Claudette’s journal


My name is Claudette Cyulinyana*. I was born in Kigali, the capital city of Rwanda. We were 9 children in my family; 4 girls and 5 boys. During Genocide I lost 4 of my brothers and my 2 parents, plus my extended family that has been exterminated. I was the second child in my family and my 3 sisters and 1 brother that I am left with were the youngest to my 4 brothers that I lost.

The Genocide started 1 and half year after Alexis and I got married and our first born called Annette Uwase was 9 months old. We were living in the south of Rwanda, in Butare province.

On the 6, April 1994, the former President’s aeroplane was shot down returning from Arusha – Tanzania. It was nighttime and we found out on the Radio. When we heard about it from Marie MPINGANZIZA, Alexis’ sister who was at our home with their Nephew Niyonzima Augustin because schools were in Easter break, also their mother sent them to us in aim to protect them because the south region seemed to be more secure than other regions, Alexis said: it is finished, this is the end of Tutsis, and Hutus are going to exterminate all of us. For me, I was relieved and said to him: I think things are going to settle down and we are getting peace soon. He said back to me: You are innocent, don’t you think these Hutus are going to take this opportunity to kill us! Then I started realising it and felt cold in my stomach straight away.

It was around 3.00 am and Alexis suggested to wake up every one in our home and ask everyone to dress up so if it happens to be killed that night, we would be prepared already. We were a number of 7 people.

In the morning, we found out that in Kigali, the capital city, the killing started that last night and we were so worried about our families there. The killing was spreading everywhere very quickly, except in south where it took 2 weeks for people to realise what was happening, which was eliminating Tutsis,

Within 2 weeks we had to wait before the killing to start in Butare, it was closed everywhere, offices, shops, banks, A climate of fear dominated us, to flee to the safety of another country was impossible, as the entire nation was on alert and as a Tutsi we were totally besieged. It was a really difficulty period we were crossing. We couldn’t sleep, we kept hiding ourselves inside the house as our work colleagues changed their mood on us, and we could tell that they became distant and aggressive to us.

After 3 days, we found out from people who were escaping from Kigali, as the killing and war were becoming intense, that both our families had been exterminated. Also, Alexis tried to give a call to his family and no one could answer and when he tried their neighbours, they told him that his whole family were killed. We were so sad and desperate and we knew we are the next. We were so terrified at the point we didn’t even cry for our families.

In The plantation where we were living and working at the same time, they started holding meeting for employees regarding security inside the property, but they never invited Tutsi. In contrary, the meeting was about Tutsis at the plantation, how they were going to get rid of us.

The plantation was surrounded by the smoke from Tutsi’s houses burned, the noises from people running after Tutsis to kill them, with drums, whistles and dogs to help finding them from their hidden place. We could saw Tutsi being chopped by machetes over the hills, which are surrounding the plantation, and we were just waiting our time.

We lived in that terror for 2 weeks until it started in the city of Butare, no very far from the plantation. It was on the 19th of April 1994. In Butare province it took 2 weeks to convince people about what was happening. They didn’t respond immediately to it. Even those Tutsis who were being killed, there were people from another district called Gikongoro that came to kill and Butare inhabitants were trying to stop them coming in.

On Monday 25/04/1994, it was around 6.00 pm, we found out from one of our work colleague and neighbour called Christopher who was a driver where I was working, that the Brigade of Butare supplied soldiers to the plantation had joined their meeting that evening. Also he said that the outcome of the meeting was to start the killing later on that evening. They established a rule that everyone must attend the round.

He said: we have got everything now to kill Tutsi, I mean weapons, machetes and soldiers to help us and we are going to start this evening on the round. I am sorry to tell you this but I want to help you. There will be a sign, which will be a shotting in the air, and then everyone will kill any Tutsi that is beside him. So for you Alexis, you are a man you can run fast, I advice you to walk behind everyone so it could be easy for you to escape when it comes to kill Tutsis after the sign. But for your wife and with a baby, I don’t know what I can do to help.

I wish I could hide you in my house but with a baby who can cry anytime I can’t risk my life because we have been told not to help anyone. We kept silent looking at him; I was feeling cold and started shaking in my body. He kept quiet for a second then suddenly, he got up and said to me: This is a double of my house key, giving it to me, once you hear the sound of shotting tonight, try to escape and to my house from behind door. Make sure no one sees you going in, maybe you can survive this night, but tomorrow you will have to leave, therefore keep thinking where you can go.

After that he left, we looked each other quietly with confusion of what we can do, we called our 2 house keepers (also Tutsi) and told them what was going on. We were all very frightened. Few minutes after, we heard a nock on the door; it was an announcement for the round. For us, it was a time to say good-bye to one another because we knew what was going to happen unless God’s miracle. We didn’t have courage to it, we didn’t want to accept it, we just said: see you tomorrow to one another.

I begged Alexis to have at least a glass of milk before they go but he wasn’t able to drink it, we were already half died. I couldn’t imagine he would stay strong the next day if by chance he manages to escape that night. It was hard for us to eat during that time, thinking that the death was chasing us.

When they left going to the round, I turned all light off, put my child on my back and ask Augustin to sleep with proper clothes, not pyjamas. He went to sleep because he didn’t know what was going on, he was eight years old’, and I kept turning around in the house. I was so scared.

I waited for the signal to run to Christopher’s house but it didn’t happen. I wasn’t sure if it didn’t happen, I thought maybe I didn’t keep my attention very well. I stayed awake until morning.

In early morning, on Tuesday 26/04/1994, I saw Alexis coming home running and asking us to get out from the house and run away because we were surrounded by a group of people coming to kill inside the plantation. I grabbed my ID card and with Augustin and Alexis we ran away. We were very exhausted and tired from the lack of sleep and fear. We couldn’t move fast and in addition I was carrying Annette on my back.

In front of our house we met Nkundabera Winston 21 years old, my cousin and a best friend of Alexis whom we were working in the same plantation. He was coming to our house and told us that he want to drink milk before he dies. I told him to go inside and get it but to e quick otherwise we will be caught. He seemed not to know what was happening then

Alexis told me that it’s because he had found out that his family had been killed some days before. So he had already gave up. We could wait for him and when he came we kept running.

People with rifles and machetes, clubs stubbed with nails, axes, hoes, and screwdrivers surrounded the all Institute. We couldn’t go out of the plantation then we decided to go the office. Arrived there we realised how serious was this when we saw all Tutsis from other plantations there (this was the main office), but they were only women and children.

We decided that I could stay there with other women, because men and boys were more targeted as they give identity to Rwandan children. Also because I couldn’t move fast, Alexis wanted to go and check first if there was any possibility to pass so he could come back and take me.

He left with Augustin and Winston. After they left, I saw a big crowd of people coming in from the Entrance and I thought probably they had met Alexis, Augustin and Winston; so they were killed, But the situation in which I was couldn’t allow me to think deeply, I was over scared and kept telling myself I am dreaming, it can’t happen to us, no they can’t do this to us for we have done nothing to them.

The women in the plantation ran a club and we had a hall used for some events such as weddings, shows, etc…

When we saw them coming toward us, we all ran to the hall and the lady who was working there closed the door and said: You neither allowed to enter here, go away from here if they see me talking to you I will be killed too.
All women were quiet, overwhelmed. Children knew what was going on and were holding tightly to their mother’s clothes, but not crying. We were about 50 people waiting to be killed. Before they come to us, they went to our houses and took everything. There were few people with guns to make sure we don’t run away.

We came back to the ground, in front of the office and waited there. They came shouting and running to us, as we were a danger to them. One of their leaders put us on the line and asked us to show up our ID card. Before they came back I put my ID card under my arm, I was thinking maybe I could say I lost it but I am a Hutu. When I saw a lady in front of me got cut with the machete and fall down because she said she didn’t have it, I showed it up immediately. Then I was put on the queue of people to kill. I looked around me to see I could see someone who could save me, just to testify that I am not an INKOTANYI (the Rwandan Patriotic Front that was in fight with the Government, fighting for their rights to come back in Rwanda). The first person I saw, was my cousin Jean with 2 of his sister children, he was only 16 years old, he came there all along from Kigali, the capital city, after his family got killed. He escaped with his Niece and Nephew, and came to his brother Rupert, who was working in a government office. After 2 days he arrived, the killing started at that place and they all escaped to the main office thinking they would get protected in our plantation.

I was standing on a queue, then I saw him approaching me and I said to him: Please don’t come to me or you will get suspected and get killed. He kept coming slowly and when he reached me he said: do not cry, be strong you are not alone, all of us we are going to go through this, all our families are gone no one left, just be strong and pray. Then I told him to go to my house. Because he was still young, he hadn’t had an ID yet; he showed up his student card and said he was a Hutu. After genocide I heard that they got killed to my place because our neighbours found out they were my relatives.
Maybe I shouldn’t tell them to go n my house.

On the queue of death, people started taking everything away from us (clothes, jewels and money) and left us naked. As we were going ahead slowly toward the big hole where people were killed one by one and put in, I never felt I would be one of them feeling desperate sick and horrified at the same time. I kept looking at Annette and praying to the Lord to not let this happens to her.

While I was at 300m from the hole, I saw a man coming and said to them: “This lady is a Hutu I know her”. They stared to him and said: you too, you are an accomplice come and join them. Then he said I am sorry but I know her husband is a Hutu that is why I thought she is a Hutu too. This exactly confirmed what I told them when I was asked where was my husband. They wanted to know where were our husbands so they could kill us together. Because they were people who came from outside of the plantation we could lie to them but it couldn’t help for long because there was a list of people who had to be killed.

When the man who came to save me explained himself, they asked if he is sure of that, he said yes, then they said take her she is ours, but if we found out later that you were laying, you will be killed.

His name was Nzaramba Eric and was a housekeeper of the Manager of the plantation. He took me from the queue, and we walked to his place. It was in about 500m from the hole and queue of the death. Before we arrived in his compound, I saw Augustin standing around looking after the goats. He came to me and showed a small bush behind him and told me that Alexis was inside. There was another one near us and he also told me that Winston was there.

When we reached inside his compound, Eric told me that he knew me because he was with Augustin, my husband’s nephew and how they saw me when I was taken and he decided to come and do something. Also he told me how he met Alexis, Winston and Augustin running that morning and wanting to go out from the plantation then he told them not to dare because they were surrounded. When Alexis asked him to hide Augustin , he accepted because he was young and he decided to put the goats outside so he could look after them.

He went inside the house and brought me his boss’ wife’s clothes. Lucky for us they were not there. They had left 2 months ago because of the insecurity after the killing of the extremist political party leader
After giving me clothes, Eric said you have to find where to go because I can’t keep you here as long as they saw you coming here. I said: I am not going anywhere, I have nowhere to go. While discussing it, we saw a group of people coming back saying if she is not still there Eric is in trouble.

When they arrived they said: “We need this lady Eric, we found out her husband is a Tutsi she must tell us where he is before she is killed, our leader said so.” The leader was one of Alexis friends, they used to play soccer together sometimes and I knew him. When he saw me at first he said to them: do not kill her before I come back, she must tell me where is Alexis. But they couldn’t control everything they were rushing to people’s house to steal and coming back to kill.

They pushed me roughly to walk in front of them I fell down and they started kicking me so I can get up quickly. Annette was crying because we fell down apart and she was hurt. At that point, Eric intervened quickly and said to them: what about if I give you money and you give her a chance to escape. They turned to Eric, they were about 15poeple, and asked how much did he had. He said 500 Frw. I got a chance to beg them and told them to go to my house and take everything that was inside, they accepted and I directed them to my house.
Immediately after they left, Eric put me in the Sorghum crop that was behind his house but in the same compound. I stayed there until mid-night. I was so terrified, all my body was shaking. My heart was pumping highly and I tried to hold in my breath so anyone couldn’t hear me because it was close to the street. I could hear people being caught from where they were hiding around me because if they got someone they would cheer themselves and sing and play drum and call his name out and ask his/her last wishes or to sing for them before they kill him/her. I kept my attention to hear if Alexis is caught because I couldn’t stand it, I promised myself that if he is caught I will go out and die with him.

It was very hard for me to hide myself with a baby, she got so hungry, she tried to cry several times and I cut down sorghum seeds and gave it to her so she can chew it. Sometimes she wanted to crawl and move around and I would try to breastfeed her so she can stay in one place. Finally, it was at the end of the day, around 4.00 p.m, she started to cry loudly, and suddenly I saw a chic coming toward us, she kept quiet and looked at it. It stayed there until later and she was asleep.

Around 5.00 pm, Eric came to see me and told me to not give up, that he would do his best to help me, he pleaded me to not do that to him. He looked very disappointed and told me that Winston had gave up and came out and said to him that he was tired, he just wanted to die. Eric begged him to go back in and promised to put him inside his house later on when the killers would be gone. He went back in and few minutes after, he came out again and told Eric in these words: I “am tired to hide myself while I haven’t done anything wrong, let them kill me and be happy. Just do me this favour: If Alexis survived, please give him my goodbye and I will meet him in heaven”. I asked him if Alexis was still alive and he said yes.

During the night it was very cold and windy. It was in the long rain season. All clothes I had, which was only the African material called KIKWEMBE to put around a towel and me to carry Annette that I received from Eric, I put all around Annette to keep her warm. She was so hungry that she couldn’t cry so loudly.

Around mid-night, it started raining; it was a very heavy rain with storms. Eric came to us and told me that now they are checking house by house and they were at the next so we were going to be the next. He said: I can’t put you inside as they are coming here. Also I am afraid they will hear your child crying, she was crying because of the rain, and they will come out in the garden to see what is going on. So both of us will be killed. I asked what he was trying to tell me to do; I was very scared and exhausted. He said, just a second, I will back to you. He went and came back with his bible, then told me: listen to me carefully, do you believe in God? I said yes. He said to me: what I am going to tell you is the truth, I have been reading his word and ‘God told me you and your child will be saved to night if you follow my instruction. Here they are: Go and put your child on the street near the Electricity panel and run beside the other side of the street in the crops of banana and hide there. I will stand behind your child and shout out that I find a baby; I know they will come straight to have a look. Then I will beg them to let me keep her and because she is a girl, hopefully she will not be killed. If they accept, maybe after checking my house you will be able to come and feed her during night and go back to your hiding. In addition I promise, if they kill her I will die with her.

I got very despaired and angry at the same time, I got up very quickly and told him: Thank you for helping me today, God will bless you but I prefer to die than to abandon my own child. I am not afraid of the death because there is no way to survive and it is good to die at the first than after being terrorised. While I was telling him all those words, I was putting my child on my back and covering her very well. When I was ready to go he said: Please wait I will be back. He ran to his house and I said a little prayer to God that: “God let everything be as you want”. He came back quickly, he was so terrified too and nervous, and then he said to me: come nothing will happen I promise. Also, in my heart I felt very courageous to do so. We walked together in the dark with the rain on our heads, Alexis was crying on my back and when we got to the gate, he said to me: let me go first to check if there is anyone around on the street. Lucky we were, no one was around because of the rain and they stayed to the next door for long because they couldn’t move in the rain.

He came back and asked me to follow him. When we reached the electricity panel, it was in just 10 minutes from the gate, he asked me to depose her down very quickly and run, I first put the clothes down and deposed her. She was lying down and suddenly she got up and cries. I hesitated to leave her and started to cry. Then Eric approached her and lifted her up, and told me to go then. Instead of running to the bananas crops as we agreed before, I went back in the compound. There was a small house for the security next to the garden and I went in. I could hear everything that was happening outside. I tried to close my ears but in vain.

I heard Eric shouting loudly that he found a baby, they came to have a look and one of them recognised her because he was our friend. So he said if the baby is still alive that means either the Father or the Mother are around. Let keep her for a while to see if they will come back to her, especially the Mother and then we will catch her. Another person called Kimonyo who was the Manager of the plantation said: What do you think you are going to do with her without her Mother’s milk, kill her because she is going to die anyway. He asked the soldiers to kill her and they said back to him to kill her himself, they didn’t have enough courage. Then Eric said: Please let me keep her, I will look after her, she will be my child and she will never know if she is a Tutsi, then she will marry a Hutu because we are going to exterminate Tutsis.

After a long discussion they accepted and he took her to his neighbour to ask some food for her. While the wife who was pregnant of her first child was preparing mashed potatoes for her, the husband came out and told Eric to go away, that in his house there is no food for snakes. He came back home and put her in the bed she kept crying and I could hear everything that was being said because there was only the fence between them and me.

Eric left her in the bed and came outside to see if he could find me. When he got to the door, he saw the lady from the next bringing the food for Annette and she told him to be careful that her husband doesn’t find out she brought the food and also she told him she heard that in few minutes they would come to check his house.

After feeding Annette, she felt asleep immediately and he came outside again. It was still raining, very freezing and windy. He looked everywhere he thought I might be, but he couldn’t see me, and he started calling my name with a small voice. When I heard his voice, I went out and the first thing I asked him was if Annette was still alive because since I stopped hearing her crying and people arguing around her I didn’t know what was going on, I was very terrified and exhausted. He said be calm she is sleeping and go down in the sorghum crop again because they are coming soon to check, then after they leave I will take you inside.

I went back in the crop, it was very wet and cold, I stayed in the mud I couldn’t stand or I would be seen, the sorghum was still short, and also I was too tired to stand. I waited about 1 hour before he came back to me and said: come in now they are gone. I followed him walking some distance in front of me. Fortunately it was so dark as there was no light everywhere. When we reached inside, he took me in the room where were Annette and Augustin sleeping. While I was still standing up wondering if I will seat down or keep standing because I was very dirty and wet, also it was nearly 4.00a.m in the morning, I heard Eric coming back running and saying they are coming back here. What can we do my God! I wanted to run out and he said is too late they will see you; he turned around the house for a while without knowing what to do, so was I. Then he said: jump in this wardrobe quickly. It was a very big wardrobe and I jumped in one compartment then he locked it.

After a moment of calm, I heard them coming in shutting and asking Eric if one of us (Alexis and I ) was in his house because the baby is quiet ( they never knew that she got the food from the lady at the next door). They checked everywhere and when they arrived in that room they asked if he could open the wardrobe, he replied that he didn’t have the key, that his boss took it with him because it was where he was keeping his documents.

Then they said: We can’t destroy it, we trust you but if we find out that there was anyone here, we will crucify you. After that, they left and he went out with them to check where they were heading. He took a while to come back and because I was trying to hold my breath so they couldn’t hear me while they were still inside, I couldn’t breath anymore. I started to feel suffocated when he came in and he tried to get the key he couldn’t. When they came in he was very nervous and terrified he didn’t know where he put it. So when he was about to bring the machete to break the wardrobe, he found it and opened the door.

I was nearly dying and went straight to the sorghum crop. I stayed there the whole day without seeing Annette and Augustin. It was the second day without eating or drinking anything. During the day, I kept hearing the children crying around taken to be killed, the noises of machetes (it sounded like trees being chopped, I never thought they were people being killed), and guns. I was very frightened and wondering if Alexis was still alive. Around 6.00 pm, Eric came to see if I was still there and I asked if I could have a glass of water. He brought me water and told me that children are all right except Annette who was still not eating, just crying. But he said he would take me inside around 9.00pm so I could feed her. I wasn’t having milk anymore and I thought It was better not to feed her so she can be used to eat because no one knew how long I would stay alive, I could even die in one second coming.

So I decided not to feed her anymore. I stayed outside until mid-night then he came to take me inside. I laid down beside Augustin and Annette. I couldn’t sleep deeply; I kept waking up and go back to sleep. I was dreaming them coming back to take me. Early morning at 4.00 a.m, I went back into the sorghum crops. Around 10.00pm Eric came and told me that Annette is crying a lot, he begged me to come and feed her. He said: I am going go check the situation around I will get back to you. When he came back he said: Things seem to be calm, maybe there are no more Tutsis left. I asked him if he knows anything about Alexis and he said that he must still alive because he checked where he was, nobody was in, even where they were throwing the bodies, they were saying that our family and few others must be found.

After that he asked me to follow him and showed me where to seat at the back of the house, He went inside and brings Annette and Augustin. When they saw me, Augustin cried because he was thinking I have died. All the time I came inside, he was sleeping. When Annette saw me she recognised me and smiled. I cried of happiness, I didn’t thing she could recognise me anymore, I was lost lots of weigh and was so dirty. Also, the thought I had leave her anytime was hard for me to accept. I sat down and breastfeed her. After a while, the lady who gave her the food came to see her as she used to come everyday, but her time to come was usually at 4.00pm. So Eric never thought she could come at 10.00pm.

She knocked at the front door, as no one was there she came around the house to check in the back. When I saw her I wanted to run away, but I stayed calm, I thought it was too late so let me stay calm and stay with my children because I knew it was the end of my life.

She didn’t stay long and left. Eric escorted her to the gate then she asked him who I was, he said I am Annette’s mother and he was trying to save me so I can be his wife. She promised him not to tell anyone. He came back and told me about it but I couldn’t trust her. I wanted to spend the rest of my time with my children but Eric insisted and convinced me to go back in the Sorghum crop. I went back and nothing happened that day until mid-night, the time I went back inside.

The next day, I went back out side as it became my routine, and around 10.00pm, I saw a lady called Brigitte came to where I was. She said she heard that they took me naked so she wanted to give me some clothes. She gave me one small of African material ( IGITENGE), and then went away. Few minutes after Eric came to me and said that she took Annette and Augustin with her. I was very angry to him because I knew she was a very extremist woman, I was sure it wasn’t compassion, in contrary she wanted to make sure if I was there. Her husband Mbonyi and I were working in the same office and he used to tell me that one day Tutsis would be turned into the mincemeat. I knew she would torture them and kill them.

I wanted to go out and follow my children and Eric told me to let them come and get me instead of giving up and go out myrself. I asked him what about my children and he said that you never know if she would torture them or not, just leave all this to God. It was a hard decision for me to make, I couldn’t concentrate and for thinking, I was just shaking and sweating. I stayed there until mid-night again before I go inside without taking any decision. During that night I never slept, I made my decision, which was to go out the next day and take my children from Brigitte and then go to the killers and ask them to be killed. I took that decision because I couldn’t see my future, it was clear that no Tutsis must be left, so instead of dying after several times of tortures, I decided to go and die without waiting.

In the morning, I told Eric about it and he insisted that I could stay because he was scared that if people see me coming from his house, he would be killed. I went back in the crop and he went to check where I could pass. Around 3.00pm he came back and told me that everyone are to the Centrale Mount, where they are putting anyone who is coming back, as a camp.

He walked out with me until in the half way then he said good luck to me and went back. On the way going to Brigitte’s place; which was not far from my place, there were only 5 houses between me and her; I met some of my workmates, I could see that they were surprised to see me alive but they couldn’t even say hello to me.

When I got to Brigitte’s house, I asked if I can see my children, fortunately Brigitte wasn’t there, I took them and walked down to my house. Everyone was out looking at us and before we arrive to our place I went to Brigitte’s neighbour to ask water to drink and the lady told me to go away otherwise they will kill her if they find out she gave me water. She was a mixed from a Hutu and Tutsi. I wanted to remind her that her mother is a Tutsi but I kept quiet and walked away. When we reached our house, it was empty, everything was taken and a part of the house was destroyed. I looked around and suddenly my brain started working again and I realised how much I am in danger. Annette was crying of hunger and Augustin was asking me if he could get some food.

We went in one room that wasn’t so destroyed and we sat on the floor. Around 5.00pm we heard someone coming in, it was Brigitte, she looked everywhere and got us in there and said she was carrying a mattress with her and gave it to us without saying anything. It was a single mattress and the children could lay on it but me I just sat beside them. The children felt asleep straight away because they were very hungry and exhausted. After Brigitte left, I saw about 10 people coming in, they were our neighbours and workmates, they asked me what I was doing in that house, I replied: I am here because this is my house, where do you want me to go?
Then they told me that I was not allowed to stay there anymore, that I have to go up to the Centrale Mount to join others. Then I told them to give me just few minutes to wake up my children and I would go. I woke up Annette and Augustin and we went out from the house, I saw them around waiting to see if I go. It was around 7.00pm and very dark. We took the way going to the Mountain, but I kept checking if they were still looking at us. When I couldn’t see them anymore, I was sure they couldn’t see me too, and then we turned behind houses and came back to our place. It was getting darker and darker, everyone was inside, and no one could see us. When we reached inside, I kept the door open and changed the room.

I took the mattress in the store. It was so narrow for the mattress to fit in, so I folded it twice so at least Annette could fit on it and Augustin be able to dispose his head on it and me sit beside them. The whole night my head was empty, I couldn’t think further anymore, I just prayed God to forgive all my sins. In the morning, I went out and I could see everyone looking at my place from his/her windows and I heard my heart telling me to go to the managers. When I was about taking Annette and Augustin, I heard another voice in my heart telling me to leave them because I could be killed there. I was very tired to hide myself for nothing I have done. I left them with Ahishakiye, the girl who was Annette’s baby - sitter and she stayed around when we were taken because she was a Hutu. When she heard that we came back, she came back too in that morning to see us and when I went out I saw her and asked her if she could stay with my children.

I didn’t know what I was going to do there; I just wanted to go there. On the way going to the manager’s, I met my workmate, Kabera Alphonse, he was very happy to see me again and told me that he thought he is the only one left. I asked him what he was doing there because he was living in 11km from the plantation and he said to me that the Government declared peace and asked everyone who was still hiding to come out. So he came out and decided to come to the plantation thinking he will get help. When he went to ask about his wages for that month of April, he was told he is not employed anymore, all he has to do is to join others on Mount Centrale, where they made up a camp for Tutsis who were coming out from their hiding. Since the killing started, all Tutsis in the plantation were failed from work and we did not get paid for that month.

There wasn’t any form of peace that was going to be installed, in contrary; it was a lies to get everyone. Whoever got out, they put them in one place and after killed them. This notice was passed on everywhere around the country and many people believed it was the truth, so they got killed because of that.

Together with Kabera, we decided to go and see the Manager of the plantation and ask if we could get help. We never thought that he could let us be killed, as he knew us for long. For me I wasn’t sure for that decision as I heard him asking the soldiers last 3 days to kill my child. But kabera said that then on things have changed no one had right to kill anymore, there was going to be peace, it was over. I trusted him and went together to the Manager’s house. We chose not to take the main street to avoid contact with many people. We took a street that was beside the accommodations between houses and the crops of sorghum. When we reached the house, Kabera decided not to go in, he thought it was dangerous for him as a man, then he hided in the sorghum crops while I would be going in. I walked in from the back, there was a lady sitting there and eating. She asked me what am I coming to do. She said to me: go before they see you, they were talking about finishing up the remaining Tutsis.

I turned immediately back to where I left Kabera, he wasn’t there and since then I didn’t see him again. I heard after the Genocide that he got killed on the Centrale Mount. After missing him, I became very discouraged completely, and I decided to go straight to the manager’s office. It was at 8.00 am, the time to lift up the flag. All employees were in front of the offices singing the nation hymn. I was nearly getting there and I saw one of the employees that was working in the propagating coming toward me and told me: Please go away from here we don’t want to see you being tortured here, he said that the Manager Assistant called Kaberuka has sent someone to call soldiers to come and kill you, please go.

My heart went straight to my children, I ran back to my house. When I reached in the middle of the way, it was a sort of valley, I could see up to the manager’s but they couldn’t see me because of the trees. Then I saw 2 soldiers coming down from the office, I hurried up but I couldn’t, I was too tired and terrified. When I checked behind me, they were in 100m behind me, I popped in one workmates house called Paul and I met him and his friends on the door, they were leaving the house going to work. I asked him if I could hide in his house for just few minutes, I told him there were 2 soldiers following me if they pass I would go. He accepted and told me to go in. By the time I finished talking to him, the soldiers were on his fence talking to his neighbour’s home keeper called Rutema, asking if he didn’t see where is gone the lady that was in walking in front of them. He said he didn’t see any but in contrary, he told them that he knows where is one of the families of snakes hided. He took them there. I heard everything, I was still behind the house, when I wanted to go in after talking to Paul, there was a person called Frederic (he was a trainee at the plantation and was staying with Paul. We knew each other; he even used to come to our place for lunch and dinner before he found where to stay), he refused me to go in and told me to leave otherwise he would call the soldiers. I explained to him that I spoke to Paul and he accepted that I could stay in for a while but he refused and he started to shout then I left and went behind the house. It was from there I heard everything from Rutema and soldiers. A few moment after,Frederic came to chase me again, I went to the toilet pretending I felt going there, but I wanted to let the time go so the soldiers could get far for me to be able to move. He kept harassing me and I came out from the toilet, then I ran to the bananas crops. I lay down in the weed in the bananas crops.

They were lots of mosquitos and in one minute all my face, arms and legs were swollen from the bites. In a lapse of the time, I heard someone coming around where I was, he was walking slowly and seemed to look for something. I stopped breathing that he couldn’t even hear my but in vain. When he saw me he cheered himself and said: “here you are snake, get up right now.” He was one of the casual farm workers in the plantation. They have been all promised to be given 100,000Frw or a Beef if they find one Tutsi. I begged him to not taking me and I promised to give him everything that was in my house, I knew there was nothing left in my house, but I just wanted to keep the time going before I die. When I said that to him he accepted and started pushing me toward my house. Then I told him that I was hiding against 2 soldiers that are around, so if he saw them going back to the office, he could come and tell me so we could go to my house. He accepted, it wasn’t being kind to me, I knew it was just because he knew that after taking everything he will take me, or even if he did not kill me someone else would do it. About 10minutes later, he came back and told me to get up and have a look in the street. I saw the 2 soldiers they were taking Kabera’s family, a family of 9 people. Then he pushed me in front of him and we walked to my house.
I was very scared and shaking. He was carrying a machete with him and I was thinking that if he found that I have nothing in my house he would kill me.
We arrived in the street in front of my house, I saw my children roaming the streets, he kept pushing me saying he didn’t have time to waste on me. When we got in I started pretending to be surprised to see the house was empty and I apologised to him and I gave him the mattress of Brigitte. He wasn’t happy and he got very angry and took my neck trying to strangle me and pushing me outside. Suddenly, while he was strangling me and saying that he was going to kill me, I heard someone coming running and saying please wait. It was Rurangwa, a moderated Hutu and very nice person. His sister and him were working in the plantation and his sister was our neighbour. He was coming to his sister’s house from the office on his bike and when he saw that person trying to kill me, he left the bike on the street and come running. He asked that person what was going on and he replied that I was a cockroach and he had to take me where there were others. Then Rurangwa suggested giving him 500Frw to leave me in his hands. He accepted and left with the mattress and 500Frw.

After he left, I begged Rurangwa if he could take my children to his parents and ask them if they could look after them for me after I die, he said no way, I would take you too. I told him it was going to be dangerous for all of us, he refused to listen to me, instead he asked me to wait somewhere around there for just a second and he was going to check where we could pass and come back. He told me that when he would be back, he would whistling 3 times and when he returned to there, we would meet. He left and I went into a toilet, it was the outside toilet, I couldn’t dare go inside the house anymore. I started to feel dizzy, nearly falling down because I was so weak and tired. So I decided going inside again, where I could at least sit down.

I went back in the store, sat down beside the door and left it half open thinking that if anyone comes in and sees it is open, he would never think there is someone in. I was very worried of my children, how much they were so hungry, I could hear Annette in the street outside crying and my heart was nearly bursting. The feeling I was having at that moment, mixed with the fear, it is something I will never be able to explain. Then suddenly, I heard people running around the house, I recognised Brigitte’s voice she said: “Please, before you take her, I need to get my mattress and clothes back.” They came in and started checking around. I hold my breath and prayed the last prayer. The person who was the leader was Rutema the house Keeper I met in earlier sitting on Paul’s fence and who didn’t want to announce me to the soldiers that were following me. Later on I found out from Ahishakiye that the reason he kept the secret about me, he wanted to abuse me sexually and kill me after.

They checked everywhere even in the store but they did not come in. When they were about to leave, I did not know how they suspected that I was in, Rutema came back in and pushed the door and it couldn’t move. Then he came in and looked at me for a while and his colleagues called him asking if everything was all right, then he replied yes and went out without saying anything to me. I heard him telling them to go check to the other side of the road.

Augustin, Annette and Ahishakiye kept turning around the street but not far from our place because Rurangwa told them not to go far, that he was coming to take us to his place. Also, they knew they had to avoid those group if killers that were turning around searching Tutsis. Ahishakiye was a Hutu she couldn’t be killed, and Augustin and Annette were still alive because they wanted to try to get us if we came back to them.

Few time after they left, I heard Rurangwa whistling and I went out, I walked down where we were supposed to meet, and I saw him there with the children. Then he suggested me to walking behind everyone, they were walking in 50m in front of me, so he could check if there is any danger before I got in. When we got to the border of the plantation, we met Rutema again with his group, then he asked Rurangwa where he was talking us and he said to the Centrale Mount. They were happy and said to me that I have to tell where was Alexis too. Before they left us, Rugema approached me and said: I tried to save you but you are a foolish. We kept going and when we left the plantation I could at least count 1% of chance to survive.
We took shortcut to avoid roadblocks in the main road. Before we got to his place, which was at 11km from the Institute, we got caught 3 times and he had to pay lots of money to save me (I didn’t have any). It took us 6 hours to get there because we were walking slowly, and sometimes we had to stay in one place and let him go first and check where we could pass. On the way Annette started vomiting because of the hunger and she couldn’t open her eyes. I thought she was going to die and decided to go to any house to ask water. I knew it was a Hutu’s house because it was still not destroyed, I knew I could be asked to show up my ID first which could provoke my death but I couldn’t help to see my child dying into my arms. I went and knocked, a girl came out and I asked if I could have some water. She gave me it to me but never asked me my ID. I gave to Margeurite, she drank slowly and after I joined others in the street where they were waiting for me, then we continued.

When we reached Rurangwa’s parents place, it was very dark and they were people sitting in the compound. They were in the meeting and he went first to have a look and came back and told me how to go in. No one recognised me because it was very dark. I went straight inside the house, after Augustin came in and then Ahishakiye. His sisters were happy to see me still alive, they were our friends since long time. They gave us something to drink and to eat. We couldn’t eat enough because it had been long time without eating. We took a shower and after they put us in one room. They were scared to let their Father know about my presence. Later on, I heard people coming in shouting that they have got the cockroach; they were two boys of one perso we walked together. They got caught in that area and they were brought to that house because they said they are not the cockroaches, they are from that plantation. Then those killers wanted to ask Rurangwa and his sister, Donatte if they knew them. They said that they knew that they were not tutsis but someone else who knew them said that they are tutsis and they were killed there.

Finally their father found out that I was there because of Annette who kept crying sometimes and he came to check what was going on, he asked me to get out immediately but his children and wife begged him at least to leave me for that night so I could go in the morning. In the early morning he came to wake us up, it was around 4.00am, I begged him to let me leave my children but he refused, then we left. I asked one of his daughter called Myrene to show me where was the Catholic Parish that was around there and it was the first Catholic Parish in Rwanda, built in 1900.

She showed me the street going there and we left. Further in 100m we met a person, he was a mentale disabled I could tell and I asked if he could take me there. He asked if I would give him 100Frw. I said yes then he went in front of us and said: follow me and if I cough, know that I saw someone then hide wherever you can. On the way going to the Parish, we met people that were killing the Tutsi’s cows and dividing between them and he made a signal and we entered in the bush for a moment and he went and talked to them and when he came back, we went back and took another way.

When we arrived to the convent, he nocked and a Parish Priest opened. His name was Gashugi and he asked me what am I looking for, and then I said I was escaping from the plantation and I wanted somewhere I can hide myself. Then he said come inside. The person who took us then shouted and said: you promised me money, and then Gashugi asked him how much and gave it to him. Before he left he said: do not worry I will never tell anyone.

We went in and the parish priest told me that they are not allowed to take anyone else, that I needed the permission from the maire, they were going to take me there later on. They put me in the room where was another fugitive, she was a Hutu but her husband was a Tutsi and got killed before she ran there. They brought us breakfast, but it was hard to eat. To know that I had to go somewhere again discouraged me completely.

Around 10.00am, the parish prist came to me and told me that we have to go. We came out in his car, and we were behind in a pickup. We had to go and pick up a nun to accompany us, because the Priest was a Tutsi too. The nun was a sister of one canon who was in charge of the South Region. The first roadblock we arrived on, they stopped us and the nun had to present herself and the priest, and explain that they were taking us to the district office, where there were other Tutsis who came out after the news of peace (they were put in prison in waiting the decision about them to be taken from the province level). When we arrived there, the maire wasn’t there.

The parish priest and nun decided to bring me back to the convent and take me back there later. We came back to the convent, and I stayed there waiting in the afternoon to go back to the maire office. I kept praying God to not let me go there because I knew people who were there were just waiting to be killed. They never took me back, and next day, I was called to go to the parish priest office and I thought that it was time for going. When I came out from the house, I saw four soldiers and a military car. I told myself that it was the end of me. I wanted to go back inside but it was too late, so I went up to the office. I knocked the door and went in, I saw all priests inside, and he was showing them where was everything. I couldn’t understand what was going on.

Then after, he asked me my name and my children names, then he took a paper out from the drawer, it was a list of people that were hided in the parish. The list was typed and signed by the canon and they were a line under their names to avoid the addition of others. He added our names under and then he said to me: my child, these people are ignorant; they may not think why you are under the line or why your name is written differently. So take this chance, if God wills, you will survive. For me, as you see the soldiers are waiting for me outside, just pray for me. After that he said goodbye to me and left the office. They took him and we never saw him again, he got killed in Butare.

I went back inside the house, overwhelmed by the grief, I was sure he was going to be killed and the fact that he remembered to try to save my life as he could at last, will still engraved in my memory forever.

The reason he put our name down to the list was because everyday the killers used to come in and put everyone out side and call out their names and check inside if there is anyone left there and then put them back. They knew that one day they would kill all of them. They were just waiting for the permission from the province level as the one to keep the Parish safe was given from there, because of the sister of the canon that was in the nun convent next to the Priest one.

The next day early morning, we heard people coming in shouting, and they called everyone to come out, and we all came out. The asked the list and then started to read our names out. I was very scared that they would recognise the changes, but as the Priest said, they never knew about it. Since then they kept coming in everyday, and we got used to it.

Since Genocide started, I lost the notion of the time, date and day. I came to know the time again when I begged the priests to baptise my daughter. It was in the middle of May. There was a person who was kind of protecting us because he had a gun from his job of security at the maire office. When the killing started, he ran to the Parish with his gun and the maire office was suppling him the bullets in aim to protect the parish. After the parish priest died, he was replaced by another one who was a Hutu and his name was Barayagwiza. He kept asking other priests who where Tutsis to take us out but they told him that they couldn’t take the decision, unless the parish priest.

After few days he asked the person with the gun to go out with him. It was the first time for him to go out since he arrived in. They went, out, they went to the roadblock and he got killed immediately. When that priest came in he told the news and we knew that we had no chance anymore. That priest had planned to kill him and the next step was us.
Then I insisted that my child could be baptised. She got baptised that afternoon, it was on 25/05/1994. During that night, we didn’t sleep, there was shutting around the convent up next morning. Early morning, we saw around 100 people coming in, they started to read and they were particularly looking for the children of a primary school teacher at the parish school. They were 2 children, 1 boy and 1 girl, aged of 10 an 11 years.
They took them and told us before they leave that they would see us next day. We left with regret to see innocent children go before us, wondering if we could be taken with them. No one could talk to another; we kept quiet until evening time, just waiting for out turn.

Next morning, we heard them coming back. I locked my door and we tried to keep quiet. They opened every door and when they got to ours, they asked if there was anyone in and we kept quiet. They asked more and saying they will break it, then Annette started to crawling and when I wanted to stop her to make noise she cried and I heard them shouting loudly and knocking loudly to my door asking me to open. Then my head worked very quickly, I said I was coming and I looked around, I remembered my letter from my marriage that we were supposed to take to my husband district.

It was a transfer letter that showing that my file would be transferred later from my district to his district, because of the war that was in that region. I carried that letter all along but when I got caught at the first time, I didn’t show it up, I kept it under my arm.

There was a pen in our room we received from the priest to keep Yves busy drawing. In one second, I grabbed the letter and the pen, and I wrote in the signature of the mairre, the word HUTU. This wasn’t making any sense, but if they were ignorant then OK. Then I came out. When I opened the door they pushed me roughly out and I felt apart with Annette, then I got up quickly ran to her. They were all talking at the same time asking me my ID card. Then I showed them the letter and told them that I am a Hutu from Gisenye district, that was my ID card and then I explained how I got it. They passed it around for everyone to have a look and they asked where is my husband I told them that he was still in Kigali fighting against the enemies.
They believed in me and then they took everyone else. No one dared to lie; they accepted their Identity, except me.

After they were taken, I stayed outside trying to understand what was happening, I was confused. Then I saw few of them coming back and said to me: “Come with us, it is hard to trust you, you look like a Tutsi.” They put us walking in front of them and when we reached the gate I saw their leader coming in too and he told them to leave us, he said he would be in charge of us. He took us inside and told me that he would pass everyday to see if we have any problem.

I went in and sat outside, there was no reason anymore to hide myself, I wanted to die but the death didn’t like me. Around evening time, I saw the priest coming; he got surprised to see us there, thinking no one was left. I couldn’t even explain what happened. He asked me to go inside, and they brought me food but I couldn’t eat anything.

The next day, the same person (the leader of the killers) came to see me and told me that the reason he saved me was because of Annette. He said to me that he suspected that I am a Tutsi but because I had a very beautiful child he wanted give her a chance to stay with her mother. Also, he told me that even if he couldn’t have a chance to convince his co-worker, he would have saved Annette and keep her as her child. He kept coming to see her regularly, and brought her some fruits sometimes.

I stayed there with the priest, we were all waiting the time we would be killed, except the new priest who where a Hutu. I was very desperate and I couldn’t see my future. I was thinking if we survive we would be the only Tutsis in the whole country.
In the middle of June, we heard that the cardinal of Pope had been sent to Rwanda and he would be coming to our church, as it was the first church built in Rwanda. He came and the Priest asked me to go to his mess. I was so frightened to go out but I told God that if he wills nothing would happen to me.
I left my children inside and went. When I got there, it was a part of the convent, I saw first the rifles and machetes, guns, clubs stubbed with nails, axes, hoes, screwdrivers left outside the church by the Hutus while they were praying and I wanted to go back but I saw that the military who were around saw me then I kept going in. At the door I was so scared that I would be asked the ID card, they just looked at me with judgements eyes, I could tell, and then they let me in. I remember I sat at the last chair on the door. I saw all Hutus in and I started asking myself what I came to do in with the killers. I told myself that if people can kill and be allowed to come in the church and praise the Lord, and after that go back to kill again, there wasn’t a place for me.

I just asked one thing to God, that the war could be finished soon, and then I came out without finishing it. Since that time, 2 soldiers were sent to the convent in aim to protect the parish as the Pope commanded. They brought a radio in and we could listen to the nation radio and RTLM. I couldn’t believe my ears, all the radio were saying were to encourage Hutus to kill and direct them where Tutsi might be hided.

We stayed there desperate and terrified, just waiting for out time to come, until the RPF soldiers arrived. They arrived at the same time as the French military that were coming to take us to the “zone turquoise.” There had been a little fight and the French military lost, then we stayed in RPF zone. Whoever went there and was a Tutsi died. They never protected them in contrary they let Hutus killing all Tutsi who were there.

I thank the Lord for everything he has done for me, for sure he has been with me all along my journal, without him I wouldn’t be alive with my little family that I left with. Our family is among the few families that survived this genocide intact, I mean without a loss or an injury. We were 7 people in our house that were supposed to be killed, we are all still alive without any injury and everyone survived on his own.