Alexis’ journal

On the 6th of April 1994 at night, the plane of HABYARIMANA, the former President, had crashed and he died with Major General NSABIMANA alias CASTAR, some presidential advisers and a
Burundian President. No one survived.

We got that information from my sister Mpinganziza Marie, she was in my home with Augustin, my nephew of 8years old at that time, for the Easter break. She was in Lycée Notre dame, in high school at Kigali and there the security was worse than in the south where we lived. It was 2 hours driving from Kigali to Butare, around 120km of distance.

People in Kigali were in danger anytime and anywhere. In public and private transport, cars were bombed, people shot in the streets by the militia INTERAHAMWE. They had guns, grenades etc… They could kill by using knives or rope.

At Butare further south, this wasn’t the case; they were rumours but no actions yet. On 7th of April early in the morning, Marie woke us up and told us that on the radio they are saying that the cockroach shot HABYARIMANA’s aeroplane and killed him; the notice was telling people to stay in their homes and not move. When we turned the radio on, we heard the same message, it was repeated every 5 minutes and the only music played was the classic music.

I had an intuition that they were going to kill everyone and I suggested we woke up everyone: Augustin, Richard (our house keeper), Ahishakiye (Annette’s’ baby-sitter) and ask everyone to dress up for not being killed naked. Nothing happened that morning; even the whole day, it was Thursday on 07/04/1994.

On Saturday the 9th of April, I managed to get a phone and called my mum’s number, but it was not on. I called the neighbours and their son called René told me that they were all killed. They were all a number of 21 people (my mum, my two sisters, my brother, Rachael my niece, Mark my uncle’s son, and other people who were living in the same compound). A military tank killed them and after the genocide we found out that Rachael and Vincent, a 4 years old and a son of our ex-neighbour, Frank) survived. At that time we were not surprised by what happened to old people because people where being killed everywhere but shocked to hear that they even killed a 1 years old daughter of Frank. This happened anywhere around the country during the genocide.

In Butare, no one was yet killed until 19th of July; but in other 10 provinces they were about to finish killing Tutsis. At the plantation where we were living, I went on that Saturday in our pub to try to find out what was going on because the only informations we could have were from the radio and we didn’t believe it. I asked for a drink and the barman refused to give it to me, he was told by the authorities of I.S.A.R. to not serve an “Cockroach”, which meant a Tutsi, because we killed their Father (the President), he added. We, who? I asked myself. People were looking at me with a lot of anger. It was better for me to go back home.

One week after, most of employees didn’t have any money or food, the banks were 16km from where we worked, and it was too risky to go there. We managed to eat just what we had, and in the middle of the second week, some of employees decided to walk to the banks. I preferred to go to the other direction in the countryside to see my friend Edwin.
He was my classmate and for the 1st year we were 41students and we were the only Tutsi in the whole class. When we finished our school he got a job at the plantation before me and he was the one who called me to come for the interview. I passed it and started to work in the same place with him but in different department.

One year later, the Manager quarrelled with him about the motorbikes parking. Francois asked him what he was doing in the parking and told him not to pass there anymore, and Edwin replied that he was just passing because there was a way in the parking that was linking to the offices. Just because he tried to explain himself, it was a lack of respect to the Manager, so one day later he was failed and told to never come back to the Institute. He wasn’t even allowed to come to visit us, he would be in trouble and we would be failed too.

Few months later, another Tutsi and our neighbour, was unauthorised to live at the plantation because he quarrelled with his servant. Then Tutsis realised how much we were persecuted.

After leaving the plantation, Edwin got a job in another company, 20km away. I went to see him on Friday and ask him his advices about the situation. He was living near the border of Burundi and he could arrange our escape; but when we met he told me that there was no reason of escaping. “We now have soldiers here for our protection.”said Edwin. We didn’t know that those soldiers were there to help the local militia to kill Tutsis.

I went back home and decided to not escape. I would say that people would be killed in Kigali, the Capital city, but not in Provinces.

On Monday 18/04/1994, 3 days later, Edwin came back to see me, and he sent someone to let me know that he was waiting for me outside of the plantation. When I arrived, he looked very frightened and told me that things changed and Hutus were about killing Tutsis there also. His advices were to leave the country immediately. That was the last time I saw him.After the genocide, I heard that he was killed while he was helping some of his friends to escape to Burundi by driving them on his motorbike, and when he came to pick up the last two people, his brother and his girlfriend, it was too late and they got all killed.

In the same night, a lady called Robin who was an accountant at the plantation came back from Butare city. She was very scared about what she saw, she told us that soldiers, polices and civilians were together killing Tutsis. She was a Tutsi too but a friend soldier helped her to escape that night. Also we knew from her that the border of Rwanda and Burundi was already closed, it was too late to leave the country.

On Wednesday, 20/04/1994; two friends and I went to the nearest catholic church to see our friend priests, There were two tutsis priest. We went in the church and praised the Lord for 30 minutes and then went in their convent. We wanted to ask them a protection. Catholic Church had a lot of power in Rwanda. But, before we told him the reason of our visit, the senior priest told us about the statistics of tutsis priests and nuns that had been killed around the country and it was a big number. He was in the same danger as us, so we wished good luck to each other and then we left without saying anything regarding our visit.

On the way back home we saw the driver from the plantation, and he told us that all Tutsis working there were going to be killed, and he told me that Phillip (an assistant manager) and I were the first on the target, that if I could quit the place, that was the time. I asked him many questions trying to understand why I was on the first target but he didn’t know. Finally it didn’t matter because being on the first target or on the last didn’t change anything, everyone were killed.

I went back home thinking what I could do and I thought about my friend, who was a priest. We were playing football together and sharing some drinks after. He was my “mate”. I rode my motorbike to his parent’s house; it was close to the plantaton. I asked him to help me just to keep Claudette, Annette, Augustin and Robine; for me I would be fine,I would look after myself. His answer was no, he couldn’t take them. My last hope evaporated. I didn’t know who else to ask for help, my close friend, a Hutu and priest refused to help me, who else would help me? I couldn’t get force to ride back my motorbike; I just stayed on it and switched it off. I didn’t have a choice; I had to find a solution to save my family. I couldn’t let them being killed without doing anything, but the think is that I didn’t have much choices.

We had a friend and neighbour Lenore, we were working together and her parents were living in 11km from us, I immediately thought to send Claudette, the 2 children and our nurse there. Victor escorted them and when he came back he told me that they accepted to hide them.

I was with Rugema and Winston that afternoon and the idea was to not stay at the plantation; we went to see some Tutsis friends who were living outside of it. All of them told us that they couldn’t help us, because they couldn’t help themselves too. For us the plantation was dangerous, for them everywhere it was dangerous and they were right. Rugema was accepted by Jean, a hutu who were working with him and hide him in his house. Winston and I came back to the plantation at night, had a diner and after we went to sleep to Alphonse’s house out of the plantation; but no far from it. Arrived there, we met two boys from Nyanza, they left Kigali in February escaped the killing and went to Gikongoro. From there they ran to Nyanza and April they left Nyanza to Alponse’s house because hutus wanted to kill them.

On Thursday, both Tutsis and Hutus all together around Butare were trying to stop the militias Interahamwe from a neighbour district Gikongoro who were trying to come into Butare to kill Tutsi who escaped from there. This meant, hutus in our place didn’t know yet that the people to be killed were only Tutsis.
We passed all day and all night on a hill together while the police was trying to stop the militia from Gikongoro.

On Friday, 22/04/1994 in the morning, Hutus went back in their homes and the first Tutsis in the area to be killed was MUGABOWAKIGERI Jean. We were working together, but he was living in his ferm. Himself, his wife and their 6 children who were between 18 to 6 years old got chopped by machetes with their neighbours. People who were their friends and whom they knew since their childhood.

On Saturday and Sunday we heard that the time of Tutsis had come. They were going to be massacred even out of the plantation where we were. The two boys from Nyanza decided to go back, Alphonse couldn’t help them and didn’t like to see them being killed in front of him; they got a lift and we heard that, they were killed the same day at Nyanza.

On Monday morning, 25th of April, Winston and I decided to go back to the plantation; it was better to be killed by a gun than a machete. We knew that in the plantation we would be killed by guns while in Alphonse’s place, Hutus without guns would kill us, just by knives or machetes.

It was about 10am when we arrived there; the first person we met was Barayagwiza, who came from the north region and an extremist man. He had a very sharp machete, but he didn’t talk to us, the second person was Paul, a driver, he was my friend and he asked us why we didn’t come to help to protect the plantation with them when people were trying to come in and still. I replied that we couldn’t stay while people wanted to kill us.

From Friday 22/04/1994, Tutsis were killed in our district but on a side near Gikongoro province. Some of them escaped to the plantation and hutus wanted to come in to kill them.

On that Monday two young Tutsis who were living near the plantation escaped into the plantation and were sent back by our authorities, hutus leaded by Simon who I was working with me killed them in front of us by machetes and thick sticks, and in only 20 seconds they were chopped in pieces because they were Tutsis, enemies.

We were waiting the same thing to happen to us at any time but the authorities had another idea about us; they just gave us cheap machetes and sent us in different groups to protect the Institute with other workers hutus, we passed the Monday night in round until the next day.

When we came back on Monday morning with Winston, I went back home and I was surprise to see Claudette, she came back the night before because it was not possible to stay to our friends house, they were starting killing Tutsi too. She was with Augustin, Annette and Ahishakiye Marie. When they had to leave, she decided to go and see her hutu friends from school hoping she would get help.

On Tuesday morning, 26/04/1994; what should happen happened; it was about 7.00am when I came back home to have a breakfast, but it was not yet ready and I decided to go and see Rugema. He came back last night to; the countryside was more dangerous. I wanted just to see him and make sure if he was still alive. He passed the round in a difficult group, which patrolled a bit far from mine. Winston and I were on the way to see him and we saw an interminable queue of militia coming in the plantation. The organisers had prepared a good plan to massacre Tutsis inside. The queue was coming and surrounding all the plantations slowly, they were not in hurry because the same people were coming from all sides, east, west, north and south. We were in and couldn’t escape. I ran back home with Winston and told Claudette to come with us. Winston, Claudette with Annette on her back, Augustin and I tried to run but we couldn’t really. We were very scared.

From our home to the office, it was about 1500m, we went there and found it was only Tutsis women with their young children (no older than 5 years) Claudette stayed with them, because Tutsis used to be killed several time before, in 1959, 1963, 1966, 1973, 1992, 1993, 1990, but the target was always men and boys, women and children were not killed.

So, Winston, Augustin and I kept running, our idea was to go in the bush but a man called Nzaramba Eric saved us from that mistake, killers were surrounding us, they were in 200m of us. This housekeeper of our General Director saved us by giving us this information. He was a good man, I begged him to take Augustin for a while, until then I didn’t know ,him as well, that this killings were going to take more than one day; but I thought it would take some hours only.

I was wrong the Tutsi’s genocide continued in our region until July. That man accepted to stay with Augustin, he was in safe hands. About 20m from us there was a small bush of flowers; a good one to hide a person, I told Winston to go in and to not move. Looking in his face, Winston was very scared and didn’t really like to run from the killers, he wanted to die, he was convinced about the death of his family and didn’t find any reason of living anymore. He was younger than me and I was like his old brother, he was Claudette’s cousin. I begged him to hide in those flowers and finally he accepted.

It was better to be in different place just in case. I ran 100m from Winston and went in another small bush between the main road and another small one which crosses the plantation. Sitting there with my machete, I could see a crowd of people rushing into the plantation. Some groups were singing but many chatting about how they could work better to finish all Tutsis as quick as possible.

They started to kill Tutsis and in my place I could hear different sorts of guns they were using (automatic ones like Kalachinikov (smg), grenades, etc…). They were using machetes, knives and thick sticks with nails on. This took all day, they stopped at 6.00pm it was night, they were tired and they would be back the next day to finish their job. I heard it and realised that I had to find a safer place.

The next day, they would cut down all small bushes and would check anywhere to find Tutsis, the cockroach, enemies of the peace and the country; they said.

Sitting in my bush, a group of killers passed, it was that first day, about 10.00am, and they could see that someone went in; and they called out in this word: IZANE SHA, which means: bring yourself. I didn’t move they called me 3 times and finally sent one of them to come and check in; he came and when he was in about 1m from me, I was going to stand up too and follow him thinking that he saw me, and I saw him going back and saying that there were no one inside. It was a miracle maybe because of it was sunny and my bush was very dark and my clothes too, or God closed his eyes. I was saved and still alive. I didn’t want to be killed in my hiding, I wanted to be killed in a place where my family, if they got a chance to survive, would what happened to me; that why I wanted to stand up and follow him.

After he went back I decided not to move anymore, if they have to kill me, they would kill me where I was. For the first time I was going to make a big mistake by getting up.

In my hiding I would see people going in the plantation, coming back with goods (Fridges, TV, Clothes, our motorbikes). They were carrying everything on their heads. I could see people I was working with helping in killing. I remember Nkusi who was the Manager of the Human resources program, a good person, well educated man and very well dressed all the time; with soldiers who were shooting Tutsis. How could people change just in few seconds? How this happened so quickly to see your best friends became in one minute your worst enemies and run after you to cut your head with a machete? I will never get the answer.

About 5.00pm, people were killed around me, and for all those who died I didn’t hear anyone screaming or saying any word while they were going to kill him/her. Maybe they where morally dead before being killed? I don’t know.

Later on I saw a group of soldiers who came that morning to help Hutus to kill Tutsis, they passed with a plantation worker and another boy from outside. I knew both of them, and they were taking some cows from dead Tutsis and they were going to kill them and eat them.

At night about 8.00, it was very dark and I decided to leave my place and try to join Richard’s house, which was in just 2km, but it was very hard to rich there; because every movement could cost you your life, Hutus were on round everywhere. I didn’t have choice.
I had to move; helping by the darkness. I passed near the hospital where was lots of bodies, some were still alive breathing hardly, some other were talking even; but I couldn’t hear what they were talking because I didn’t want to. Just in 10m from me the Hutus controlling any suspicious person passing around. I escaped those killers and rush to Richard’s house. When I arrived just in front of his house, I saw 4 people, we were so close and too late for me to run away. Luckily, it was Richard, his two cousins Charles and Laurent, and Alphonse; all of them were very happy so see me alive. Laurent and Alphonse told me that my kids and my spouse died; and how Winston left his bush to ask to be killed by paying them the rest of money he had, so he couldn’t be tortured.

I was not surprised to hear that everyone died because we were attacked by thousand of killers, plus soldiers. More than a 100 Hutus well armed, for one Tutsi. I thought that I was the only survivor of that Tuesday26th of April.

Charles took me in his home, gave me some water and food; I couldn’t eat but I tried because I didn’t know what was going to happen the next day. I slept in his house of two bedrooms, a living and a storeroom. It was big enough for him; his wife and they only had a 4 years old son. It was built on the main road and the roadblock was just in from of it. Their kitchen and toilet were built apart from the main house with its small store.

Who is Charles who accepted to help me while my best friends and priest were trying to kill me? Charles was not my friend, I knew him when he was working in the plantation’s pub where I used to go to have some drinks and food. This job was not well paid in Rwanda, he was a poor man, I was not rich either, but I was richer than him. Some times when I would have extra money, I would buy for him some drinks and foods too. You can imagine working in the pub and not to be able to pay yourself a drink. I used to do it only when I would have enough money and in good mood. For Charles, I was a very good man and he was proud to take any risk to help me. For me he was different, an angel.

I slept in his house and early in the morning he came in my room and helped me to go in the roof of his house and I stayed there. Killers would come to control in every house.

The next day those killers came back in the plantation to hunt survived Tutsis, they cut down all small and big bushes, and they found some Tutsis and killed them. Around 12.00 noon, a car passed around with a microphone saying that the killing was over and asking people to go back in their homes, asking hutus who hide Tutsis to let them go back in their home. They were lying, they wanted to find all survivors and kill them. Some Hutus made mistake in the plantation and told the authority that they had hided someone and immediately, the soldiers were sent to bring him up and he got killed; Jean Bosco was his name.

In the afternoon of 27/04/1994; when I was in the roof I had an idea of building a cover there and at night I told Charles about my plan. The next day, he cut a piece of wood and we fixed it in a corner of the roof so I could have just enough place to sleep between the carpentry and this tree; on the top of a wall and be sure that it wouldn’t be easier to discover me there.

The hunters would come one day with their torches and have a look in the roof but they would not see me. Sometimes they didn’t go in the roof, they would use some lances and plugged them around the entire roof and if they would be someone in, it would have blood on. My protection was the carpentry and the wall.
Charles had all information about hunters’ plans and when he knew they would come to check in his t house, I would go in the sorghum crops or bushes which survived on cutting down, or to Alphonse’s house and who would open and put me in his neighbour house. This neighbour was a militia and was working in the plantation. He was in the North at that time working there for some days and it was safe to stay in his house. No one would think I was in. The only risk was that he could come back at anytime and find me in his house; it would be the end of my life.

Until the 31/05/1994; I was living between Alphonse, Charles’ houses and the bushes. I left them when plantation workers suspected that I could be there. I asked Charles to go to beg Maurice to help me; it was a big risk, but I had to take it, no more choices. He could refuse and force Charles to tell him where I was, but fortunately he accepted, he even didn’t know if I was still alive. He was one of our farmer workers in plantation and he used to come and join our soccer team sometimes.

On 31/05/1994 around 8.00pm, I left Charles’ home, Maurice in front and Charles behind me. We walked about 4kms. Maurice knew the place and so we passed behind the control roadblocks and rounds, which were everywhere without being arrested.

I arrived to Maurice’s house and his wife had prepared a dinner, it was rice and beans but in a big quantity. She brought it in a very big traditional plate made up in bamboos and we started eating together. I was full before we ate 1/3 of the meal, first because it was a huge quantity and secondary because I passed more than a month without eating properly. Charles was a poor man. We couldn’t eat enough, but Maurice was a rich farmer. So I didn’t know what to do; if I stopped eating they will say I am arrogant and they will maybe kill me. I kept eating and we finished the meal. That night I couldn’t sleep because of the quantity I ate.

Early morning, they went to work and his wife left me 3 long corns roasted for breakfast. I was amazed by this sort of breakfast but also happy to have enough to eat. I was still full but couldn’t resist on that nice smell. For the first week I was overfull, but after that I became used to eat a big quantity of food.

Every morning at 4.00am, Maurice would accompanied me to the bush far from his home in the plantation where I worked, they knew that no any tutsi could be there anymore. At night after being sure of what was going to be done by the killers, he would come back to let me know about the situation, and I would go back home with him or to stay there.

Day after days the noise of guns was closer and closer, but because of a big propaganda, Maurice couldn’t believe that the war would one day arrive to his place. The radios and TV told them that RPF soldiers were very bad and couldn’t win the war. This government encouraged civilians to attack RPF positions with side arms while RPF solders had all sort of heavy arms. Those civilians will attack in a big number mixed up with some government soldiers, but most of them will be killed.

On 30/06/1994 in the morning, they were in the farm; soldiers and civilians and soldiers ran away. Maurice and his wife left me in their house. Happy to hear RPF closer but very terrified to, because I didn’t know which side was RPF of Government soldiers. I waited and all around my house there was a big fight for all afternoon. It was my first time to take off my shoes and clothes when I went to the bed because I thought that Government soldiers could come in and find me in. So if that could happen, I wanted to explain myself that I was very sick and couldn’t run away from the RPF. The fight stopped at night about 6pm, and I had a good sleep and woke up by the noise of guns around 5.30pm. Good sleeping during all the genocide always surprised me. I could be in the roof, very hot or very cold but I would sleep well. Or I could be in the bush, aware of snakes, leopards and other predators around me, but I would sleep well. Unbelievable, isn’t?

When I left Charles’ house I was very slim, I lost about 23kgs and I weighed almost 45kg, I was very frightened and I didn’t eat popery as I used to, my angel was poor but had a big heart; but few days with Maurice I had enough to eat and his place seemed to be safer than Charles’ and/or Maybe I was used to be in danger. I was ready to die and I didn’t mind, everyone was gone and it this happened to me, it would be very normal. I had a New Testament bible given to me by Claudette.
I kept it and read it every moment, and again, and again through the whole genocide. It gave me a spiritual strength to face my situation and to accept it like it was.

On the 1/07/1994 about 9.00am, Maurice came back home, and told me that RPF soldiers occupied all the area. I said thanks to the God and showed me the path to take, some killers were still around, so I had go pass far from them. I couldn’t find any RPF soldier where I expected they should be and it was not possible to for me to go back to Maurice’s house. Some militias saw me on the hill running and they would kill me if I came back. I could hear the fighting further and I followed the noise of the guns, I took Kigali –Butare road and after 10 minutes walking, a green pickup Toyota stout came from the opposite side. They were RPF soldiers, they stopped and asked me who I was and where I was going. It was impossible for me to talk, during the genocide I’ve never talk loudly, so I lost my voice. I had 30 guns focused on me, some on my head, my chest, stomach; they were going to shoot me thinking I am the enemy because I couldn’t explain myself.
Their chief came closer to me after being sure that I had no weapons on me and let me shout in his ears and told him that I wanted to join them because I had been persecuted for months by Hutus. I didn’t brush my hair or clean my clothes since 26/04/1994; I was like a jungle man. You can imagine how unclean I was with all kind of hair lice up to my socks and shoes.
They took me in their pick up and I was surprised to see alive other Tutsis while I was thinking I was the only one left. I can’t express myself how much I was happy, It was a miracle to be alive.

Two weeks later I found Claudette,Annette, Augustin and Rachelle my best friends. Also, I saw Camille and her 5 daughters alive; we met new survivors and became friends and we are still friends. We were staying together and we would always talk about the suffering, everyone had his own special journal and very bad one, but we would laugh on it like a good joke and before going to sleep, we would sing and dance and we would go to sleep with a smile on our lips. We were happy to be still alive.
We didn’t think about our relatives yet. We had no money, no clothes, no where to stay all Tutsi’s houses were destroyed; we could only manage to get food from RPF soldiers, and that was it, but we were happy to be alive because in past 3 months, we were not allowed to live, we were hunted for 3 months but we were still alive!! It was a miracle and a victory too. Even killers were shocked to hear that there were about 200,000 survivors around the Country.

In the countryside, after genocide there were no people, Tutsis were all killed and Hutus ran away with their government in neighbour countries, The same moving happened in cities, but the difference was that from 1959 to 1973, Tutsis refugees come back from exile in neighbour countries and most of them established their homes in cities.
In August it was a time for survivors to back to their normal life, we went to live in Butare city. There was a lot of people but different people. Those we knew before died or left the country because they were killers. We became strangers in a city where we knew almost everyone. We were lonely and it was had to make new friends, because most of them didn’t believe that we were survivors. “ How could you survive? You are lying or if you are Tutsis, this means you were collaborators of Hutus in exterminating your people; so that is how you survived”, these are some of questions we had to answer all the time to those Tutsis from outside of the country, who didn’t know or were ignoring the reality that they were aware of.

We have faced this humiliating situation for so many times, even up to now. We hadn’t any more energy of arguing and the wise idea was to keep quiet and let people think whatever they like. This situation made us realising how much we were lonely.
It was had to face a lot of responsibilities. There were orphans everywhere, old people (women and men) who needed help, especially a moral help. No one else was in good position to understand another survivor than a survivor.

The Government and International N.G.Os helped in creating orphanages and survivors set up different local N.G.Os to help survivors to find adoptive families. Some killers were still in Rwanda, and to witness against them, the prosecution wanted to have 3 witnesses to testify. It was hard to get 3 survivors who saw one killer at the same time and in the same area. This wouldn’t be possible otherwise no one would be alive. Because of that, some survivors started to be traumatised in a high level. The question is now to know who is traumatised or not?

For the Government point of view, what happened it is “a Rwandan Genocide” because some Hutus in opposition were killed, but a number of Hutus killed during the genocide is less than 100people. Why they call it a Rwandan genocide and not “Tutsi’s genocide”? Any stranger person did kill Rwandans, but Rwandans (hutu) killed other Rwandans (tutsi). Why to witness against a killer needs to be 3 witnesses???? Survivors are not happy, they were and will be always very happy and thankful to RPF for the time it saved their lives while the International Community was sitting by, watching and saying: “Let those wild Africans killing each other”. But they are not happy of the idea of taking this Tutsi’s genocide as a normal event, including the Rwandan government which is talking about Rwandan genocide instead of a Tutsis genocide. Also, survivors are not happy to of being forced to live with their hunters; they want a justice, which is a key of their hope and a safe future.