Clara’s story

The war started when I was staying with a member of my family in his village* after the president (Habyarimana) was killed. It was in the morning when a friend of my relative  informed him that the president’s jet plane was shot down. As my relative was going to work while opening the gate he encountered a road block but they didn’t harm him. He continued to work as he normally did but all of the people were scared and they didn’t know what to do. The authorities from the government had started to write lists of the people who were to be killed and my relative was included. On that night all of our neighbours left their homes and went to hide themselves but the wife to my relative refused saying that we can’t leave her husband because he won’t know where to find us so we waited for him to come back. At around 7:00 p.m. my relative came back only to find that our neighbours had gone away except for a neighbor’s family that was still around because he was Hutu. Another family of an old man whose son had married my sister had also not gone away. The neighbor’s came to spy to see if we were still around. My relative told us that we should not worry and that no one was going to kill us and he told the house girl to prepare food for us. But many people had gone to hide in the province church and the stadium. At around midnight we heard bullets and shootings and people who had gone to the church and stadium all were killed. My relative and the old man whose son had married my sister were patrolling at night to protect us but immediately after the shooting, they realised that things had become too dangerous for us and they considered other strategies on how to get away from the area. In the morning relative told his driver to take me to another village  with my brother because that’s where my mother was staying. As we were going on our way we found one woman who was shot with a lot of blood all over her body and then she told us that in Kigali people were dying at high rate because Hutu are killing many Tutsis. There was nothing more we could to do at that moment so we went ahead to that village, where the killing of Tutsis by Hutus had not yet started. After a week, my relative and his family came to that place to be with us, simply because it was becoming terrible to them and on Saturday, they came to stay with us. There was the radio station RLTM which was encouraging Hutus to slaughter the Tutsi’s but Tutsis were the majority in the area, so they organised themselves to fight against the Hutu who were coming to kill us. This process continued up to the time that the Tutsi’s were defeated because the interahamwe had a lot of weapons and ammunition but the Tutsi’s had only the spears and arrows. An interahamwe group came from the area close by and the Tutsis realised that that group was much stronger than them and the only hope was to run away. As a result we got scattered and the people with whom I as was with went to a nearby neighborhood. The interahamwe burned the houses and looted a lot of property including cows, goats and much more. The interahamwe used to say at first that women and girls will not be killed and that they wanted only men and energetic boys although we soon learned they were lying. My mother told us to go back home with all my sisters because my brother had been captured. It was Friday night I don’t remember very well the date when a group of interahamwe came to our home to kill all of us and my mother gave them some property so that they may not kill us, good enough they went happily but there was another group of militia led by a man called Jeremiah, who was our friend before the war even though he was a Hutu. When my mother told him what had happened to some people who came and took some property from her, * he asked who are they? Then my mother told him that they were called Abaziraguhunga from Nyacyoma. Then Jeremiah went and returned all they had taken because they feared Jeremiah. On Friday at night a group of interahamwe came back and knocked the door and mother asked them who are you? They insisted and told her to open up. She refused and shouted a lot. Jeremiah came with his group and stopped them, and in the process, one militia was killed because the two groups fought. This added to their anger and the next day they came I remember very well. My mummy was sweeping the compound. They took her in the alley and for me I was in my bedroom sleeping so one interahamwe came and said look we had left cockroach here and near me there was the baby. Immediately the baby was beaten on the wall and he died so they took us with the mother but one of my elder sisters had gone to fetch water and she was far from us but I was with two brothers, one in secondary school and another in primary four, they pulled all the clothes from my mama and she remained naked as she was born and she was beaten seriously and after that they passed a long stick into her vagina (private part) and it passed through her body to her head While they were in the process of killing my mama my brothers took off and ran away because the interahamwe had concentrated so much on my mama but for me I felt I couldn’t leave my mama alone. When I realised that my mama was nearly dying I ran away and one interahamwe ran after me. I remember his name.* He beat me all over my head and I fainted. Blood was coming out of my head as I was on the ground in the compound at home but by midnight I gained some consciousness and sneaked down to an old man whom my father had once given a cow as a sign of love. When I reached there I was with my sister who had gone to fetch water. The wife of that old man told him to choose between those children and us because (she said) if you allow them to stay here or sleep here I will leave you and go away. The old man was totally confused but he decided to take us to his second wife. We slept there but my head had wounds and blood was flowing, so they removed my hair and tried to treat me with local medicine. On Sunday we went to a place called Inyaruvumu to an old lady whom we were related to and I was with my brother. An eyewitness told us that our father had been killed in a place called Kimonde. At the place called Inyaruvumu we stayed for three days but as time passed the militia suspected that there were some children who were staying with the old lady. She then separated us so that they could not kill all of us at once. She was Tutsi but had given them one hundred thousand francs and more cows so that they would not kill them. Before leaving the place my cousin came and told me to please come and see where you can hide because the militia will kill you as well as that old lady because they had been warning her seriously. Immediately we had to go but at that moment I was not with my brother because we had separated, nearly reaching the place where my cousin wanted to hide me. She told me to pass in front of a house because you never know, someone may call you and hide you. Luckily, a woman whispered to me so then I went over to her and she asked me where I was going, I told her that I have nowhere to go. Then she told me to enter the house. She was called Maria. I stayed there with their children but the interahamwe could come to see if there were some other people inside the house, so one time they came and said that we don’t know that young girl — is she is yours? The woman told them that she is the daughter of my brother who stays in Kigali, called Karara, and that she came for holidays. Then they were quiet. After two weeks, the RPF arrived in that place and I was taken to an orphanage centre in Nyanza. For years afterward life was very difficult. Eventually I moved in with my cousin although she can not provide much to me. At least we live in harmony and peace. My mother had paid for my relatve’s school fees and he is rich now but he does not remember and I am no longer interested in him. The man and wife who hid me, I love them and I normally try to visit them whenever I can get transportation because they played a big role for me and I remember his son fought me but his father seriously beat him. He is still alive and stays in Gitarama.

(On the subject of Gacaca) I don’t always attend them because whenever I see people who killed my parents I get traumatized and I remember the days of genocide. This is because the interahamwe who killed my mother and brothers are still alive and recently they were released because they had confessed and admitted what they did. When we asked them to take us where they killed our relatives and my mother as well they refused but since I knew the place we collected the bones and buried them in respectfully. More recently, my brother was nearly killed by one of those who were released from the prison. Simply because he had told him not to go beyond the boundary of his land, the interahamwe got a hoe and cut his head. Fortunately, my brother did not die, he was rushed to hospital, and he later recovered. The interahamwe was imprisoned and he later died.

On the reconciliation question, it’s not easy. What I can say is that you can’t forget a person who played a virtuous role for you as well as you can’t forget the one who did evil things to you. Because of that I say that it’s not easy to sit down and discuss things with those who killed all your relatives but of course we can’t seek revenge with them because we need to show the difference between us and them.

*** Note: On how “Clara” now survives at school, she told Stephen Gatsinzi that the students normally help her with some supplies and clothing because she maintains good, friendly relations with them. Her real name and the names of several places and individuals in this story were removed at her request, for her own privacy and safety.

One Response to “Clara’s survival and her rescue”

  1. Martin Rutagarama Says:

    Mana yanjye ndashima ko wabashije kurokoka kandi ukaba ukiri muzima.

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