Rwanda: 20 years after the genocide

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Over the course of 100 days, over 800,000 people were killed for being part of a different ethnic community. Behind the numbers, people lost loved ones, their homes, and their lives to the hands of the military, the police, neighbours, and even friends.

The Rwandan Genocide of 1994 remains the largest of modern times.

Twenty-years later, the effects are still being felt across the country. But perhaps those who suffered the most are women, many of whom were victims of sexual violence and torture.

Every 10 days, over the next 100 days – which marks the period of the genocide – we shall be publishing a story of survival from one of the many female victims of the conflict. Their stories are among some of the most detailed and horrifying, but also among the most hopeful as they describe how they overcame the effects of rape through rehabilitation.

To mark the beginning of the campaign, we have published three stories relating to the genocide. The first comes from Rwandan IRCT member Uyisenga N’Manzi, who are working with orphans from the genocide to help them rebuild their lives.

The other two stories are the first of the collection from female survivors of torture. You can read the introduction to these stories below, or click here for the full list of stories.

Illuminée’s story

Picture courtesy Yildiz Arslan

My name is Illuminée Munyabugingo. The 1994 genocide against Tutsis happened when I was thirty-four years old. I was born in Kigali in a camp for internally displaced persons. My family had moved there from Eastern Province because of the 1959 massacres of Tutsis. We were a family with sixteen children. During the 1959 massacres, the house of my family was not destroyed as it was during the 1994 genocide. People still had kindness when I was younger.

My mother died a few years later when I was fourteen years old. In 1979 I married a man from a prosperous family. I lived with my husband in Bugesera until the genocide started in 1994. We had a good life and together had seven children. The 1994 genocide took my beloved husband, two of my children and thirteen of my siblings.

The genocide was in many ways different from the previous wars of 1959, 1963, 1967 and 1973. In those wars, a person could hide in the house of a neighbour. In 1994 no one was willing to rescue another person. I had never realised before that someone can kill his or her neighbour, slay an innocent child or even kill his own sibling. What I experienced then brought me far in my thoughts, it traumatized me deeply, up to a point that I thought God had forgotten me.

To read Illuminee’s full story, click this link (opens pdf)

Charline’s story

Picture courtesy Yildiz Arslan

I am Charline Musaniwabo. I was born in 1976. My parents were farmers. I lived with them up to April 1994. My life completely changed during the genocide, having been married forcibly and losing many of my family members. I was born into a family of nine children, four boys and five girls. Five siblings and both my parents died during the genocide. Four of us escaped. I did not get a chance to marry a man I loved, because I was taken by force in 1994 by a neighbour who raped and married me. I live with the three children I conceived with this man.

In 1992, genocide took place in Bugesera. In Murama and Kanzenze, people were killed. Hutus burnt Tutsi houses, but in our area nobody was killed. They only ate cows belonging to Tutsi people. Despite all of this, when the 1994 genocide started I still
did not think that as many people would be killed as were indeed killed. The genocide mayhem spread everywhere.

When it began, my whole family left our house in order to look for a place to hide. I took my things and gave them to a friend of mine who was a Hutu girl so that she could keep them for me. After giving her my stuff, my sister-in-law and I went to hide at the home of our Hutu neighbour, who was a Pentecostal Church member. We stayed in his house for two days and on the third day we went to a nearby primary school, thinking that it would be a safer place. We spent two days in the school while the war violence increased. Men who were with us advised us to look for another place to hide because things were getting worse. Since we had nowhere else to go, we took refuge in a nearby swamp where, after four days, a club of Interahamwe found us hiding there.

To read Charline’s full story, click this link (opens pdf)

To view the full list of stories, which will be updated every two weeks from April until July, please click this link.

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