dr. Noli is fromKisangani in what used to be called Zaire.  In fact, the war that caused the country’s name to change to the Democratic Republic of the Congo occurred while Dr. Noli and I worked together in Rwanda.

The landmine incident horrified and angered me.  The Rwandans had done exactly what they were supposed to do, yet two little boys got hurt anyway.  I suppose it didn’t occur to anyone to guard the pyramid.  And why was the landmine there, in the middle of a field in a rural area of a developing country?  It was leftover from the war that preceded the genocide.

Yet another reason I have to get this manuscript right, so it can see the light of day, so it can inform and inspire America’s youth.

(Originally posted on 1/3/10)

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16 Comments

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16 responses to “Kwizera Inspirations: Landmine

  1. Wow–such a vivid description. From the US we hear news blurbs about things like this, but they don’t seem real–they fail to incite the anger they should. It’s definitely very powerful to add something like this to fiction, but it is almost one of those where you would hear ‘it’s too awful’–even though it really happened.

  2. Oh my heart aches from your story. I give you so much credit for writing about it, I’m not sure I could withstand the emotional toll, and it’s so important to get this kind of information out there.

  3. I can only imagine how you feel. Anyone could have put that land mine there, such are the atrocities of wars/civil wars. I found out not so long ago that civilians are still suffering from the same issue in Angola after what I used to think of as “the never ending war”.
    I’m rooting for you and your manuscript.

  4. It’s evident how this story has touched you…I’m sure that authenticity will come through in all your writing and make it more powerful to your readers.

    • Vicki Tremper

      Thanks for your comment, Anita. How exciting to have you stop by when I just bought your book this morning for my son!

  5. I got chills reading your post. What a horrifying incident. You did it justice in your writing.

  6. I’m really glad you hear you plan on posting more like this. Your book does need to see the light of day; this is powerful stuff.

  7. Oh, yay! Thanks for buying Earthling Hero. I’ll be back here…love your blog!

  8. Oh wow what a fantastic post…..

  9. Wendy

    And I had to leave the room yesterday when the vet removed stitches from our dog… (sheepish grin)

  10. Such a powerful story. It’s frustrating and unfair. Yet it’s real. And you’re right, this story needs to be heard.

  11. I agree–you need to get this published so children around the world know what happened there. And so we can all read the rest of the story!

  12. My goodness, what an experience! It’s so great that you’re able to weave it into your work. *hugs*

  13. I think it’s wonderful you’re using your blog and fiction to bring this story to light. Poor boy. I wonder if parents talk to their children about avoiding the pyramids. If the kids don’t know, little good it does them.

    Now I’m worried about your protagonist’s sisters.

  14. Wow, that’s so sad. Stories like that will make your fiction so powerful.

  15. Wow, VB! What an incredible story. I’d love to read it!

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