The Hutu who risked their life to save Tutsi during the 1994 Genocide should be recognised and their gallant actions documented for education purposes, Ibuka, the umbrella organisation for Genocide survivors, has said.
A report commissioned by Ibuka in 2010 referred to the people as Indakemwa (the Righteous).
During the closing ceremony of the Genocide commemoration week on Sunday, Ibuka president Jean Pierre Dusingizemungu mooted the idea of finding a special day to honour Indakemwa so that lessons drawn from their virtuous deeds can benefit the nation and beyond.
Dusingizemungu told The New Times that testimonies of the Indakemwa can be a great inspiration to the Rwandan spirit and would significantly contribute to national unity and the Ndi Umunyarwanda (Rwandaness) drive.
“It remains a proposal that I believe many stakeholders will consider; our role is advocacy. We hope a concrete proposal and action will follow,” Dusingizemungu said.
The 100-page 2010 report, he said, was not conclusive and resources are needed to conduct another thorough survey.
During the countrywide tour of the Remembrance Flame (Kwibuka Flame) different accounts of such people came forth, mainly out of testimonies by survivors.
“Even with the testimonies, I don’t think these people are given deserved recognition. But they have a powerful humane message that would help humanity,” Dusingizemungu said.
Dr Egide Karuranga, 57, a survivor, said Indakemwa were good people in “an ocean of devils.”
“At each and every step of surviving, it took some good people from the group of killers. There are a few survivors who don’t know a Hutu who intervened even though others were busy killing,” he said.
Their deeds, Dr Karuranga said, open wide the room for reconciliation. He added that the quest for forgiveness and unity should be based on this “undeniable fact.”
The heroic acts
About 10-minute walk on the outskirts of a bustling Nyagatare town lives Gervais Ruberankiko, one of the recognised Indakemwa.
Speaking to The New Times, the 54-year-old refused to be called a hero while narrating how he rescued 80 frightened Tutsi in 1994.
Back then, Ruberankiko’s home area was ensconced between Murambi and Gikoro communes, areas where horrendous slaughters of the Tutsi were carried out.
Murambi was home to former Interahamwe leader Jean-Baptiste Gatete, who was bourgmestre of the commune. It was a time when people killed unsuspecting neighbours.
However, Ruberankiko resolved to remain faithful to his late grandfather’s humane counsel. His grandfather was a man who treasured virtue.
“He wanted his descendants to love unconditionally regardless of ethnicity,” Ruberankiko says. “I often heard grandfather warn his sons against hurting any Tutsi. I, too, grew up aware of this.”
Ruberankiko’s reminisces of his childhood is of the days of the post-independence pogroms.
During one tumultuous week, in April 1994, Ruberanyiko hid about 80 Tutsi until a Rwanda Patriotic Army (RPA) unit reached his area.
By 1994, he was a respected businessman and farmer who also possessed a firearm. And things were dangerously heating up. The militia from Murambi were increasingly attacking his area.
More than 200 Tutsi were allowed to take refuge in his village but only 80 could find a safe haven in his relatively small homestead.
The frightened children, women and men huddled together in huts during the unbearable cold nights and equally difficult hours of daylight. But he risked all to provide food and reassurance he could.
“Militia from surrounding villages who killed the Tutsi in their areas and looted their cattle also wanted to slaughter and eat the cows of Tutsi in our area. We battled them fiercely.”
When RPA overran the village, Ruberanyiko fled along with thousands others, joining a mass exodus to Tanzania, only to return in 1997.
Today, the owner of a thriving carpentry workshop in Nyagatare town more than ever believes that “it is only honourable to bring up a child in a proper manner. Teach him to be a good person, love people, respect people, and value life.”
Few neighbours know about his heroics in 1994. But there is no reason to pompously tell his story, he says.