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Wendy Whitworth: Editor

Personal Accounts of Genocide Survivors: Posted 03 July 2009

Book Review - Memorial of wholesale slaughter, murder, rape, torture, obscenities and more.

04 July 2009

15th Anniversary of Fall of Kigali and the nominal end of Bagosoro's monstrous 100-day assault on innocent humanity,

Lest we forget, a decade and a half later literally thousands of survivors still live with scars of body and mind. This book briefly chronicles the genocide beyond all genocide. So thoroughly planned and executed was it that only a fraction survived. This book recounts the tales of 28 survivors some 15 years after the fact. Briefest of briefs follow:

Dedicated to the million men, women and children of Rwanda whose stories are not told, because they did not survive to testify what they saw and suffered.

Anne Marie - A Sword in my Heart
"He grabbed the child and threw him against the wall. He died from the impact. ... the soldier threatened me and told me to lie down. And there he raped me. ... The new gang took me to a home they had destroyed and the same thing happened there."
"...They told me I had AIDS. I have never received any medication."

Veneranda - He made me do what he wanted
"and that's when he made me do everything he wanted. For three weeks he used to come and rape me."

Athanase Bugirimfura - People should not be divided
"When he came, he said. 'These people are to be shot.' Then he realized it would take a lot of bullets, so he ordered them to use machetes and clubs instead."

Emmanuel Gasana - Unity is crucial
"Mum got weaker and weaker until dogs started coming around her, pulling her clothes till they ate her... That's how she died.

Innocent Ndamyina Gisanura - We chose to fight back
"My older brother was killed in their first attack and that's how I also lost my father and uncle. of our strategies for defense was to move in a big group - separating would have made it easy for them to kill us.

Yves Kamlursoni - People are still hurting
"They got her [his mother] to lie face down the floor and shot her with a bullet in the head."

Pierre Kacubi - My heart still feels a lot of pain
"Finally, they came to me and said. 'We wanted to hurt you by killing your family first.' Then they started hacking me - I have 14 machete scars..."

Ernestine Mujdahogora - Surviving in Ntarama
"My heart was beating very fast from panic. My wounds had started festering and there was pus all over. ...All the people have been killed. I'm the only one left."

Tharcisse Mukama - How death became a way of life
"Six of my children were killed in the genocide."

Speciose Mukamusoni - We must keep remembering
"...the rest of us were taken to Gakinjiro. There, we were put in a line and they started killing the men."

Odette Mupenzi - It's hard to keep hoping
"I must have fallen unconscious then because I can't remember what happened next. When I woke up, I found myself lying amongst dead bodies."

Freddy Mutanguha - I want to see us build our nation
" was Kanani who held on to mum when they took her out of the house. Later, he let her go and she ran away. But they found her again and she was beaten to death with clubs.

Henriette Mutegwaraba - Exile in Burundi
"...some people who had fled from Rwanda told us all my family had been killed."

Jeanette Nibagwire - I'll never teach my child to hate
"I did my best to dig but couldn't manage it - and I was beaten every day."

Beatrice Nikuze - Look to the future
"I remember Oliva who was murdered so maliciously. She was raped first, then tortured to death. ...And Cecile..."

Diane Niyongira - Trying to be strong
"There was a long pit near my house. They took all of those dead bodies and threw them into it."

Claver Nkezabera - Will I survive today?
"There was a policeman in Gatyazo; I didn't know his name. Semakwavu alerted him saying, 'Sovu is under attack, what should we do?' The policeman replied, 'leave them, that's how it was planned.' ...I can't count how many people were killed in my family."

Claude Nsshimiyimana - Conflicts make us move backwards
"The Interahamwe were waiting to kill those who managed to escape from the soldiers. They used to call it 'finishing off'"

Marcel Ruhurambuga - I thought my life was over
"They led him [his father] towards Kiryanngo river and when they got there, they tied him up - his arms and legs were tied tightly. Then they threw him in the river and drowned him."

Olivier Ruyenzi - There will be unity
"As dad defended himself, the Interahawmwe also shot his right hand and it was mostly blown off. Dad became very weak and fell to the ground, but he was still alive. When the Inkotanyi [The RFP] came, they followed that Interahamwe and killed him."

Rosette Musabe Sabasoni - Innocent people shouldn't be killed
"My most difficult memory of the genocide is seeing our parents killed by people who knew them."

Anastase Twagirashema - Nobody has asked me for forgiveness
"...the Tutsi police were killed before anyone else so they couldn't help the people who had already sought refuge here in Murambi. ...We hoped the international community would come to our help once they knew what was happening in Rwanda."

Marie Claire Umulisa - Your heart feels like stone
"'It is better for you to follow your mum and sister.' [her own godmother speaking.] ...I didn't know which way to go. She told me it was none of her business. 'Whether you live or die, that's your problem.' Those were her words."

Odette Umjulisa - It's still present in our lives
"Mama Sania told me to leave, but I begged her to have mercy on me. She again refused. ...I was crying so much that mama Sania called me back. She told me she was a Muslim. She believed in God; she thought that if she let me go and I was killed, God would ask her to account for me. She took me to a room inside her house. I thought I was the only Tutsi still alive in Rwanda, but then I found all those people hiding there.

Jean du Dieu Uwamungu - I didn't speak for six months
"There was a small courtyard next to the camp before you reached the radio antenna. All the people who'd been caught were burnt there. They used to pour petrol on them as they stood there, then burn them. ...they were forced to get in the hole.
Then the killers would just put petrol on top of the people while they were still alive."

Beata Uwazaninka - Treasure your mothers and fathers
"The week before the genocide began, they announced in Kinyarwanda on Radio Mille Collines that something big was going to happen the next week. ...Suddenly, one of the killers came in and said, 'if your daughters don't want to marry Hutus, we're going to have them for free now - and we'll kill them as well.' They hacked my uncle and he collapsed."

Manzi Gaudence Uwera - Life no longer made sense
"When they heard the RPF troops had come close, they made us walk at the front of their group saying, '...They'll probably spare us if they see you with us.'"

Alice Uwimpuhwe - Focus on what lies ahead
"'I got you from your mum and I don't want your blood on my hands, so please go away. It's up to you to find a way to Ruhango.'"

A too-common theme captures the fate of many: "They gave me a hoe and ordered me to dig my own grave." Beyond their survival in the first place, the most remarkable thing about these people is how they became solid citizens after their horrors. For an update on that, visit: Rwanda - 14 Years On.

Tomorrow, a national holiday, Rwandans will be trekking to the memorials commemorating these and hundreds of thousands of similar stories. Yes, hundreds of thousands.
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