Testimony: The memories of our loved ones should be the engine that makes us work hard

Anne Marie Kantengwa, a genocide survivor, says she is working hard so that, when she meets those she lost in 1994, she will be able to proudly tell them that she prospered and did them all proud.
Anne Marie Kantengwa in the grounds of Chez Lando Hotel. The New Times / Pelagie N. Mbabazi.
Anne Marie Kantengwa in the grounds of Chez Lando Hotel. The New Times / Pelagie N. Mbabazi.

Anne Marie Kantengwa, a genocide survivor, says she is working hard so that, when she meets those she lost in 1994, she will be able to proudly tell them that she prospered and did them all proud.

Life seemed worthless immediately after the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, after she lost her parents, husband, relatives and children. But as time went on, things took a turn for the better for her.

“I never trusted anyone and I did not trust anyone. I never thought I could be a human being again. Whenever I thought about what happened to me and my family I would develop hatred for whoever I suspected had a hand in my family’s suffering”, she said.

After some time however, Kantengwa changed her mind set and started thinking ahead.

“After almost everyone in my family was killed, and I happened to survive, most of the time I asked myself, what should I do to keep on moving and to stand in for my beloved ones who perished during the Genocide”?

In 1996 with just ten people in tow, Kantengwa decided to start renovating Hotel Chez Lando, the hotel belonged to her late brother Ndasigwa Lando.

Sadly, her healing process was not as rapid as she would have wished because she was never able to find the bodies of her family members, in order to give them a decent burial.

By 2001, Kantengwa’s businesses started bearing fruit.

“I started working with whoever would do business to me regardless of who they were or where they were from. I did this because I realised that this of negative thinking would impact the country’s development”.

Her businesses helped her dilute the bitterness she had felt in her heart.

Because the government encouraged women to participate in business, she refused to be dependent on the charity of others. Instead, she started reaching out and help underprivileged people liked orphans and Genocide widows.

 “Reaching out helped me to meet many people who were aggrieved by what happened to them during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. When this happened, somehow you feel you aren’t the only one who has problems.”

In 2003 to 2008, she was elected as a Rwanda Patriotic Front representative in the Lower Chamber, an achievement that she says shaped her.

“When you become a leader at any level, you look beyond the borders of your problems and become a role model to the public. When you live a life of agony, while whoever you meet is no better than you, makes people lose morale. But in this position that I was entrusted with, I had to give the best I had to the public regardless of how I felt”.

Kantengwa credited the government of Rwanda for the unity and reconciliation programmes that have encouraged the togetherness of all Rwandans.

“If the people who carried out genocide realise what they did and they stand in solidarity with the victims, showing them the remains of their beloved ones and joining them during the commemoration time, it will speed up the healing process,” she believes.

“Every survivor should know that there is a reason why they were left behind. If we love and honor our beloved ones that we lost, then it’s our responsibility to be a flag bearer for them on earth”

By God’s will all perpetrators and partners in crime, this is the time for them to realize that negating the genocide against the Tutsi will not be the solution since even other countries like Canada can no long let such bad people live on her soil.

Today Kantengwa runs various different businesses but spends most of her time at Hotel Chez Lando, where she works as senior manager.

Since she left public office, the former Member of Parliament has had enough time to visit many orphanages, helping and counseling survivor and sharing Rwanda’s success stories with citizens and non-citizens alike.

 

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