Wilkens also provides insight into the role of the UN peacekeeping soldiers that had been in Rwanda since August 1993. While acknowledging the work that they did do and the lives that they saved, Wilkens questions whether their presence gave Rwandans a false sense of security. He believes that their presence might have contributed to people not fleeing or protecting themselves in face of RTLM propaganda and hate speech.
It seems incredible that there was so much inaction in the face of the genocide and that, as Wilkens notes in the final pages of the book, it was solely the actions of the Rwandan Patriotic Front that brought an end to the slaughter. This is especially notable as Wilkens transcribes a BBC report from April 24, 1994 (18 days after the start of the genocide) in which the term ‘genocide’ was already being used to describe the events in Rwanda.
It was in the second week of the genocide that Wilkens thought of recording his ideas and thoughts on a cassette recorder. He then dedicates the majority of the book to chronicle his incredible actions over the next three months. Nearly every day, Wilkens and other ADRA associates braved snipers and mortars to drive around the streets of Kigali bringing food and water to various orphanages around the city. He achieved this despite the ADRA headquarters being completely sacked:
"Soon you stop diving for cover each time you hear an explosion, realizing that you will never hear the one that kills you."
There are times in I’m Not Leaving when my heart felt as though it might stop, and the book is uncomfortable to read at times. This is an intimate account of service, faith and courage, and I almost felt like a worthless bystander watching as people risked their lives to save others. Wilkens talks about real fear, and I got that. I could feel it as I read the book and my chest began to tighten.
In his ADRA vehicles and borrowed UN flak jacket, Wilkens achieved what no one else could achieve during the genocide. This man got into a neighbourhood like Nyamirambo to get food and water to two orphanages when the UN couldn't even get in. He talks about negotiating and pleading with genocidaires to save the life of Tutsis, how he got one Major Emmanuel to rescue 12 Tutsis. They were rescued as they knelt in prayer, with the killers standing with machetes raised above their heads, poised to strike.
He tells of the events at Gisimba orphanage where his intervention led to the rescue of hundreds of people as they were moved to the safety of Saint Michel church. He was then helped by government soldiers to pack up the orphans’ belongings and take them through to the church (you can read more about Carl Wilkens and Jean-Francois Gisimba talking about their recollections of that day here).