Genocide survivor clings on slain father’s advice to scale greater heights

Gad Musabyemungu, 32 is the first born and the only surviving member of what was a family of six children. The survivor of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi would rather not tell the story of how his family members were butchered as he watched in Ruhanga village, Rusororo Sector in Gasabo District because of the bad memories.
Gad Musabyemungu. (Courtesy)
Gad Musabyemungu. (Courtesy)

Gad Musabyemungu, 32 is the first born and the only surviving member of what was a family of six children.

The survivor of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi would rather not tell the story of how his family members were butchered as he watched in Ruhanga village, Rusororo Sector in Gasabo District because of the bad memories.

Musabyemungu, now employed by Urwego Opportunity Bank in Ngoma District, had almost given up on life following the demise of his entire family. And when his only uncle, Eric Mutayoba, with whom he had survived the Genocide passed on in 1999, he thought it was the end of the road for him.

But he was wrong because he did not know what God had in store for him. Today, the sky is the limit for Musabyemungu.

“I suffered a lot as I could not even get a proper meal, but today, I am an accountant and I see a bright future ahead of me,” he says.

The story of Musabyemungu’s rise from ashes starts from his Ruhanga village on April 6, 1994, when the plane carrying President Juvénal Habyarimana crashed and his home area was targeted by the Interahamwe militia. 

In just two days, the Interahamwe militia started attacking and the number of internally displaced people fleeing the killers had grown to thousands.

“We gathered at Ruhanga Primary School hoping that we could survive,” he said. 

“For over ten days, our parents  fought the killers using traditional weapons until the presidential guard was deployed. Their first bullet targeted my father, Juvénal Ntambika, who died instantly,” he adds.

At that point, it became clear to all being targeted that it was time to flee the school. Their next hideout was the compound of a fellow hunted man. In a few days, the killers attacked the home and first to be killed was Musabyemungu’s mother, Charlotte Mukandungutse.

In a display of courage, Musabyemungu jumped over the fence and fled. His younger sister, Murebwayire, who was only 10, was not lucky. She was captured and hacked.  

For days, Musabyemungu roamed the jungle hiding from the marauding killers and hoping to locate the advancing Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) Inkotanyi fighters who were reported to have reached somewhere in Gikomero Sector. He had learnt that some neighbours had reached Gikomero and were safely in the hands of the liberation forces.

One day, as he hid with his neighbours, the militia sent dogs to hunt them. One of the boys jumped out of his hideout and was promptly killed with the brutality that Musabyemungu says will never fade from his memory.

RPF comes

Some of Musabyemungu’s neighbours had already reached the RPF defence lines and had actually shared with the commanders about the fate of the Ruhanga people. In late April, the RPF arrived in the area.

Musabyemungu was then hiding in an impenetrable bush in Rugende, the marshland near Ruhanga hill and Kabuga trading centre. It is here that he met his uncle. He would later realise that heavy arms used to target Tutsi at Ruhanga had been abandoned by government soldiers following sustained pressure from the advancing RPF.

Musabyemungu, together with seven others, emerged out of the bush to welcome from RPF fighters. They joined other survivors in a transit centre the RPF had set up near Nyagasambu, Rwamagana District.

Three months later, Musabyemungu and his uncle returned to Rugende to occupy a house left behind by fleeing occupants as their home in Ruhanga had been reduced to rubble.

Early 1995, Musabyemungu picked up the broken pieces and returned to school in strict adherence to his father’s advice. The late Ntambika had often told his son that he would find his blessings at school.

Two years after returning to school, Musabyemungu passed the national exams with distinctions and proceeded to GS Saint Aloys Rwamagana for O-Levels. In 1999, his uncle passed on after a long illness and Musabyemungu dropped out of school for six years.

Life was challenging as he resorted to casual labour to survive.

“We had an association, but since I was the youngest, the others could take all the money. Finding food was not easy,” he said.

In 2005, Musabyemungu resumed school at Lycée du Lac Muhazi-ASPEJ in Rwamagana where he did accountancy, thanks to the African Evangelistic Enterprise (AEE), an Anglican organisation that sponsored him. “At least I was facilitated to be where I wanted to be. My father had told me that my blessing was at school.”

In 2009 Musabyemungu passed his A-level exams and secured a scholarship to study at the National University of Rwanda.

“I was the happiest at university; the monthly allowance of Rwf 5,000 was for me a fortune.  For the first time in six years, I smiled.”

Urwego Opportunity Bank hired Musabyemungu in 2012 and last year, he was deployed in Ngoma as relationship officer. “I am the happiest accountant, paying for my masters programme.”

His dream is “to build a nice house in a plot he bought in Kigali, and to lead a happy life with his family, in a country where the genocide will never happen again.”

 

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