A RWANDAN GENOCIDE SURVIVOR TALKS 11 YEARS AFTER

My loved ones… I mean my parents saw their first child born, myself, in the beautiful countryside of the East of Rwanda. Growing up in an interesting big family of 6 brothers and 3 sisters, I stayed there for all of my schooling and working days.

With my husband, the lovely father of my gorgeous babies, we left our beloved Country of a Thousand Hills to escape civil war and certain death by rival Hutus; and that was the consequences of the 1994 Tutsi genocide in Rwanda.
This is the major reason I’m writing this, to talk about my experiences during that horrible and painful time of genocide, which took more than a million lives in the period of three months.

According to the history, Hutus and Tutsis were the same people. The conflict between them started after ages, just because they weren't on the same way of thinking, of doing, of being,…. Colonists accentuated these in the beginning of the 20th century, and used them to their advantage for governing Rwanda. Civil wars with deaths and refugees were the regular from the time of the ethnic republic.
In October 1990, an army of Tutsi rebels started open conflict with the Habyarimana government, as there was no other way they could return to their home country. This resulted in a civil war with many deaths and refugees.

April 6, 1994 was the "red day" when Habyarimana, the president of Rwanda, died that evening in a plane crash. My family and I knew what happened the next morning (April the 7th) when my dad heard about the plane crash on the radio. He woke up quickly, came to our room and said in a very weak voice, "Mubyuke ba sha,…umunsi wacu ni uyu; Habyarimana ntahambwa batamudusasiye!" which meant; "Wake up guys, this is our last day, and I am sure we'll be in the grave before Habyarimana.

Some of us started to cry at the thought of saying goodbye to everyone in the family, but the little kids didn’t understand. After a few hours, we all wore the strongest clothes and shoes we owned so we could be ready to run. In which direction? We didn’t know!? On the national government radio, there wasn’t anything else but classic music and the communiqué of the death of president Habyarimana.

The milicians or interahamwe had prepared long before they actually started to kill Tutsis. The same night some of the high authorities who were in opposition parties were killed along with Agatha Uwiringiyimana the prime minister,
(she was pregnant), her 10 Belgium escorts from the UNAMIR and other ministers like Felicien Ngango, Boniface Ngurinzira, etc …

Every village had its organized attacking group of Hutu men to kill the Tutsis in their neighborhood. There were also groups of Hutu woman and children to loot the goods from Tutsi houses and shops. Mukarange (where I was) had a big percentage of Tutsis, and they tried to make their own group, which included my dad and uncles to protect themselves and their families. Hutus of Mukarange ran away to another village called Kayonza because they couldn’t manage.

We, mothers and children, were in groups in three neighbor homes. My dad and other men were walking around thinking that no one will kill us. One of the milicians came into my dad’s group saying that he escaped from other Hutus who were going to kill him because he didn’t want to kill the Tutsis, and he wished to be in their group. But that wasn’t true -he was a spy! He wanted to know our protection methods were so he could go back to his group and then they could easily come in to kill.

On Friday, 9th April, they killed and killed the whole day. Tutsis were killed everywhere and their houses were burned every minute. Barricades of policeman were everywhere. Everybody was armed with a gun or a traditional weapon (machete, spears, arrows, clubs, stones etc). There wasn’t any life at the time, no traffic, no shops, no water, everything was dark. Children were crying and complaining for some food.

On Saturday the 10th/04/1994 it really started. The big igitero (attack) consisting of the interahamwe of Mukarange, Kayonza, Gahini, Murambi, … came in Mukarange village to kill the thousands of Tutsis congregating in two churches: Mukarange Anglican Church and Mukarange Catholic Church.
Early in the morning, they (interahamwe) were singing with big noises and amafihimbi (whistles), no one of us didn't think of what was going to happen. We ran quickly to the Anglican Church and it was full of people. After a few minutes, that igitero arrived, calling themselves Commander, Lieutenant, Brigadier etc… One of them said in the microphone: "If there is a Hutu in that church he has to leave". Sameone went out with her three children, (She was a Hutu married to a Tutsi)

After that, they threw in grenades I don't know how many. At the time, I saw only a big fire and fell to the ground on my stomach. I pretended that I was dead. They broke doors and windows and then came in, killed nearly every single person with machetes or spears.
I opened my eyes and saw Concilia being killed by spears, she was my neighbor and pregnant.
I was near a broken window and I stood up, jumped and escaped because at the time they were busy with first of all with the men and same educated women. My mother and my little sister were killed in that church.

After a few meters of walking, I saw two interahamwe, Nkunzurwanda and Rwandanziza who had been laborers for my family. They used to say to me that I’d be their wife one day. At that time I said, "Amen". They didn’t see me as I entered to someone's house that was open and empty. They came in just after me, they were very hungry and I was so frightened. While they were busy eating bananas, I managed to escape through the back door.

Too scared to run, I walked slowly, very slowly and met my father, my three uncles and two neighbors, coming to see what had happened to the Anglican Church. I couldn’t say anything, only: " Twirukankeee, Twirukankeee,…"(let us run, ruuun, …)

We went to the Catholic Church, we couldn't go out of Mukarange because the milicians were all around. It is a big place with a priest living there. It has a big building for a Youth Association, a big boarding high school, Mukarange Parish Institute; there is also a group of buildings for people with disabilities. All of these buildings were full of Tutsi people – men, women, children, boys and girls. Everyone was asking me what had happened in the Anglican Church. They couldn’t believe that I had escaped from the fire and machetes. I was saying only, "Run, run, let’s go- - - ."

It was about 12 noon and the weather was cold. It was raining, children were crying and being born. Some people were singing praises; some were listening to the Ijwi rya Muhabura (the RPF radio). It was telling us that the RPF was on the way coming to save the lives of the survivors. The interahamwe were singing outside listening to their radio, encouraging them to finish the killing quickly. They were throwing stones and waiting for the time to kill and we were waiting for the time to die. But, how??

There was a meeting room where Munyaneza J. Bosco, the Parish Priest took in hundreds of little children to protect them from the rain and the cold. The killing started in this room. The interahamwe broke all the windows with stones and then threw in grenades!!!??
What I know is that all those kids were killed. A mother wouldn’t have been able to recognize a single piece of clothing or a bone of the body of her child. I saw only a heavy river of blood coming from the door!!!!

While some were crying, other grenades came and killed many people. I escaped and went to the next door. They then broke the windows there and threw in grenades encore, killing many people but some escaped, and I was one of them.
They were looking for a way to come in and kill with machetes and spears, as killing with grenades was expensive, you had to pay for a grenade or a gun.
This scene continued from 4pm on Sunday 11/4 /1994 and continued all night with just a short time of rest until 10 am 12/04/ 1994.
They came in, eating roasted meat, carrying machetes and spears, opening every door and putting everyone into their category (girls, boys, women, men etc.), so they could all be killed in the same way.
Outside there was a big deep tanks that had water in, whilst they were busy preparing these groups, some mothers were also busy throwing in their babies and then jumping themselves down to the tanks, just to die in the water rather than be killed and see their children killed by machetes and spears.

I saw many people going in, and other many who had been hit by grenades were dying; they had nearly no blood left in them, and they were calling to the other girls and myself who were waiting in line, for drinking water. It was so sad and terrible.
The Parish Priest was one of the people dying from the grenades attack. He was a Hutu and tried his best to save Tutsi lives but was unable to. They (Hutus) told him many times to leave, but he refused to, and died like a Tutsi. He was dying and I remember his saying: "Mwihangane mupfe musenga, kandi ntimusabe imbabazi!" (Be brave to pray a lot while you're dying, and don’t ask for forgiveness.)

They killed and killed all the day.

I was in the girls waiting line. They were killed one by one, with the chopping starting at the neck and going down the vertebral column to their heels and sometimes fingers too. I saw my brother and my uncle being killed like that as they waited in the boys line.
Then my turn arrived!! While one were holding my left hand and a machete, another one my right hand and a machete, just in the last second to be chopped, I heard a voice of someone saying: "Reka uwo mugore sha, arabanza ambwire aho amafranga ye ari ." meaning "Leave her, she will tell me first of all where all her money is."
It was the voice of one of the leader, who had also been my classmate. To me, it was a voice from God. This was the fourth time I had escaped.

In that time came the commander of the attack, and he said: " There is now a new rule of killing: – family by family-." Just to clean every single one in every family. I dared to ask him why they were doing such a slaughter, and he answered in a strange fierce voice: "Uyu munsi ni satani ikuri imbere, si jye wari usanzwe uzi". meaning, "Today it is the devil in front of you, I am not the one that you knew." He had been the librarian at my school.

They made family groups of parents, children, uncles, aunts, cousins etc. They continued to kill minute by minute. I saw my Dad chopped as an Inkotanyi, inkotanyi means a RPF soldier. He was killed the first in those family groups; then my brother and my uncles… My family had only three people remaining: my sister (5 years old), my brother (12 years old), and myself when a new rule was announced: - Not to kill the women and girls- I escaped for the fifth time.

I was wearing trousers and a skirt. I quickly took off the skirt and gave it to my brother, to put it on so that he could look like a girl. They didn’t recognize him to be a boy, and he escaped.

I left Mukarange Parish around 6pm, Monday 12th of April. Thousands of deaths were slipping one by one every where, compared with…I don't know!? It is unbelievable but it is true. It is estimated that six thousand Tutsis were killed in Mukarange Parish. Twenty-six of them were from my family.
The same situations were happening also to different other Parishes like: Karubamba, Kabarondo, Rwamagana, Zaza, etc.

We were walking around with another group of survivors of young women and girls, the living dead; saying goodbye to every one, and checking if someone was missing from the deaths list, thinking that maybe he/she had survived and was somewhere else; but everyone was there.
The killers said: "You’ll be our wives soon, come and wait until we finish to clean up this village" They took us to an empty house without doors or windows. It was not far from the Parish. We were sitting and sleeping on the cement, without food or water. Our teeth, skins and stomachs were hurting. We were hurting all over. The interahamwe were continuing the killing and looting. The smell of bodies in decomposition was everywhere, others were eaten by dogs. It was awful, so bad!!!

On the morning of the 19th April, the RPF soldiers arrived and found us nearly dead. They took us to Gahini, to a survivors’ camp, and gave us drinking water.
And then we had time to talk each other, to check if really everyone was alive; and finally, we had enough time to cry and cry over our loved ones.

After two and a half months, we returned home, it was a scary empty house, broken everywhere, we slept without windows and doors. We couldn’t do anything until we got some plastic sheeting to put in after a few days. And life went on…

Et d’en conclure, I can say: "I am a survivor." I don’t have any traces of machete wounds or any physical scars from the slaughter I have seen; but, they are in my heart, with no hope to be recovered from it.
I haven’t said in this testimony how cruelly women were raped, and how they killed pregnant women to see what was in their stomachs, and other forms of sadistic brutal of killing.

I feel sorry for those survivors who are physically or severely mentally traumatized. I think every day and dream almost every night about the genocide, a big nightmare.

If I ever meet one of those killers, I will say: "Hi, how are you?", because I know very well they weren’t real people, they were DEVILS. I say thank you to God to be alive, to still have some of my family surviving, and I pray a lot that genocide will never happen again in Rwanda, or anywhere else in the world.

Thanking you,

Leatitia.