In our latest survivor story marking the 100 day period of the Rwandan Genocide – which took place 20 years ago – Ntakwasa Veneranda tells her story of escaping torture in her hometown and the struggles she faced when bringing perpetrators to justice.
You can read an extract of Ntakwasa’s story “Being patient provides peace” below. To read her full story, click this link. And to read the stories of the other brave women featured in our campaign, click this link.
When I was still young, my parents used to tell us how our family had been deported by the government from Ruhengeri to Nyamata in 1959, when massacres based on ethnic conflicts happened for the first time in Rwanda. My father also told us that the whole region of Bugesera had been a forest and that there were many animals there.
Most of my relatives who had been forced into the forest by the government at that time died due to a sleeping sickness caused by tsetse flies. In 1965, six years after my family had been displaced and forced to live in what is currently known as Bugesera District, I was born.
The hardships that Tutsis faced when they were first brought to Bugesera continued. When I was only eight years old I observed it with my own eyes. In 1973, as we were coming home from school, I saw people burning houses on the side of Gitarama.
I have good memories of the period before the genocide, being with my parents and siblings. My life changed during the 1994 genocide, during which I saw many people die. My parents and seven of my siblings were killed in that time. In the period following the genocide, I sometimes felt very lonely because I had no one to talk to. The genocide took my peers and neighbours. No one from my extended family escaped.
On April 6, on the night of the death of President Habyarimana, we observed some of our Hutu neighbours change their behaviour.
That same night, they started burning Tutsi houses. Our father, who was an old man, told us that our lives were finished. We did not
know what he meant by this. Over the next few days he ordered us to spend the nights in the bush and come back home in the morning. After only two days, young Interahamwe started slashing the cows of Tutsis with knives and machetes and eating them, and beating up Tutsis. On the other side of our sector, houses were burning.
On the morning of April 8, we saw crowds of Interahamwe led by an ADEPR pastor, approaching our neighbourhood. We ran away towards Ntarama, because there were many Tutsis living there compared to other parts of Bugesera. On the way to Ntarama, we jumped over dead bodies of people who had been killed. I separated from my siblings and parents on that day as I was trying to find a place to hide and save myself.
To read Ntakwasa’s full story, click this link (opens as PDF)