Survivours of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, at the former Murambi commune (currently Gatsibo district) still have fresh memories of the horrific genocide that took place at Kiziguro parish at Gatsibo district, Eastern province.
Its sixteen years down the road and scores of survivours convene at Kiziguro parish to commemorate those who perished. They spoke to The New Times of how the Genocide was prepared and carried out in the area.
‘It’s a memorable tragedy for the survivours. We still remember as if it happened yesterday especially during mourning period.”
“The scars and effects of the genocide are still fresh in our memories. It was a horrible genocide that we can’t simply get out of our minds,’ Gisèle Mukayuhi, one of the Kiziguro parish survivours said.
Recounting the evening of April 8th, 1994, Mukayuhi still remembers the harsh nights she spent hiding in a tree after escaping the Interahamwe militia who had locked her up with other Tutsi inside the parish.
“Jean Baptist Gatete (the former Murambi Commune mayor) had already announced that all Tutsi people were to be exterminated. We were very scared but it was hard to escape the country.”
“We were attacked at our house late at night and taken to Kiziguro parish where we were locked up.”
“Fortunately, I managed to escape through the one open window and climbed a tree near the parish. I spent three days there as I watched the Tutsi’s being killed in the church,” Mukayuhi said.
Many people were brought from different areas around Murambi commune and gathered at Kiziguro parish to be killed.
At 68 years old, Francoise Mukagasana, a resident of Mbogo cell in Kiziguro sector recounts her family’s ordeal during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. She was another survivour at Kiziguro parish.
Seating on the veranda of her house with her two orphaned daughters; Ines and Umurerwa, Mukagasana narrates a sad story of how her three daughters, son and her husband were killed at Kiziguro parish.
“It begun when we physically witnessed the perpetrators digging manholes in the areas of Kiziguro and Ndatemwa, as they prepared for the slaughter.”
“It was an unimaginable moment. The interahamwe militia, under the supervision of the former mayor Jean Baptiste Gatete had planned to exterminate all Tutsi in this area,’ Mukagasana said.
She points at the memorial site and says, “Look at this memorial site. In 1994 it was a manhole and Gatete financed people to prepare it. Don’t you think he had a mission for it?”
“That other stone quarry over there was also a death spot for many Tutsis in Murambi between 1993 and 94. Many interahamwe transported Tutsi to that place in trucks and hacked them to death,’ Mukagasana speaks about another stone quarry that harbours more remains in the same sector.
The reconciliation journey
The kind of wide spread hatred that was spread by the genocidal regime in Murambi Commune, none of the genocide survivours could dream of ever reconciling with their neighbours who brutally killed their children and relatives.
However, since the takeover of the Rwanda Patriotic Front/Army (RPF) in 1994, scores of genocide survivours in the former Murambi Commune have been struggling to reconcile with their killers.
“It was unbelievable to find myself standing with the very person and neighbour who killed my parents in my own presence,” Emmanuel Ngayaberura, a survivour and resident of Gishya cell in Kiziguro sector told The New Times.
According to Ngayaberura, the dream of reconciling with his neighbours was not part of his future plans.
“I didn’t expect that to happen but after all those things they did, we have achieved a lot in the reconciliation process,” Ngayaberura said.
The birth of the National Unity and Reconciliation Commission (NURC), Ngayaberura said a crucial role was played by the reconciliation body to bring survivours back to the normalcy of life.
“The reconciliation commission has made our minds take a new twist. We are focusing on a brighter reconciled future of all Rwandans,” he said.
Education for all
Rosaliya Mutuyemariya, another genocide survivour could not believe that her children would go to the same school and mix with other children.
“It was a taboo for Tutsi children to pursue higher education. But when you look at today’s education for all Rwandan children, it makes me understand the purpose and reconciliation lesson today,’ Mutuyemariya said.
She said that it was because of God’s mercy that she survived at the church where she witnessed all her children raped and hacked to death.
Mutuyemariya has decided to focus on rebuilding her future.
“With all that happened, I have to focus on what can transform my future life as a genocide widow,” she said.
Itorero ry’Igihugu programme
Eric Munyarubuga, another survivour says he is impressed with the Itorero National Task Force that aims at bringing together citizens from across the country in unity and reconciliation programmes.
“Itorero is another crucial reconciliation programme that has made feel part of the society. We meet and discuss on how we can contribute to our country’s development,” Munyarubuga said.
Sixteen years after the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, residents of Kiziguro sector have leant to nurse their scars and reconcile with their neighbours who became their killers and have come to understand the necessity of unity and reconciliation for development.