One week after Rwanda's president died in an apparent assassination, this Central African country has become a horrifying study in self-immolation. Terror has taken over on the streets of Kigali, the capital, and across the rolling green countryside where streams of refugees are fleeing the carnage that has claimed thousands of lives.
Kigali remains the terrifying domain of swaggering young men with the arrogance of youth, plenty of weapons and, often, cheap liquor.
Only the most daring citizens venture into the streets to seek out food, which is fast running out.
Although the Red Cross has worked feverishly to dispose of hundreds of corpses, bodies were scattered along the capital's thoroughfares Wednesday. Machete-wielding gangs followed by hordes of kids broke into shops and looted goods in broad daylight, sometimes right under the noses of soldiers.
Along the approximately 15 miles leading to the city center, there were impromptu army roadblocks nearly every hundred feet. They were manned by men, young and old, in uniform or in ragged civilian clothes--all armed with a variety of weapons, including machetes, knives, bows and arrows, automatic rifles and grenade launchers.
At many of these checkpoints, passengers of cars had been pulled out, robbed and often killed--if their occupants were Tutsi.
On the same road, heading away from Kigali, were thousands of poor refugees, their small bundles of belongings on their heads and backs.
Wednesday, one man walked, clutching two cabbages, as his children trailed behind him carrying flimsy mattresses on their heads. Most refugees seemed to be less in a panic than in a daze. One man had his head wrapped in filthy bandages.
The refugees trudged through a countryside of banana trees, coffee plants and sugar cane--the almost surrealistically lush site of so much killing in the past three decades of Hutu-Tutsi feuding.