Gallery: “You can’t stop genocide with doctors”

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On April 13, 1994, several days after the genocide of the Rwandan Tutsis began, teams from a joint MSF-ICRC convoy arrived in Kigali, the capital.Xavier Lassalle, a nurse anesthetist, was among them.The images from his photo album retrace a period at the heart of one of the darkest episodes in recent history.

In early April 1994, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) teams were deployed throughout a large part of Rwanda.

Since November 1993, a total of 260,000 Burundian refugees had arrived in southern Rwanda following the assassination of Burundi’s first Hutu president, Melchior Ndadaye.Their presence only worsened the catastrophe affecting 320,000 Rwandans displaced by massacres and fighting between Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) rebels and the forces of President Juvénal Habyarimana, whose main ally at that time was France.

Between the misappropriation of aid, a dysentery epidemic, lack of drinking water and ineffective aid organizations, the health situation in the camps was a nightmare.

Looting and violence became widespread on April 7, the day after the attack on the plane carrying the Rwandan and Burundian presidents to Kigali. On April 11, MSF’s international staff members in Kigali were evacuated. At the same time, an MSF team from Paris was in Bujumbura, Burundi, preparing to leave for the capital on a “traditional” emergency surgery mission.

Photos and statements: Xavier Lassalle