An orphan’s story of survival and hope for the future.
Before the genocide, I lived a happy life with my parents. My father was a contractor in the construction business. Mum was a housewife although she was educated and qualified as a nurse. Problems started in school after 1990 when people’s race had to be entered in their student files. If you were a Tutsi student, you’d have no peace; there was always someone bullying you. My father worked with men who helped young people to get to the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF). I remember when the RPF troops came as part of the Arusha agreement, my father was very excited and took me to see them.
When the genocide began on 6 April 1994, some of us ran to St Charles' church in Nyamirambo. There were bodies in the church. Next day the soldiers and Interahamwe came to remove them. I heard them saying that they didn't want the bodies to be seen or found. We realised we would be caught, so we went to the school just behind. Soon the school was surrounded by the Interahamwe, who climbed the walls and came in, slaughtering people. I jumped over a wall and ran home. By luck, I found everybody alive at home. When our neighbours were killed, however, we knew we would be next. Father sent me to a family friend named Ally Kamegeri. He hid me, along with the younger children, even though our parents couldn’t come. He hid about 20 kids in total. That’s how we lived until the end of genocide.
Father was killed. An attack group made him walk all around the neighbourhood naked. That was because before the genocide, he wouldn't take their nonsense. I heard that he was beaten badly and never made it alive to the hole in Gatare which they intended to throw him into. They dragged his body there. His remains are still in that hole. I haven’t yet been able to exhume him and give him a proper burial. Three days later, my mother was rescued by the RPF. In our hiding place, we had no news of Mum, but we knew that Dad had been killed. We just thought they had both been wiped out. After the genocide, we ran into Mum by sheer luck.
Mum was never the same after the genocide. She seemed depressed and discouraged, unhappy with life, and as time passed she developed ulcers and had stomach problems. My older brother developed mental health problems after the genocide as well, which destabilised her even more. Her stomach problems got so bad that if she tried to eat, she would vomit. I thought Mum was only sick, but she died. At first my brothers and sisters lost all hope. I lost hope as well, but as the oldest, I had to calm them down and I showed them examples of other people orphaned before us. It made them see that they weren’t the only orphans. And they're not completely orphans because we are still together. At the moment I’m studying in the Université Libre in Kigali. In my daily life, I do my best to ensure a good life for my brother and sisters. I can't take the place of our parents, but I try to do most things that parents would do. I am like their parent.