At just 7 years old, Albert Nsengimana witnessed his own mother send his older siblings to be killed in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. The traumatic experience affected the 7- year-old during his childhood and he published a book recently called Ma mère ma tué’, which means “My mother killed me.”
The book details how he survived being killed in a plot orchestrated by his own mother.
Below are the excerpts:
Tell us about your life before the Genocide.
My family lived happily in Eastern province, Kayonza district, Kabarondo sector before the Genocide. We were nine children, I was the seventh born. My mother was Hutu and my father Tutsi.
We lived a simple life in the small village. Before the genocide, I noticed a group of young boys above 12 years from Hutu families going for trainings; however, I was never bothered to know why they were trained. Little did I know that they were warming up for mass killings.
My father was always mocked by his peers who were hutu about his physical features and also referred to as “inyenzi”, to mean cockroach.
What happened during the Genocide and how did you survive?
On April 7, 1994, the media announced the death of President Juvénal Habyarimana that had occurred a day before and claimed that it was the Tutsi that shot the plane down and warned the Hutus to kill the Tutsi before they kill them first.
Around 9 AM on the next day, I was with my little brothers at home, when we witnessed men walking with weapons around the village. Octavien Ngenzi, the mayor of Kabarondo then, said to the community members that had converged not so far from our house, that , “The only enemy you have are the Tutsis, go prepare your weapons so that we kill them all.”
Albert Nsengimana’s book details how his own mother took her children to be killed because they were born to a Tutsi father. / Sam Ngendahimana
My uncle was the head of the perpetrators who promised to kill us. We left with my two elder brothers to search for where to hide.
That moment is still fresh in my mind. I witnessed three of my brothers being beheaded and chopped in to pieces. I was all alone in the forest; I had spent two days without food or water so I thought I would go back to my grandmother’s house for one more last time to plead to them for salvage.
On reaching there, my mother had taken my two young brothers to the killing grounds and they were killed immediately by my uncle who led the perpetrators.
When my mother came back, she told me to wash my hands and take some water; I smiled thinking that she was going to serve me food but that wasn’t the case. My mother took me to the killing grounds.
That moment, as the Hutus celebrated for killing many Tutsis, cheering and drinking local brew, my uncle who had been assigned by my mother to kill me, had a fight with another perpetrator because he had a Tutsi wife. The two killed each other and during that confusion I escaped and sought refuge in a church.
But that too didn’t offer any sanctuary because some of the priests would allow in the Interahamwe to come kill us. Some of us escaped to a nearby forest where we stayed for weeks without food or shelter until a group of RPF soldiers rescued us.
What happened after liberation?
In 1995, I went to the police to report what mother had done and she was arrested. She was later found guilty for taking part in the genocide and was jailed. Although I visited her in prison, my mother never apologised for what she did. She was released in 2003, but died shortly after in 2004.
I continued with my studies and graduated from the University of Lay Adventists of Kigali in 2016.
Tell us about your new book, what is it about?
My book is titled, Ma mere ma tue’, which means “My mother killed me.” Although she didn’t kill me physically, she tortured me psychologically and took my siblings to be killed. This book is about my life before, during and after the genocide.
The book was published this year in France and Canada. It is written in French but I hope to translate it in Kinyarwanda soon. It can be got from Kirezi Library at Rwf 15,000. The book will be launched on May 31.
How did you manage to carry on after the Genocide?
Healing is a process, through writing this book and sharing my experience, I have managed to express my pain and I now feel better. I also have friends who love and encourage me to be stronger.
When did you start writing this book?
I started writing this book in 2011 but I never really focused on it that much, each time I wrote something, I could tear it until when I gave it my whole mind and heart.
What advice would you give to other Genocide survivors?
Forgive but don’t forget. I forgave my mother and all the perpetrators that killed my family but I can’t forget their acts. We have good governance in Rwanda; we should, therefore, do our best to build our country.
Let’s stand against genocide ideology. Let’s write many books about the Genocide against the Tutsi.