The story of an eight year old girl.

It all begun on EASTER Holiday, where everybody was happy for the Easter break but nobody knew that it was a time to say bye to each other.

On Wednesday, 06 April 1994 at night we were having dinner, together in our home, we were 12 people. My parents, grandmother, my three cousins, one of them had a babe, my three brothers Josephine and me. While we were having dinner, we heard aeroplane passing and in few minute we saw a big light through the window and we though that maybe it is going to rain? Or may be could be electric shock or fire!

In about two minutes we heard two helicopters passing around the city and we all went outside to what was happening and my brother said: “the President was supposed to come back this night I think it’s his aeroplane that crashed?” Mum looked him and said “be quite if somebody hears you and it happen we will be in trouble?” But that was true!

Early in the morning at 5:00 o’clock it was the first thing they said on the radio!
My Mum came to wake us up and said, “Wake up and pray, because they are going to kill us?” and I asked, “why Mum?” she replied with small voice that Hutu they are going kill TUTSI, they think that TUTSI killed President, but do not worry God will protect us. And I couldn’t ask anything because she was afraid.

From on 7th – 9th of April we never slept at home, we came to eat and go back to hide outside at night. On Saturday, 9th of April, we were having lunch, it was only us little ones who didn’t understand what was going on, others couldn’t get appetite. We heard, people shooting and others running so we jumped and ran to our neighbours and hide inside. So around 3 pm our neighbour said to my Mum that we have to go somewhere else, he can’t keep us. And we went out, we didn’t even go back home.

A friend came to see my mum and he said if we could go to hide in the sorghum (it was a season for sorghum and corn) and wait for them until it gets dark we could walk together, He knew where we were going. We sat there from 3pm to 4am; all night we could see people coming where we were, walking slowly, and other passing on the road saying that we will start this morning to kill them nobody will survive.

Well, I fell asleep until mum woke me up at 3am. She said “lets go to find dad”. And I went to see we are around 20+ people, and I knew no matter what they will catch us.

I cannot remember the distance we walked; I was only 8 years old. But I can remember the time. We started 3am and we reached there around 1 pm. While we were walking we saw our Dad walking too and He said that He was coming to see us. We went back with him; we met so many families’ TUTSI there in the church. They gave us a drink and while we were resting, somebody came in and said they are coming! They are following you? They know you are here?

That was the beginning, there came more people, they had guns, knives, machetes, big stick with nails on it and they went around the church there were no way to escape. They send someone to see if my dad was there, so he came in pretending that he escapes them too, but some people knew him? They ask what he is really doing and He said that He is there to see if my Dad was there. They asked my dad to hide himself and they told that man that they will keep him or kill him. So my Dad came out and told them not to kill him, it is not going to solve anything, no matter what they will kill us. Lets him go and say anything he wants.

When he went back they start to shoot and singing and coming towards where we were, I remember my Mum hugged me, Josephine and my Cousin Mary (she was my age too) and she said “ remember to pray, do not worry you can survive, remember that me and your Dad we survived in 1959? We cannot die all because we are innocent. You can make it too; just remember to pray God will protect you”.
After that word, we started crying a lot, we could see people falling down because they were being shot. People were crying and we were just shaking. I went to see everyone is running, we had to run too but I couldn’t find my mum, since then I did not see her any more, but while we were running I heard my Dad calling me to come where He was? And I couldn’t make it, I decided to wave him. That was the last time I saw them.

Me, Jossephine, my Cousin Mary and another lady her name was Christine we run together in the same direction, she had a little babe with her and we said to her that we are not going anywhere without her. We hid together in the bush somewhere we did not know, we heard people crying all night and we knew we will go through that too.

Early in the morning that lady said “from now you are my sisters do not ever mention your parent’s name, you promise?” we all say YES and we ask her the name of her parents and she started to make names and even the place we were living.
Telling you the truth, the only thing I could remember was that she is our sister. After agreement we started to walk again, we did not know where we are going, we saw a lady sitting near her house with 7 litters of milk and Christine asked her which way we can go and if she lives near so she can give us water to drink, she replied that she does not have water and the milk is for her kids, it is not for snakes and get out of this bush or they will kill you all.

We kept walking; we did not know that they are people still waiting to kill in that morning!
While we were walking down to the hill we heard whistles, dogs, and people shouting around us. We could not run again we just turned around and we saw a man with his cattle he was walking too and they shouted to him that do not let them pass, we begged him “please do not kill us” he said “go my children let others kill you not me” and we walked a little bit and hid near the road in the bush, in a few minutes they were around us, looking everywhere. They found other people and killed them.
On that time mary my cousin saw her friend running and she just jumped from where we were and followed her, and I heard someone saying : “catch her and kill her” and other one said “no she is too quick let other do it”. They came near us and they put spear between Josephiine and me, just to see if there is anyone there but they did not see us.

Well in few minutes Christine’s babe started to cry. They came and stood right on top of us and said, “Get up!” Christine gave them money (5000 Fr) just to let us go, and they said “Ok we are not going to kill you but you have to use this way, don’t run because we gonna shoot you”. The babe did not stop crying, I guess she was hungry. We looked behind and they were still watching us and on the end of the road there were a lot of people standing waiting!!! They had tools full of blood, they looked like animals.

I could not think anymore. The only thing I could feel was the way my heart was beating and I was so thirsty too. They took us with so much joy and they put us in the classroom where there were other Tutsi. They counted us and they found that we were 27 people. They asked security to be there because they wanted to go and find 3 more people so they can kill us on the same time! We sat in waiting to die. Everyone was bleeding because they were cut by machetes but had not died yet and I knew everybody. We sat there more than half an hour everyone was quiet just waiting to die.

A Captain came in and called Christine to go outside, she looked at us and we followed her. We went outside we found more than 100 Hutu standing outside, and He asked them if there is anyone who knows us? And everyone said “no”. Christine she was beautiful, very blond (fair skinned). They could think that she is mixed with a white person. And only things he wanted to find out was that is she Belgium (Tutsi) or French (Hutu)? She told them she is pure Rwandan, and she kept saying that we are her sisters too? Captain told them not to kill us until they know who we are. Then they sent us to stay with those Hutus until they find out who we are.

While we were joining those people, someone shoot where we were, and I went to see all of them they came back running and said let’s kill them before RPF (Rwandan patriotic force) come and take them. They jumped in and started to kill them, undress them to show every one how TUTSI they look like and after that just pull them to throw them in the forest, after hacking them while they were still alive. We have to watch because if we could not do it will show who we are? And I knew everyone.

After two days we were still waiting to die we couldn’t run anywhere, it was daytime 2 men came where we were, me, Josephine and Christine and he said “I do not care if Captain loved you, lets go!” He was addressing to Christine. She stands up and she said bye to us. We remained seated, waiting our turn and I could hear people saying, “can I have your babe so my son can marry her” and she said, “I don’t want my babe to suffer”. They started to undress her too and take her clothes.

In few minutes they came to us and said, “Lets go” they had machetes and big sticks and on the top of sticks there were nails full of blood and I can tell that they have finished killing her. We were walking and I felt energy to talk and I ask them where we are going? They said to kill you. And ask why? They said because you are TUTSI. And I said, “We are not,” they said “your sister she is TUTSI, then I said she is not our sister, she was a friend of our mother, because my mother was a TUTSI and my dad was a HUTU, so she came to see our mum, and we heard shooting and we run at night, we could not find our mother but we found her somewhere so we stayed together” Then they believed that I am telling the truth because I said it with no fear and I was younger.

We went back, everybody was surprised, and they told them what we said! They believed us. It was not the end, after three days it was night-time we were sleeping, and I heard someone passing to every class room asking to find 2 girls who has no parents because there are TUTSI.
I woke up and I asked Josephine to sleep so I can sit on top of her and I held a big scarf I wore it on my head, they started to search, and our class room people kept saying No, but at the end they found us. They wanted to take us outside to kill us straight away and the problem was that on the door there were so many people waiting to come in. so they asked us to sit and tell who we are, where we are from, our parent names…. While they were telling everyone to be quite I said a prayer that “God if being TUTSI is a sin please forgive us” And I listened to my heart, the way it beats at that time.
I heard a voice telling me the name of my Aunt’s husband who was a Hutu and he passed away in 60s that if I said this, we are not going to die. While I was closing my eyes they were bitting my sister Josephine because she was shaking. Just pushing her using machetes, big sick and guns.
After the voice I open my eyes I found everyone is quite and I said his name with no fear, my Aunt’s name, the place they lived, I could remember everything. They asked me if I know everyone who has a shop near there I said their name too, I knew everything because we used to stay with our Aunt in Holidays. Then they shout saying that we are their children, they have to give us food and where to sleep?

So they ask a lady to look after us. We stayed together, but every single day they just wanted to know who really we are, by comparing our hands to theirs, asking us to cook or go to bring 20L of water. They were confused because their kids who have 8 years and 7 years they could do it and we could not do it?

The war kept going on, we kept moving with them, and one day a lady who knew us came to that family, she told them everything that the person I said was father was my Aunt’s husband, and if they are not going to send us away they will kill us and them. A kid came to me and said “hey you look like Claire is your sister” and I have to say “no”. Early in the morning we woke up, and she came to me and said I know who you are now. Your dad is Pierre, the parents you said they are not yours, I did not say anything and she said “you have to help us to carry these things before they kill you.”
So we kept going with them and we had to cross the river on that river there were barriers that means if you are TUTSI they will throw you in the river? So she get scared she said “I don’t want to die with you go” she gave us 2 sugar cane to eat and I gave it back to her and said Thank you, we will be fine. We went to the line like others. The good things is we did not have ID so we passed the river and she was watching us. And we kept going just following others, and in the afternoon we went where HUTUS were camping because we could not sleep by ourselves. While we were just sitting, a lady came to us and said come here, eat more, drink and then run just go away, because they are planing to kill you tonight.

I could not eat, we started to walk again! We did not know where to go, it kept getting dark and we decided to sleep in the bush just 2 of us. In the morning we kept going just follow HUTUS, fighting was behind us, we were ready to die anytime! We could not get energy to keep following them; we decided to hide ourself in the house that was empty on the road. The Rwandan Patriotic Force kept fighting; we could see them in the window, you could tell that they are TUTSI. After fighting we went out, we went to see them and they said, “Don’t worry, it is over now, we will protect you” they cooked for us, they gave us water to take shower, and they even prepared for us somewhere to sleep! It was, my first time after 3 month, I told the truth who we are.

We had to go to orphanages, because they were still fighting, no security to protect us, in orphanage they were around 600 kids, from babes to 40+ years old of age who were handicapped from genocide, we all slept together in one house up stairs and down stairs. In the morning we always found 2 or 3 had died. I thought that we were going to die too!

Being there knowing, we are just two of us who survived, it was scary to me, I did not know how we gonna begin life again? After while a solder saw us, and he said, “I know you, may be you don’t know me but I was a friend of your brothers, I can’t believe you are alive?” he cried. He wanted to take us but he couldn’t because they kept moving, but he promised us to come back to see us.

We used to have lunch and dinner in one big hall, people they will come in to see if they know any one? One day, on our lucky day, we saw our sister Lilian and her husband Robaire coming to see us. When I saw them, I jumped run to them, then we cried and cried. They asked me whom am I with? And I said Josephine. They told me that Claire, Margeurite, and Frederick our Brother who was with Claire to my Aunt’s house are alive, but no one else.

We left the orphanage, we saw Clarie, my Aunt and her family, and it was just tears, just trying to tell them that from 12 people who were at home, 50+ people who were in church and also 23 people who were in the class, that we only survived just the 2 of us.
Josephine and me, we remained together, we went to the same school, I could not go anywhere without her and she couldn’t go anywhere without me too. Being a survivor has taught us to be more grateful and for me everyday is a bonus.

It has been 11 years now but to me it seems like it was yesterday and I still do not know why it happened.