THE LAST words Grace Mukankusi heard from her mother before she was killed during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, have been the source of inspiration that has enabled her excel even in the face of the most difficult of situations.
Before the mother of 14 met her cruel death, she urged her daughter to be ready to face tough life as an orphan if she was lucky to survive the Genocide that claimed a million innocent lives.
As she roamed the bush in present day Murama sector in Kayonza District, desperately hiding her children from the killers, Mukankusi’s mother realised that her luck would soon run out and found time to communicate her last words to her children who might be lucky survive the government-sponsored killings of innocent people. It turned out that Mukankusi, the 12th child, survived the Genocide with two younger siblings.
Despite the insecurity, the mother took time to talk to her young daughter how to take care of herself in future in case the girl survived the killings that were planned by the then government and targeted the Tutsis.
“I was still young (eight years-old) but able to understand what she said as I could see what was happening,” said Mukankusi.
My mother said: “My child, you should learn to be a hero; be careful and hate anything evil. You have to work hard to achieve what I had not achieved,” she said quoting her late mother.
She says that her mother, who was not certain whether any of children would survive, added: “What is happening is inhuman and if you survive, never do anything inhuman.”
Back then, the young girl did not however take these words seriously because she had seen many people, some of them children of her age or even younger, being killed for no reason other than having been born Tutsi. Mukankusi therefore had no reason to believe she would survive the murderous regime. She did survive with two of her siblings and the words of her late mother returned to be her code of conduct in life.
After the Genocide, Mukankusi and her siblings were adopted by a Good Samaritan who took them back to school. “After the Genocide I started thinking about my mother’s wise words and worked hard to achieve what she advised me. While in secondary school I developed a strong desire to achieve what she had not”.
Mukankusi added: “When I was still young, I worked hard to make sure I never failed in whatever I did. I remembered my mother’s words and they have guided me all through.”
Mukankusi, a mother of one, says in addition to her mother’s words, she grew up wishing to become a prosecutor and an artist.
While in secondary school, she studied human sciences before she joined Univerisite Libre de Kigali (ULK) to pursue law. It was upon completion of the course that Mukankusi saw her dream of being a prosecutor come true. She was to be based Nzige court in Rwamagana District, Eastern Province.
“I wanted to be a lawyer and I worked hard to live the dream,” she said. “I also wanted to be an artiste; and I have managed to achieve that too although I have failed to get time to practice due to my busy schedule,” she says.
Indeed, she has a couple of commemoration songs she shared with students of Tumba College of Technology and the sorrounding community during the commemoration period. All together Mukankusi has composed close to 20 songs dedicated to the commemoration of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
Apart from commemoration songs such as Mfite ibanga ( I have a secret), Icyizere (hope), Urumuri rw’ubuzima (The light of life) Mana wari he? (God, where were you?) among others, Mukankusi also has many other classic songs.
“My future is bright. I am optimistic that there is no curse ahead of me and my future and that of my family will be bright,” she says.
She is happy about the progress made so far to build unity in the country, but cannot say how far reconciliation has reached. According to her, some people may talk about unity and reconciliation, but don’t put any efforts to achieve the goals.