Nyamata interview 6 March 07

Back in 1990 I could see things were going to get much worse for me and my wife. She was a Tutsi and a gang of thugs visited my house, threatening to kill her. I offered to give them money if they would leave her alone. Some came back a second time and I gave them more money. Around that time many came to know that my wife was a Tutsi and  we were both suspected of having connections to the RPF. I didn’t have any information about them but some people with connections to my wife would come by our house late at night to get food. I hid my wife and others in part of the house.

The Interhamwe started to visit on a regular basis, twice a day. Since I had already started to construct a toilet I decided to build a secret compartment which could hide some people under the ground. It had a façade with enough room to conceal 7 people. My wife had a 2 month old child at the time. I then told others a story that my wife had been killed. For a while that seemed to work. When Interhamwe began to question why we were cooking so much food there they started to visit later at night. My father warned me that I had to find another way to conceal my wife and children. The children were instructed to collect feces and we built another structure that was disguised as an out-house. Because there was so much stink and filth around it no one thought to investigate carefully. But they kept asking where I was hiding Tutsis in my family.

The killing in the (Catholic) church had already started around that time. There was one Hutu soldier, Mukanabana, who said he would not kill a Tutsi girl he found there. So he brought her to my house. I was happy to realize that a soldier was so compassionate. I gave him my bike to take her away. They didn’t get very far. The Interhamwe took the girl from him and murdered her. The soldier was tied up and about to be killed himself but a higher ranking officer intervened to prevent that killing.

After one dangerous encounter another soldier hung around the house. He insisted that I had money because I was being paid by the RPF. He demanded that I give him details about how many there were around and where they were hiding. At that point I had little strength, I was drained and exhausted. I repeated that they were among the many who had been slaughtered in the area. But why was there so much food in the house? Because, I said, I was preparing to flee myself. There were four radios in the house. One station was controlled by the RFP Another station was controlled by the Interhamwe. Although the reception was often unclear when it seemed that the RPF was closeby in the area I advised the seven in the toilet hiding space to flee in their direction.

I then learned that they were planning to burn my house down. I was very afraid for all of us. Back in my house I prayed intensely and hid under my bed when soldiers broke into the place. Some of the local Interhamwe demanded that I reveal the place where I hid some Tutsis. They said they were going to shoot me then and fired their guns in the air. Another soldier interrupted everything and “Isn’t that the Christian Pastor?” I said yes, yes — you can search anywhere. I insisted that my wife was dead. Some of the Interhamwe who had been bribed earlier said I was innocent and shouldn’t be killed. Then they asked me for more money. I refused at first but when they demanded it again I paid what I could. An older man, Kabucoba, came by my house and begged me for help. I told him to go in the direction of the place where the RPF was then in control. I decided to go with him and we went around the road hiding in the bushes until I got to the place where the RPF was. We raised up our hands together and surrendered to them. At that point we were protected. Some of those who I had helped earlier were there with the RPF as well.

Gacaca and the future: After the genocide many of the killers returned to Nyamata. Many of them lied to protect themselves and confuse others. It was awful to live among them. At gacaca hearings some claimed that I was a criminal as well as them. Because some RPF soldiers knew my name as one who had saved others, they testified on my behalf and my reputation was saved. Gacaca is like a medicine. At first it was hard to appreciate. But gradually apologies and confessions have come forth. Some neighbors have come to be reconciled.

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