May 18, 2005: Headlines: COS - Rwanda: COS - Kenya: Diplomacy: Writing - Kenya: Genocide: Kenya RPCV Robert Gribbin recounts time as Ambassador in Rwanda

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Rwanda: Peace Corps Rwanda : The Peace Corps in Rwanda: May 18, 2005: Headlines: COS - Rwanda: COS - Kenya: Diplomacy: Writing - Kenya: Genocide: Kenya RPCV Robert Gribbin recounts time as Ambassador in Rwanda

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Kenya RPCV Robert Gribbin recounts time as Ambassador in Rwanda

Kenya RPCV Robert Gribbin recounts time as Ambassador in Rwanda

Kenya RPCV Robert Gribbin recounts time as Ambassador in Rwanda

"In Aftermath of Genocide": Springfield author recounts time in Rwanda
By Jason Jacks

Ambassador Robert E. Gribbin said the bargaining rituals behind the agreement were probably centuries old.

The families of the young couple, much too young to wed in this country, were haggling over what was an appropriate price for the hand of an adolescent Rwandan bride-to-be.

"They eventually settled on a cow," Gribbin said about the marriage negotiations he witnessed. "Even in the wake of all this, their cultural norms still existed. ... People do want to get on with their lives."

A tall order for a country that, just two years earlier, was being ripped apart by a grisly 100-a-day killing spree that left 800,000 people dead.

In his new book, "In the Aftermath of Genocide: The U.S. Role in Rwanda," the now-retired Gribbin, who served as U.S. ambassador to the African country from 1995 to 1999, recounts his time in the ravaged nation and efforts by the U.S. and Rwanda to start the recovery process.

During a recent interview from his Springfield home, Gribbin said Rwanda was still in "shambles" when he first arrived in the country as ambassador two years after the mass killings of ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus by other Hutus ended.

Desiccated bodies were still stacked like "cardboard" in churches, he describes in his book, while thousands of refugees remained in neighboring countries, too scared to return home.

"It [genocide] wiped out the human capital of the country. ... If 20 percent of the people are gone, then how do you get life back to normal?" he asked about his own task at hand while ambassador.

Gribbin, 59, born in North Carolina, started his 35 years of work in Africa right out of college as a Peace Corps volunteer. While in the State Department, Gribbin also served as U.S. ambassador to the Central African Republic and was interim ambassador in Djibouti and Chad, among other assignments.

In his living room, surrounded by African artwork, Gribbin acknowledged that the U.S. and United Nations were slow to come to Rwanda's aid during and soon after the crisis.

"It [U.S.] did not respond to the genocide when it happened. It didn't call it what it was," he said. "It generated a certain amount of guilt."

However, since the genocide, he said, the international community has been vital in restoring Rwanda's judiciary system, revitalizing its economy and reintroducing returning refugees into local communities.

And, while 11 years later, thousands still sit in cramped jails in unsanitary conditions awaiting trials related to the genocide, Gribbin said he is nonetheless encouraged by the current relative amount of peace among Rwanda's two ethnic groups.

"It was a horrific thing. ... I think they learned a lesson that genocide is no answer," he said.

Gribbin's book can be purchased from various online book stores, including .

©Times Community Newspapers 2005

When this story was posted in May 2005, this was on the front page of PCOL:

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May 7, 2005: This Week's Top Stories Date: May 7 2005 No: 583 May 7, 2005: This Week's Top Stories
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May 7, 2005:  Special Events Date: May 7 2005 No: 582 May 7, 2005: Special Events
"Iowa in Ghana" on exhibit in Waterloo through June 30
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RPCVs: Post your stories or press releases here for inclusion next week.

Friends of the Peace Corps 170,000  strong Date: April 2 2005 No: 543 Friends of the Peace Corps 170,000 strong
170,000 is a very special number for the RPCV community - it's the number of Volunteers who have served in the Peace Corps since 1961. It's also a number that is very special to us because March is the first month since our founding in January, 2001 that our readership has exceeded 170,000. And while we know that not everyone who comes to this site is an RPCV, they are all "Friends of the Peace Corps." Thanks everybody for making PCOL your source of news for the Returned Volunteer community.

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