Former national long distance runner Serge Gasore is a survivor of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. The former athlete, who was only 8 years old during the Genocide, has dedicated his adult life to serving survivors in his home area of Ntarama, Bugesera District.
As the country continues to commemorate the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, Saturday Sport caught up with Gasore for an interview, in which he explained how he survived the tragedy that left over a million people dead in just 100 days and his drive to help people of Ntarama, especially fellow survivors.
On the morning of April 7, 1994, then 8-year-old Gasore, saw people fleeing for their dear life.
“I told my grandmother what I had seen and she said let’s get ready to move out.”
With his grandmother and other family members, they sought refuge in Ntarama church, thinking it was a safe haven.
I was asleep on my grandmother’s lap when the Interahamwe militia came to the church. My grandmother walked to the front of the church to meet others who were praying near the entrance of the church. The killers threw a grenade into the church,” Gasoro recalls as his eyes came close to tears.
He added, “The grenade exploded and my grandmother fell down, there was blood all over the place from the dead and wounded people. Luckily, I wasn’t injured and I managed to find a way to escape. I went through a window and ran away from the church to a valley that had a lot of tall trees (bamboo reeds).”
Gasore reveals that in the valley, he found his cousin Eric, and together they decided to go back to the church after the killers left to see, who had died and who was alive.
“That is when I discovered that most of my family and other relatives had been killed. The killers had stacked the bodies of my family, relatives and other people, in front of the church,” Gasore recalls.
In his book, ‘In My Day to Die: Running for My Life’, Gasore details the whole story of his life beginning with early childhood. This year he postponed his PHD studies to try and finish his projects as he continues to help survivors to move forward 23 years after the Genocide.
Among them is that of using sports disciplines like athletics and cycling to heal the wounds in Ntarama where a church was converted into a Memorial Center because of the many people that were killed in that church.
In terms of sport, Gasore believes his hometown has a lot of raw talent. This is a reason why he partnered with the Rwanda Athletics Federation to organize an annual ‘Peace and Reconciliation’ competition for both the girls and boys in Bugesera, which is now on the national calendar.
The former national team athlete believes that sports play an enormous part in fighting trauma, stress and brings people together, which in the end leads to forgiveness and then reconciliation.
Gasore Foundation, a non-profit organization that he formed in 2014, pays health insurance premiums (Mutuelle de Sante) for vulnerable Genocide survivors as well aiding different schools in Ntarama.
He also runs an “Inter-Community Hub For Children” in Bugesera, which benefits orphaned children through childcare service and he was recently appointed in charge of children affairs department at Bugesera District.
In 2007, Gasore and three others; Sylvain Rukundo, Felix Ntirenganya and Dieudonne Disi represented Rwanda at the World Road Running Championship in Udine, Italy.
He also represented the country at the 9th Annual 5km Road Race in Trinidad and Tobago, finishing second.
Born in Gashora, Bugesera in 1986, Gasore studied at St Joseph Kabgayi before joining Ririma, and later got a scholarship to study at Abilene Christian University in Texas, US specializing in Theology. He graduated in 2009.