Dady de Maximo Mwicira Mitali, a Genocide survivor tells his story through documentary film: "By The Shortcut"

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On:23/04/2015 15:07
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"By The Shortcut" is a 2010 documentary feature film written, directed and produced by fashion designer/filmmaker Dady de Maximo Mwicira Mitali. This documentary brings to light the grim history of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi, particularly those who were killed and dumped in rivers, their bodies floating to Lake Victoria in Uganda

The development comes as the country marks  21 years after the tragedy. Dady de Maximo, a survivor himself says that much of the chronicle in the movie is a reflection of his life experience.

Dady de Maximo, the director/producer of By The Shortcut documentary

“I have come to realize that people do not take in account the memory of genocide victims thrown into various streams and rivers throughout the country during the 1994 genocide. Contrary to that , I have committed myself to preserve the memory of those innocent victims who seem to be forgotten or ignored, i believe it is relevant that we bring to light the story of these innocent victims who, were forcibly drowned in rivers and streams. Eventually, a number of 17 004 corpses were retrieved from Lake Victoria in Uganda. ” he said in a statement sent to the shortcut

"By The Shortcut" a film by Dady de Maximo Mwicira Mitali

The documentary feauture film, involves interviews of perpetrators, survivors, fishermen in Uganda who helped retrieve bodies, well wishers and institutions that contributed to decent funerals of genocide victims who were buried in Uganda, and cut the interviews into a 140 minutes feature documentary.

Read the film’s synopsis:

April 1994: Rwanda falls into a 100 days of hell: ‘The Tutsi Genocide.’ The victims of this genocide, the Tutsi, lost their lives and were ushered to unknown countries: DRC, Burundi, Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda, taking the “shortcut”! This shortcut leading them to Mesopotamia where they supposedly came from, as repeatedly echoed by their bullies is the Nyabarongo River, and other streams of water in the land of thousand hills.

The lakes and streams of water of Rwanda have since 1959, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1973, 1990, 1992, 1994 transported those tortured, mutilated and raped bodies, and threw them in unknown lands. Wake up! This is not simply a nightmare. History is just repeating itself! In 1973 Marie Claire MUKAMITALI was only 14 when she was thrown in the river, saw her mother who was then 8 months pregnant, his father, brother and sisters, neighbors and family members, sliced and thrown in Nyabarongo River.

At that time  death didn’t want her: she almost drowned four times in the same river, and finally was bound hands and feet but survived rescued by a Hutu teacher Mr Venuste Mulindangabo, who was a schoolteacher in her town.  Her son, Dady de Maximo MWICIRA MITALI who survived the genocide against Tutsis at 12 years old, and auteur of this film and book, investigated this forgotten passage in the Tutsi genocide.

He followed the long journey of those bodies, and through image and the testimonies he collected from the perpetrators, the victims and those who helped them survive, he reveals us the memory of innocent people thrown in rivers and finally retrieved from Lake Victoria 6 months after spring of 1994. To sum it up, more than 17 000 bodies were found in Uganda. He is paying tribute to Ugandan fishermen, some of whom fell sick and died because they were removing those bodies from water.

This documentary combines the documentary style with dramatic animated images which helps the story to be told with the highest level of reality portraying the reality of killing and throwing Tutsi bodies into rivers and streams during the 1994 Rwandan Genocide.

Many historians and film critics praised this film, saying that it’s a rare film about the reality of Rwandan Genocide made by the survivor. It also features Leon Mugesera’s 1992 famous speech where he was calling all Rwandan Hutus from Kabaya to hunt down Tutsis and send them back to their native country stated as Ethiopia.

Since its premiere, this film was screened in different countries around the globe during the commemoration of the tragedy, and earned Dady de Maximo the Young African Achievers Award by the group of all African Embassies in the Netherlands in 2011.

His background life was the source of motivation to telling this story!

I remember when I was young, my mother had only one way of swearing all the time she was in a hard situation: ‘I better go back living in Ndiza’. I grew up wondering what Ndiza could be like until the day she struggled and hardly found the words to explain me the name of the place that raised horrible memories of her childhood.

She finally told me that Ndiza was a hilly region in the ex-district of Nyakabanda of the ex-province of Gitarama where several Tutsi families including hers were slaughtered in the thin paths of the hills there. She also revealed me that numerous members of her family got mercilessly drowned into the Nyabarongo River along with babies, boys and girls, women and men and old people simply because they were Tutsis.

1st March 1973, The extremist Hutus who were living in Ndiza at that time were so sadistic that they would torture their victims until they die in horrible situations. My grandma whom I never had the chance to meet was among the victims- she was hacked while having an 8 month pregnancy. My grandpa was sliced into pieces with a machete…my mum got drowned four times into the river but all the time the river would throw her up at the surface. But the killers were so moved by such an intense hatred that they tied her for the filth time and drowned her again. This time, she was rescued nine hours after the drowning by a teacher of the nearby school, Vénuste MURINDANGABO. She was only 14 then and she saw all that…she was the sole survivor of Ndiza.

In 1991, my mother asked her friend as she had no more relative to go with her to Ndiza to see Vénuste, who is still living there, so she can offer him a cow as a symbol in our culture of appreciation.

All my life I have been wondering about our fate, the reason why my grandma got beaten, dragged on the floor then hacked or why my mum was drowned five times in the river… it gets more complicated when it comes to forgive the perpetrators and struggle alone to survive and build a new life.

I have been searching in vain to get answers to all these questions and I guess I would have never found the key without learning the Rwandan History which taught me that the killings of my people is not something new to this planet. My people were killed in 1959-1963, 1973 with an upsurge in 1990 -1994 when drowning people became a very pleasant killing method for the perpetrators.

Nyabarongo River, one of the deadliest water streams during 1994 Genocide.

In our tradition, we always bury the dead in a descent way. This pushed me to wonder what could be the final destination of the hundreds of Tutsis drowned in various rivers and streams throughout the country. I couldn’t work out where they would have been buried.

In 1994, over a million people were killed in Rwanda. What my mum saw when she was 14 years old suddenly happened in my sight as a nightmare- I saw how the humankind turning into a fierce animal, a neighbor becoming an enemy, so I know what I am talking about…moreover 25th April 1994, 18 adults who ought to contribute to my education turned into unknown species and raped me. Can you imagine a 12 year-old child crying without any help? I am sure there were lots of other children suffering like me at that time but…that’s why I have promised myself to work towards promoting the human right so that no child can experience the same horror that I went through.

In 2005, I turned 23 years and I realized it was time for me to bring to light what the victims drowned into rivers went through during the genocide. The main motive was the fact that this part of the genocide story remained untold or simply ignored.

It’s time to read and search for information and the most important book will probably be a book about the Rwandan Hydrograph.

From Top Left to right: Sergio, the fisherman who contributed in retrieving bodies from Lake Victoria, and the sites of Gorro and Lambu where they are enterred. Photo courtesy/By The Shortcut

After carrying out lots of research, I came to realize that several corpses of the victims passed first in river Nyabarongo before flowing into the Akagera River, an affluent of Lake Victoria. It is in this lake that brave fishermen took the corpses of the victims out of the waters.

After gathering all the required information, I travelled to Uganda in the district of Masaka, down in the sector of Ggoro at the lakeshore of Victoria. Still searching, I went to Mpigi cell where I found five mass graves in which 955 victims were buried. The burial was ordered by Mohamoud Thobani- a naturalized Ugandan originally from India- who paid for all the costs.

During an interview, he said “I will never forget the picture of the women corpses carrying babies on their back floating at the lake surface; corpses tied by ropes, mutilated”…

In February 2006, I came across information about seven burial sites of genocide victims at the lakeshore of Lake Victoria in Uganda. The number of victims’ corpses buried there is 17 004 along with victims’ remains for which they couldn’t account.

The sites:

Lambu: 1718 corpses, Ggoro: 955 corpses, Ddimo: 2149 corpses, Kasensero: 2827 corpses (Testimonies affirm that they had bury 6,000 bodies before the official numbering of bodies but officially they could count 2827 corpses), Namirembe: 1618 corpses, Malembo: 1669 corpses and Kalangala island: 68 corpses.

In June 2006, I went back to Uganda, this time in Lambu in the forest near Lake Victoria where 1 718 remains of genocide victims were buried in a place that looks today more like a termites’ nest than a grave- this place must looked after in memory of the those who lay there forever.

People of Lambu told me that about 20 fishermen took part in taking the victims’ corpses out of the lake. The sole living fisherman of the 20 told me that they took the first corpse out of the lake in July 1994 and the last in November 1994.

I believe producing this documentary is very important as I had the opportunity to meet some genocide survivors who were drowned into the various rivers, lakes of the country. They accepted to provide their testimonial materials for the documentary. On the other hand, some perpetrators who took part in drowning people into rivers and lakes told me they will testify about their acts.

Considering Rwanda Hydrograph researches will lead to joining information from the neighbouring countries which are somehow related by rivers i.e. Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania and Kenya. All that in addition to the Ugandan fishermen’s testimonies will contribute to document the dreadful experience of genocide victims drowned into rivers whose story was never told.

By telling this story, Dady de Maximo had objectives of preserving the memory of the 1994 Tutsi genocide victims, using documentaries as a way of transmitting the memory of the Tutsi Genocide, struggling and preventing against genocide ideology and negativism, show that the 1994 Tutsi Genocide can be used as a learning experience to the whole world so it can never happen again, among others.

Mutiganda Janvier




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