• SURVIVORS TESTIMONIES

    Hearing the testimony of a Genocide survivor is a unique and impactful experience for students.

    The speaker focuses their talk around an account of their own experiences during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda, their lives since the genocide, and some of the lessons they have learned.

    WHAT’S IN THE STORY?

    Testimony from ST’s #100days100Rwandanstories by Jo Ingabire, ST member, Genocide Survivor and Writer.​

    It’s not every day you meet someone who saved your life. At barely 5 feet, I towered over her. A small, diminutive, perfectly dressed woman, she was no longer the cool girl I knew. I remember her in blue faded jeans, a white shirt and red lipstick; bronzed by the January sun, gleaming with youthful beauty. I gave her a muffled welcome and quickly ushered her through the lounge room, and was soon spilling hot water all over my hands in an attempt to make her a cup of tea.

    She could barely look me in the eye. She wiped away a tear with a delicate, manicured hand and sipped on the white cup staining it with red lipstick.

    “Last time I saw you, I was cleaning your wounds as your mother clasped her hand on your mouth to muffle the screaming.” She whispered. I did not expect that. It never occurred to me that my face might have haunted her for 21 years. I remember the colour of her lipstick but she remembers the colour of my blood. She was only 14 when the genocide broke out. She climbed over the fence to help us, dodging bullets and Interahamwe when neighbours that were more able refused to budge. Moreover, there she was: the embodiment of courage and goodness, bravery, grace and beauty - my perfect hero. I was the end of her innocence, a bullet-ridden child’s body forever burned in her mind, a traumatic memory to carry for many years to come. She sat next to me and held my hand.

    The pain lives with me.

    Rwandan Survivor UWAZANINKA BEATHA’S TESTIMONY

    I am 37 years old and a mother of one. While I am still coping with the loss of almost my entire family during the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi, I must say that I have been a victim of violence and hatred for much of my life, even before the massacres of 1994.

    There were killings years before the genocide. We would hear 'somebody's missing, somebody's been killed'. In 1987, I was sharing the same bed as my grandmother when neighbours dragged her out and beat her to death with a hammer.

    During the 1994 genocide, I was staying with my uncle when the violence finally arrived at our doorstep. It was the Hutus. They were killing Tutsi. They were calling us cockroaches and snakes. It was about 10am in the morning. They wanted to rape my cousins. My uncle refused, so they killed him with a machete. My four female cousins were also killed by the gang. I and a male cousin fled through the back door but were soon separated. I have never see on heard from him since then - which means they killed him.


    Roadblock beatings

    I then stayed with friends but had to face the threat of death every time I left the house.

    Every day we were stopped at roadblocks and beaten. Many died. It was horrible for me to see such things. People were being killed, women raped, and one time I had to lie with dead bodies and pretend I was dead in order to survive .

     

    On another occasion I narrowly escaped the clutches of Hutu militiamen who planned to rape me, having part of my finger cut off in the struggle. Soon, I discovered that my mother had not been able to escape the militia.

    "My mother had been thrown in the river. I saw a neighbour wearing her skirts and blouses.

    "After the genocide, surviving when you are 15 years old and an orphan is hard. Memories came every day. I missed my mother. I went to see another uncle, but the house had been knocked down. Everything was like a dream.

    I am sure that the genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda - like the Holocaust - was premeditated. The interahamwe, like the Hitler youth, had uniforms. The roadblocks were prepared, they had meetings every week, there was a list, and there had been killing in 1992-3.

    One time a man was beating me very hard. He said 'I'm going to beat you until you forget your name - one day there will be children who will have to ask what Tutsis looked like'. It was the hatred that was in their minds. The past can touch the future. I can say I forgive, but I still remember what happened. You still have your sadness. I miss my mother. The pain lives with me.

    MY STORY MY LIFE

    Rwandan Survivor and Former International Rwandan Footballer ERIC E. MURANGWA’S TESTIMONY

    I was born in the eastern Rwandan city of Rwamagana, and I am the eldest of six. My family ran a bar and restaurant in a town with a large Tutsi population. For decades the ruling Hutu nationalist government encouraged persecution and discrimination of Tutsi people. By 1982, the police harassment had become too much and my family was forced to close up shop and move to the Rwandan capital Kigali.

    It was here during my formative years that I developed a passion for football. My talent was quickly noticed and Toto, as I became to be known, grew to become one of Rayon Sports’ best loved players – a fact that would later save my life.

    When the plane carrying the President of Rwanda was shot down on 6 April 1994, I had been watching a football match at a bar. That day would be the last time I would see many of my friends, colleagues and family members, including my seven-year-old younger brother Irankunda Jean Paul.

    The assassination, which the Hutu government blamed on Tutsi rebels, marked the culmination of decades of tension between the two ethnic groups, sparking the 100-day genocide in which over 1 000,000 people were killed. I was woken in the early hours of 7 April to the din of a city embroiled in fighting. Radio broadcasts demanded people stay in their homes while soldiers crashed down our front doors to find those they deemed ‘responsible’.

    My home was soon swamped by five armed men searching for weapons supposedly hidden on the premises. Refusing to believe my explanation that I was a player for Rayon Sports, they threatened to take my life unless I could prove it. I pulled out an old photo album, saving myself and those I was with.

    Deciding I was no longer safe at home, I fled to my Hutu teammate’s house. While friends and acquaintances throughout Rwanda were killing each other, Rayon Sports teammates remained united throughout the genocide. After hiding there for a week or so, I had to move on after being told by my teammate that the killers were coming for me. I needed a new destination to hide and, after discussions with my colleagues, it was decided we would try one of the board members of the club.

    The move was risky and audacious, for the board member was Jean-Marie Vianney Mudahinyuka, otherwise known as Zuzu, a notorious leader of the Interahamwe militia – a man subsequently imprisoned for his role in the genocide. Zuzu, a person who tortured, raped and murdered many Tutsis, became my saviour not once, but twice. Why? Zuzu’s passion was Rayon Sports.

    Zuzu took me in but there others in his neighbourhood who were uncomfortable with the presence of a Tutsi, seeing me as causing an unnecessary risk. I was forced to return to my old teammates’ house after just a few days. I was unable to rest long. A trio of militia tracked me down, demanding I come with them. My refusal was met by violence, with one of the militia hitting me around the head with a grenade. After stealing all my money, the men were ready to take me with them before the intervention of my teammate’s cousin, who was a government soldier. He convinced them to leave me behind.

    Feeling my luck was about to expire and with a dwindling number of people ready to put me up, I knew I had to find somewhere more secure. I returned to Zuzu who promised to take me to the city’s International Red Cross HQ across town, which was providing sanctuary to refugees. Escorted in Zuzu’s vehicle, with two armed guards brandishing their rifles out of the open windows, I was safely taken through the road blocks and to the International Red Cross HQ in a largely deserted area of Kigali. I was left outside the gates of the compound to fend for myself.

    The facility’s director claimed that he could not admit me in for the sake of the safety and security of those already inside. Out of ideas and accepting my fate just a stone’s throw from safety, I spent the next few nights sleeping outdoors. The arrival of a young couple and their baby at the gates of the Red Cross HQ increased the pressure on the facility’s director and, while he would not grant our admission, he helped organise transportation for the family, as well as myself and another colleague.

    I was suspicious of this altruism amid the 100 days of violence. I boarded apprehensively; worried I might be being transported to my death. However, I found myself taken within the confines of Hôtel des Mille Collines where more than 1,200 took refuge during the genocide – a story famously retold in the 2004 film Hotel Rwanda.

    I remained there for about a month, reunited with close friends and a board member from Rayon Sports, before being evacuated to an internally displaced person camp outside the city in area which was under RPF controlled zone. I discovered that, although I lost more than 35 relatives from my extended family, most of my immediate family had survived.

    After carrying out two months of humanitarian work in the south of Rwanda, I returned to Kigali. Yet, my safety was far from assured. Lurking in the countryside and in neighbouring states were bands of Hutu militia unwavering in their desire to complete their mission to wipe out the Tutsi population. I discovered my name was on a list of targets of one of these groups.

    I knew I was not safe in Rwanda while rebel Hutu groups remained. An opportunity presented itself to escape when the Rwanda national football team played in Tunisia. Instead of returning on the flight home, I stayed behind. Later I immigrated to Belgium and then finally to the UK in 1997. The move meant I had to sacrifice my greatest love – my footballing career. Yet, my passion and gratitude for the sport has remained steadfast.

    Football saved my life. It transcended ethnic differences and ultimately gave me hope for the future. It is this faith in the game that led me to establishing the organisation Football for Hope, Peace and Unity. It uses football as a tool to promote tolerance, unity and reconciliation among Rwandan youth in order to prevent tragedies like the 1994 genocide from occurring again in the future.

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