chapter 1: China, Art of War.
From a shroud of darkness in the far eastern hills, a wanderer appeared and made his way to the war camps. On foot, he walked across the rocks and trees at a surprisingly fast pace and seconds separated him from the tent of one of the greatest generals that ever walked the earth. The night was surprisingly silent, the soldiers sat like statues across the campfires, the horses did not neigh and even the fires did not hiss to not disturb the work of general Sun Tzu.
The guards caught his presence late as he seemed to materialise from the subtle breeze of air like a letter from Time. Even as he appeared, they reacted slower than their training for they were confused by his very strange attire. He did not look like any person in all of the seven empires. He was not wary and continued to walk to the tent and was met with a cross of spears.
The guards kept asking quietly, not to disturb their general, about the identity of the stranger. The wanderer did not answer but kept asking for a word with Sun Tzu. In between the flurry of words, steady footsteps were heard coming out of the tent and the soldiers fell silent. The tent opened and a small man with a mighty shadow appeared. The crow’s feet in his eyes and the lines on his cheeks indicated ninety years of wisdom, but all knew it was the effect of war, and the fifty years of his age burned like flames in his eyes.
The general contemplated the figure of the wanderer and, despite its eccentricity, he did not look the least bit flustered. He stroked his long beard as he gestured for the guards to stand down and gave permission to this stranger to enter his quarters. The wanderer followed Sun Tzu inside and was surprised by the simplicity of his tent. He watched the general sit down on his cushions with a small wooden table in front of him. Over the table, he had a couple of lit candles and a stack of written paper, a bottle of ink and a white quill. Perfect timing, thought the wanderer. He then sat down opposite to the general and waited for him to speak.
Minutes that seemed like hours went by and the general continued to write like he was completely alone in his tent. He gave no regard to the man in front of him and so the wanderer grew impatient and chose to break the heavy silence.
“What is it that you are writing, general?” asked the wanderer.
“A gift for the king.” answered Sun Tzu without looking up.
A gift for the ages, the former thought. “And how much are those words worth, to be fit as a royal gift?”
“The cheapest of wisdoms are worth more than gold and jewels. These words are worth the silence of a thousand soldiers, the ruins of a thousand cities and the drumbeats of a thousand battles. And what interest do you have in these words? You don’t look like a soldier.” questioned the general, showing the first interest in his visitor.
“I come from a realm where you are worshipped in every battlefield, where every general’s mouth utters your words and speaks with your voice. It only seemed fair that I see with my own eyes the might of Sun Tzu and the calamities he inflicted on his foes.”
“I hold no might nor do I inflict any calamities. I am only as strong as my officers and army, and the destruction written in my name is naught but the fault of my enemies. War is not a matter of dominance, it’s a matter of wit. I hate to see my name attributed with such monstrous terms.” said the warrior in a calm tone.
“If wit is what kills peasant boys forced into wielding swords by the men in power, then wit is evil. You cannot proclaim that killing hundreds in the name of one man is an act of wisdom.” exclaimed the traveller, but with respect.
“Lords play their game and I play mine. Do not take me for a politician, I am a man of war. Just like the peasant boy who was forced into battle, I am only a man who was chosen to lead them. They give me instruments and I try my best to break as little of them as I can. Give the same armies to a worse officer, and more will die. In a way, I am saving lives.” boasted Sun Tzu with a sly smile on his face.
“For every man that dies in your ranks, a dozen die in your foe’s. What I see is a man that punishes people for being born in the wrong empire.”
“I am only a man who defends his own. If that blood wasn’t on my hands, it’ll be on the hands of another general, leading another army. If peace was an option, do not doubt that I would choose it.” said Sun Tzu as the smile turned into a stern look that put a chill through the wanderer’s bones.
“Peace would be an option only if you chose it. You, and the general after you and the one after him. Do you not want to take the first step into a future with no death and no destruction?”
The warrior chuckled and said “only in heaven would your words be true. If I tried to pave the road to your supposed peace, others will not see the way. They would only see weakness in my kingdom, and there goes a grand dynasty right into ruins.”
“Destruction is certain, either yours or others’, so do you choose it?”
“Then let it be theirs. It is not destruction that I seek, it’s duty.”
The wanderer sighed and stood up. “It appears that words will not sway you, General. Would you grant me permission to show you something that might?”
Sun Tzu contemplated the eyes of the stranger as he stroked his beard in thought, and then his curiosity defeated his suspicion. He nodded and then stood up and both men made their way out of the tent to the sight of a hundred soldiers standing vigil to their general’s tent. Without a word, the two kept on walking to the far hills at an abnormally fast pace, despite the steady footsteps. It looked as if time accelerated and minutes shortened into seconds, as Sun Tzu and his visitor disappeared into a shroud of darkness.
It all happened suddenly for the general. In the blink of an eye, he found himself on a giant mountain, with the sun blinding him from the east. Sun Tzu never believed in magic until this very second, he looked at the sight with an open mouth, in absolute disbelief. The wanderer did not wait for him to ask, but quietly said as he looked at his watch, “we are in what you call the Land of the Rising Sun two thousand years after your time. I suppose now they call it Japan. And that small city you see in the far distance goes by the name of Hiroshima. And we are just on time.”
Sun Tzu fixed his eyes on the city for a while waiting for more magic, and that is exactly what he received. A flock of giant birds flew over the city and what looked like a boulder dropped down from the bird who led. The boulder fell down on the city with frightening might and when it landed, a gigantic cloud of smoke exploded and engulfed so much of the land that the general thought it would swallow the earth, and then he heard a powerful bang louder than all war drums beating at the same time from the far east of the world into the far west. The blinding sight and the deafening noise made tears rain down Sun Tzu’s cheeks for the first time since he was a child.
“You see that giant bird? A man leads it. The man who leads it and the man who gave the command both studied your words in the military. What do you take from that?” asked the traveller with a grim look on his face.
“This…this monstrosity is not what I teach! This is the devil’s work, this is not war. What kind of animal read my words and concluded this?” yelled Sun Tzu, baffled.
“It may not have been exactly what you preach. But when it comes to chaos, mankind has a strong tendency to read between the lines. I hope this taught you something.”
After staring down the calamity before him, he wiped his tears and asked to go back to his camp and without answer they both turned their backs to the explosion and started walking down the mountain and the sunlight started to dim and the peaks started to flatten and once again they were walking down the chinese hills beneath the night sky. The wanderer stopped and watched Sun Tzu run into his tent in a hurry. He smiled and walked away, knowing he changed the greatest strategist of all time to the better.
Sun Tzu pushed through his soldiers who saw their leader flustered for the first time in their lives. He quickly sat down on his pillows and dipped his quill in ink and grasped his papers like he was holding to dear life. He knew war would never be absent from this world, so he chose to at least make it gentler, smarter. He believed in the art of war. And so his ink started flowing.
“The supreme Art of War is to subdue the enemy without fighting. In the practical art of war, the best thing of all is to take the enemy’s country whole and intact; to shatter and destroy it is not so good. So, too, it is better to capture an entire army than to destroy it, to capture a regiment, a detachment or a company entirely rather than to destroy them.”
Written By : Saihi Hachem.
Chapter 6 : Rwanda, the Rwandan Genocide.
This is a journey unlike any other, offering a rare glimpse into a dark period of time.
The wanderer was suddenly transported to an unfamiliar place. He looked around with a sense of bewilderment, trying to grasp a detail, something he could recognize, but nothing seemed to click. He was in a dense forest surrounded by hills. The air was thick and humid, filled with the scent of exotic plants and damp earth. The sounds of birds singing, leaves rustling, and towering trees swaying in the breeze all blended together to create a symphony of harmonious sounds across the wilderness.
The forest was alive and vibrant, and the wanderer was struck by its beauty and serenity.
Despite his earlier confusion and fear, a wave of enthusiasm swept over his body at the thought of having a new mission of discovery and uncovering the mysteries of this new place.
The wanderer was bursting with curiosity and a fascination for exploration like ever. He hankered after adventure and was always eager to take on new experiences.
And so he sat off into the unknown. The sun had set and darkness had fallen, his steps now became slower as he walked through the dark terrains of the forest. The cool air was refreshing against his skin, and the sounds of the night were a comforting presence .
When he reached the top of the hill, he paused to catch his breath and take in the stunning view before him. The city below was illuminated by thousands of twinkling lights, resembling bright stars in a dark sky. As the night progressed, new lights continued to evolve and their soft glow contrasted beautifully with the starry sky overhead which was the cherry on top.
The refreshing soft breeze and the sounds of crickets humming added a sense of peacefulness to this magical atmosphere.
That night’s scene was indeed a sensory feast and the wanderer said under his breath:” I must be very lucky to witness nature, in all its splendor and glory.”
He then started to look around for a place to sleep. He found a comfortable spot between a few rocks, sheltered from the wind but still has a good view. He laid down, gazing up at the sky and feeling blissful. At last, he was drifting off into Dreamland, embraced by the warmth of nature and surrounded by its beauty.
Hours had passed and the world was slowly waking up from its slumber as the sun rose above the realms of horizon, indicating the beginning of a new day. The wanderer, however, remained in a deep sleep.
The sunlight brushed against his face. Singing birds woke him up, and he felt like he had slept better than ever before. He stretched his arms in contentment, and as he stood up, he was rewarded with breathtaking sights.
The sky was crystal clear and streaked with bright white clouds. The hills stretched out in a wide arc along the horizon with their greenery slopes and vivid wildflowers. And under the influence of the sunlight, trees, plants and grasses were all shimmering. The sound of humming was everywhere, all was fluttering and flying, with new smells and new hues, the wanderer was evidently in a state of sensual intoxication.
That scene was like a masterpiece that came to life from a painter’s canvas.
As he was contemplating the landscapes, he sensed a familiarity from this place ,which he could not recognize at first, and wasn’t quite sure why.
Suddenly, like a bolt of lightning, he realized he was in Rwanda, the Central African jem. The hills, forests and exotic smells – it all made sense in his mind now.
This small country located in the heart of Africa and known as the « land of a thousand hills » for its captivating mountainous terrains. The wanderer really felt as if he was in a dream. But soon he realized that this was not a dream, but the beauty and wonder of Rwanda as it truly is.
For a long moment, the wanderer simply sat on top of the hill, taking in the beauty of Rwanda and feeling grateful for this opportunity to visit it because he had always longed for learning more about its culture and history.
He closed his eyes, inhaled deeply and fresh air filled his lungs. He was overwhelmed by a sense of refreshment and vitality, as if nothing could disturb this pleasure.
Suddenly, a burst of screaming sounds was heard faintly from down the village. The wanderer was confused as to what could be the reason for this commotion. And so, he decided to get down to the nearby village down the hills and discover for himself.
As he was stumbling his way through the forest, heart pounding fast in his chest, feeling uneasy and not knowing what he was going to witness, he tripped over some tree roots and almost fell but he contained himself so as not to be heard.
Finally he reached a part of town that was empty and lifeless. Gloominess hung over it like a dark cloud. It was a haunting and eerie sight at once.
A sense of fear started to well up inside him, as he realized that he was completely alone in this place. He looked around trying to find any proof of what was happening and he saw a house with a wide open door. He entered slowly, with glazed eyes, scanning everything surrounding him until he saw a calendar hung on the wall and he stopped abruptly.
But as he was reading the date, he stood speechless, his eyes grew bigger and an expression of fear was drawn all over his face. It was “1 April 1994”, an indelible date in the history of Rwanda.
It marked the beginning of the Rwandan genocide, a mass slaughter and one of the most horrific acts of violence in recent times. Over a period of 100 days, from April to July 1994, an estimated 800,000 people from the Tutsi ethnic group, as well as moderate Hutus, were massacred by Hutu militia groups.
The wanderer realized with growing horror that this tragic event was happening right at that moment.
And in a trice, a loud scream shattered the silence of the place, it felt as if it was from just outside the house. A brick of panic and uncertainty lodged in his gut. He didn’t know what to do next but curiosity overcame him and decided to take a look.
He went out but found nothing. He continued walking cautiously between trees to avoid being seen.
Soon, a repugnant sight was presented before his eyes.
There was a woman lying on the ground, her face was bloody and her arms clenched to her baby. A few feet from her, there was a man, completely covered in blood and his features were unrecognizable. These unfortunate souls seemed to be once a family…and now they were gone.
The wanderer had a terrible sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach and felt as if a million volts surged through his body. No other sight provoked such a visceral reaction.
He walked away, eventually, having seen enough, while the wails of distressed people and children rang through the air.
A real tragic story was being played out in the streets of Rwanda not like a fairytale.
In that moment, the wanderer felt desperate to stop this increasing madness that was tearing Rwanda apart. He wanted to put an end to this violence and hatred. He wanted to yell, to scream and to cry out against it all.
Yet again, it was much bigger than what he could offer. He couldn’t help everyone, could he? Plus, the tragedy has already started happening.
Ultimately, he realized that he can’t change the course of history and it was destined to be.
He knew that Rwanda will emerge as a resilient nation despite all the challenges it has faced and won’t turn the page to this tragedy but rather turn the tide to its growth and flourishment to ensure a better future for its citizens.
Remembering the Rwandan Genocide is important for acknowledging the victims and survivors of this devastating event, and for ensuring that such atrocities never occur again. It serves as a stark reminder of the consequences of hatred and division.
Rwanda, nowadays, is one of the fastest-growing economies in Africa and has been acknowledged for its hard work and innovative strategies to catalyze positive change.
The wanderer learned from this journey that even in the midst of such darkness, there is always hope for a brighter future to arise.
He already had an inkling that this might be an experience of a lifetime and a story to be shared for all times. Undoubtedly, Rwanda will hold a precious place in his heart.
And so the wanderer sat off to a new journey, filled with a sense of gratitude at the infinite adventures that lie ahead and convinced that there are plenty of great things to unravel.
Written By : Chams Daghsni.
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