‘Dying mother shielded me from killers’
During the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, Emmanuel Nshimiyumukiza was six years old.
He witnessed numerous killings but survived the machete-wielding militiamen who had wiped out his entire family.
Nshimiyumukiza was shielded by his dying mother who had been stabbed in the stomach.
“They stabbed her thinking she was pregnant but she did not die immediately,” Nshimiyumukiza, 24, recalls.
Both his parents and five siblings were killed after they were discovered in a shrub they had hidden close to their village in Rukumberi Sector, Ngoma District.
“I covered myself with my elder sister’s large coat and hid underneath my mother pretending to be dead,” Nshimiyumukiza narrates.
He remembers contemplating suicide by drowning in a nearby lake but his dying mother, with a machete still in her stomach, restrained him.
Nshimiyumukiza explains that when the killers left, his youngest brother was also still alive. As soon as he cried, Interahamwe militias came back and finished him off.
With his father and all siblings already dead, Nshimiyumukiza found solace underneath his dying mother.
After going through all this horror, brave Nshimiyumukiza decided that his finish line was the beginning of a new race.
In an attempt to help his dying mum, the young boy walked several kilometres in search of drinking water.
He was not to make it back to his dying mother as he encountered the interahamwe militia whom he had to hide from.
He assumes his mother died shortly after because he left her bleeding profusely.
Nshimiyumukiza’s life became one of constant fear and survival.
“One night while sleeping in a nearby bush with other people, the interahamwe ambushed us and set the whole bush ablaze but luckily I also survived the arson,” he said.
Lucky enough, the Genocide was coming to an end and those who survived were resettled at Rukumberi refugee camp in Ngoma District.
For the next three years, Nshimiyumukiza lived in six different homes because most of his relatives were unfriendly to him.
During this time, he would go to school once in a while depending on the workload at home.
In most of the homes, Nshimiyumukiza worked as a house help as well as a herds boy for the relatives.
He also reared a few rabbits from which he got money to buy clothes and scholastic materials.
“I was neglected to the extent where I had to borrow school uniform from my younger cousin brother,” he reminisces with a tinge of sadness in his voice.
Eventually, Nshimiyumukiza dropped out of school but amidst all this uncertainty, there emerged a ray of hope.
He got a sponsor who paid his school fees until he completed his primary education and has never looked back.
Eventually, Nshimiyumukiza learnt to fend for himself. He juggled between part-time work and school in order to complete his secondary education.
During holidays, he would save some of his money and after his senior six, Nshimiyumukiza managed to set up a small retail shop from which he currently earns a living.
Today, he lives with three of his cousins whose parents were also killed during the Genocide, and they have since relocated to Kimironko in Gasabo District.
Nshimiyumukiza says he earns about Rwf15000 per week but it is still not enough to meet all needs.
Lucky to be alive, Nshimiyumukiza lives with the hope that one day, he will marry and start his own family and help those who have suffered the same way.
But as if the pain he went through is not enough, Nshimiyumukiza is battling court cases with relatives and neighbours who want to grab his family’s property.
Contact email: sam.nkurunziza[at]newtimes.co.rw