Monday, 28 January, 2013

I lived in Kigali with my family: my father was a Seventh Day Adventist pastor.
Discrimination and torture against the Tutsi tribe had been going on for long before the genocide began in 1994. Tutsi children received a worse education, or none at all.

Although the mass killing of Tutsi had been prepared for a long time in advance, my neighbours armed themselves and began killing the day after President Habyarimana’s plane was shot down.

I heard gunshots, houses and people were being burnt, others were being thrown in the latrines alive, others being thrown in the rivers – tied up together.

Many pits had been dug near Tutsis’ homes before the genocide started – we had been told they were to be latrines, but once the killings began the pits were used for the bodies.

Miracles around me were happening every minute:

On one occasion, my younger brother and I were standing, wondering what next? Then a killer came, took him and killed him on the road. That was the last time I saw my brother,
there was no where to bury him. When the same killer came back for me, I had gone to tell my parents the bad news.

Another time, my leg was slashed with a machete, I fell among dead bodies; the killer was distracted by another man trying to run away, so I escaped and hid before he could come back for me.

There was another day when a group of killers came for me in the house, calling my name, I was with my Mum. When I tried to open the door for them, it couldn’t open and that
door had refused to open since that morning. Mum insisted that I should escape through other door, by the time they entered I had gone. In confusion, when they did not get me they spared my mum’s life.

We continued hiding, soon, though, the announcement passed on the radio ordering to cut down all bushes, so that there was nowhere to hide.

One time, I was found by one of the killers, he took me to his home. His aim was to kill my family then keep me for rape. I stayed in his home, he did not harm me until I escaped.

While going home I saw one of the killers making preparation of the pit near our home. It was our time.

As I approached, I saw my brother making a small signal to me to run away, that they were going to be killed. That was the day my father, another brother and niece lost their lives at the same time. Their remains were exhumed and cleaned after 10 years.

I needed to flee further from my home in search of safety – with the help of a neighbour, who used to hide us, I fled towards one of the cathedrals in Kigali. It wasn’t an easy journey. He told me to follow him, one of my brother’s behind me. I was stopped at a roadblock, and a soldier said that I had to be killed immediately. The militia man pushed me to stand by the side of the road, and as he stood in front of me he raised his gun, I made a prayer quickly and waited to die – but a miracle happened.

I saw a bullet drop on the floor, instead of coming towards me, when the killer bent to pick it up. I was carried away from seeing anyone else on the spot! My mind was taken away from the noise of people screaming around, and shootings, I only focused on the man in uniform approaching me from nowhere, nobody else saw or heard him except me. He touched me on the shoulder and told me ‘You are not going to die because you sang a song about the story of Job in the Bible’. I believed this was God. My brother who was with me, was busy paying money the equivalent of 20p to those killers, he said to me later.

When I reached the cathedral, there were around 1,500 people hiding but we were not guaranteed to survive, every day some people were being killed. One day we heard how we were going to be killed by grenades, so we left at night to go to a safe place. When I survived, I said to myself, I will not get married nor have children. I went to study in India thinking that no man will marry me there. But I met someone, we got married and had kids. I am happy.

I work as a nurse and now talk often in schools and other places. I want people to know about what happened in Rwanda.

Holocaust Memorial Day is very important, as today people are thinking about the Holocaust and about genocides that have happened since then. I know that the theme this year is Communities Together: Build a Bridge. Yes, my family suffered because our neighbours attacked us – but my life was saved by different people who were around me guided by my God. We must try to build bridges with others and respect humanity despite of differences.

Thank you for listening.