Trek of Tears: An African Journey
1998 Pulitzer Prize, Spot News Photography, Martha Rial, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The line of refugees reaches to the horizon, victims of the centuries-old warfare between Africa's Hutu and Tutsi tribes. Most are women and children. Many are hungry.
"The people would flee together as a village," says Martha Rial. "Many children were separated from their families." It is January 1997, and Rial is in Tanzania, photographing the refugees for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The story has a personal angle for Rial: Her sister. Amy, is a nurse with the International Rescue Committee in Tanzania.
"I did photographs of her because of the Pittsburgh connection; I worked it into the whole scope of the project." Rials pictures show her sister caring for malnourished children, refugees lining up for food, a Hutu woman who was raped and stabbed by Tutsi soldiers, a Tutsi woman who adopts an orphaned Hutu child.
Most of what she finds reeks of displacement and despair. "The stream (of refugees) you see here had been walking almost 24 hours. The previous evening they heard word that the Tanzanian government was going to force them to leave. They were trying to flee, to go deeper into the bush. They were forced back by the troops into Rwanda. The group is led by a handful of militia guys. Men who are the leaders in the communities. They may or may not be wanted for genocide."