How I survived Genocide – Rutareka
I was thrown into a mass grave where I lay for several days before the Rwanda Patriotic Army (RPA) came to my rescue, Vianey Rutareka, a survivor of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, said.
He was testifying at the 18th commemoration of the Genocide against the Tutsi.
The official week-long commemoration commenced on Saturday, April 7. Rutareka was speaking from Mwurile sector, Rwamagana District.
This year’s commemoration is held under the theme, “Learning from our history, building a bright future,” a message that stresses the principle that has shaped the post-Genocide agenda for the nation.
64-year old Rutareka was 46 during the genocide. He recalls that together with other colleagues they tried to fight off the militias, until they were overpowered.
He was seriously injured. Presumed dead, he was dumped in a mass grave where he lay until RPA soldiers rescued him.
He recalls that eighteen years ago in Mwurile, there were bodies scattered all over, blood from victims flowed in streams and thousands of injured helpless Tutsi moaned in agony.
We had tried to disguise our physical appearances in vain; …we couldn’t change our identity cards.
This left us vulnerable to the long term plan to exterminate the Tutsi in Rwanda.
The first Tutsi to be killed were those who had at least gone through high school. There were no Tutsi elites as schools were selective.
The highly learned Tutsi was a teacher in our sector, we had several Tutsi teachers in our area, but only one survived the genocide.
We had no alternative but use our instinct to try and fight off the killers, Rutareka said.
They were all armed to the teeth with guns and traditional weapons.
We used stones and sticks to fight; it was a desperate situation because you never expect a stone to threaten a person armed with a gun.
We nevertheless did our best to keep them at bay, until we were overpowered by the then government soldiers, who even used helicopters to shoot at us.
The bullets killed many, leaving others seriously injured. The militias would then come to finish off the injured.
We witnessed horrible things you couldn’t imagine.
Babies were crashed against rocks or trees, mothers were raped before their children and Tutsi begged to be killed quickly with bullets instead of machetes.
I remember from where I lay injured, one of my friends paid money to be shot in vain, as the militia tortured him for several hours before he succumbed to the injuries.
I was thrown into a mass grave where I lay for several days before being rescued. Almost a half of my body was rotten and I never had a dream of living again.
Today, we are in a different situation; this is what we thank our government for.
We have thus managed to move on, after the dark days of our lives. I, however, feel there is still an extra-mile to go as far as reconciliation is concerned.
It is a sad reality that we still struggle to unearth remains of our loved ones, when their killers live just next to them.
The families of those who were involved in killing the Tutsi should be courageous enough to tell us the truth...the real truth, so that we can see a change in attitude.”
Over 84,000 Tutsi were killed in Rwamagana District, 26,529 in Mwurile alone.
Contact email: stephen.rwembeho[at]newtimes.co.rw