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Trek of Tears

We are accustomed to seeing images, flickering across our television screens of anguish and horror from far off lands - images of mass proportions and scale, of people migrating, suffering and dying, images that have been emanating lately from central Africa. In a sense, this portrayal has almost become a cliche, because it depersonalizes the suffering. Missing from this is the central element of any story: the individual, the child, the woman, the man, who amid the masses suffer, succumb and survive in their own private ways.

To tell the story of the plight of individuals caught up in the tragedy that is Rwanda and Burundi - a region of the world where civil war and civil strife have claimed the lives of nearly 1 million people in the last three years - the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in December 1996 sent photojournalist Martha Rial with her sister Amy, a public-health nurse with the International Rescue Committee, to Kibondo, Tanzania, a place worlds apart from the Murrysville, Pennsylvania, home where they grew up.

Martha's pictures are a gripping portrait of a region in crisis - a portrait, indeed, because they show the faces and emotions of people adrift, swept up in historic events.

19980415mrPulitzerA1T.jpg (23397 bytes)   Rwandan Hutu refugees with as many possessions as they can carry trudge along a highway near Benaco Junction in Tanzania.They had tried to flee further away from Rwanda, into Tanzania, but had been turned back by Tanzanian soldiers. Several of the refugees said they would walk all the way to Kenya or Malawi just so they could avoid returning to Rwanda.
19980415mrPulitzerA27T.jpg (15206 bytes) Bitama, 7, cries frequently. She was only 4 when her parents were murdered in Rwanda. They believe she witnessed their slaying.
19980415mrPulitzerA17T.jpg (16222 bytes) A Rwandan Hutu refugee woman listens as other refugees demand they receive food at the Keza refugee camp near Ngara, Tanzania. Most of the other residents of Keza had fled the previous night to avoid returning home to Rwanda.

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