April 10, 1994 will forever be one of the worst days in 40-year-old Jean Claude Rukundo’s life. Prior to this day, just like the rest of Tutsi across the country at the time, Rukundo had spent a couple of days jumping from one hideout to another. Together with his family, They somehow felt that they would succeed in outwitting the Interahamwe mobs until help came their way. When the Genocide against the Tutsi started, the family of four lived in a small village of Fumbwe in the present-day Rwamagana District. Aged 13 at the time, Rukundo had full knowledge that people of the Tutsi identity were being hunted by among others, their neighbours, whom they had lived together since time immemorial. “On April 10, things turned for the very worst. At around 8am the militia found my father where he was hiding and led him back to our home. They told him that they wanted him to give them money, saying they were sure he had stashed it away somewhere in the home,” he narrated to The New Times. Whilst he was not there to witness the torture his father went through at the hands of his eventual killers, Rukundo was told he had pleaded for mercy after he found that he was left with no penny to give to the killers with hope to buy himself another extra day on earth. Fumbwe Catholic Church where Rukundo and other Tutsis were as Interahamwe attacked them during the Genocide against the Tutsi. Without a family member to witness his death, Jean Bosco Mazimpaka, as Rukundo’s father was called was battered and then slaughtered, only to be left in the corridor between the two houses of their home. “We were still on the run at the time, I had dressed like a girl because perpetrators at the time had a bit of lenience towards young girls. “Then suddenly, one of the killers saw me and recognized me. He seized me and took me to where my father’s body was lying dismembered beyond recognition.” He lied in a pool of blood, which was still fresh and the body was saddled by a group of his killers. At the scene, Rukundo recalls his father’s fresh blood dripping off a machete that was being held by one of the killers. “He (one of the killers) saw me looking at his machete and suddenly grabbed me. He stuffed the machete in my mouth and asked me to taste my father’s fresh blood. It was the lowest point of my life,” said Rukundo, choking on tears, 27 years after the incident. The harrowing memory, Rukundo says, makes him wish he had joined his other family members and loved ones who were killed. “I still feel the taste of that blood after all this time and this is something I will die with.” “What they did to us is inhumane, it was beyond any physical violence you can inflict on someone. Imagine a person kills your father, dismembers him then ask you to lick the blood off the machete that they have killed him with,” he adds. At that time, Rukundo said his mother and sister had also been brought to the scene. “My mother was standing next to me holding my sister.” Rescued by a drizzle At the scene where his father’s body – or what was left of it – was lying, Rukundo says energy had left his body, leaving him with no hope to survive the militia, to him, death was imminent. Miraculously, he says, the skies opened up and started pouring, which prompted the attackers to leave the dejected family, helplessly staring at their lifeless provider. “We were left to die another day.” “We ran back and hid at the home of our neighbours who were gracious enough to take us in. After that some people who knew my father came and hurriedly buried him.” The remaking Around April 19, after an excruciating two weeks, Rukundo says that the soldiers of RPF-Inkotanyi overrun the militia in his neighbourhood and rescued them. “The RPF soldiers took us together with others and resettled us in camps that had been set up.” Life at the camp was way better compared to what Rukundo had gone through in the past couple of weeks. “They fed us, nursed our wounds, and kept on reminding us that we were safe, which indeed we were.” “For a couple of months, we lived in the camp, until when it was safe enough to return to our village.” Commemorating doesn’t stop Now a representative of Ibuka in Fumbwe village, Rukundo says that during annual commemoration activities, survivors are taken back to the dark history. “These activities take us back to the dark past, and then there is that calm feeling of knowing that we are living a better life today.” “Remembering doesn’t stop, we don’t just remember in these 100 days only, you remember your person every time. We can’t stop thanking the former RPF soldiers that saved us and our people, they took us from hell to life.” To the survivors of the tragic era, Rukundo appealed that it is crucial to strive to lead a better life as well as fight genocide deniers who have continuously given wrong accounts of the country’s dark history. However, he decried that owing to the pandemic, various activities including gatherings at the grassroots level, laying wreath, visiting memorial sites has not been conducted like before, posing an even worse challenge for survivors.