Kwibuka 25: the Genocide through the eyes of a 12-year-old

In ‘Moi, le dernier Tutsi’ (Me, the Last Tutsi), Habonimana describes how he witnessed killings targeting Tutsi families in his home village of Mayunzwe, Southern Rwanda.

Hundreds turned up in Kigali on Tuesday for a book launch by genocide survivor Charles Habonimana, who put together a carefully documented story of his experience as a twelve-year old witnessing a terrible genocide in his home village.

First Lady Jeannette Kagame was among those who graced the launch, an event that also attracted so many young survivors of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi among other participants.

In ‘Moi, le dernier Tutsi’ (Me, the Last Tutsi), Habonimana describes how he witnessed killings targeting Tutsi families in his home village of Mayunzwe, Southern Rwanda.

For some reason, the killing squads Interahamwe in his home village decided that Habonimana would be the last one of all Tutsis to be killed here because they wanted to keep showing people how Tutsis look like.

That fate created a huge amount of suffering for the twelve-year old, who had to know about every details of the killing spree, losing his both parents and six siblings, uncles, aunties, and almost every member of Tutsi families that he knew.

With a heavy heart, Habonimana said on Tuesday as he launched his book that he wanted to release his story for future generations to keep the memory of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

“An important tool for the future that will last for centuries,” he said of his book.

He added: “I saw the whole genocide. I was living with Sebuhuku (a militia leader in the village). I heard and saw everything. I wanted to transmit this memory through these pages (of writing)”.

The terrible genocide that happened in the author’s home village of Mayunzwe, currently in Ruhango District, is still fresh in his mind.

He said that on 23rd April, the first victim of genocide was killed in Mayunzwe and the following day was the beginning of a mass slaughter in which his dad, mother, and six siblings were killed.

Only he and one of his sisters survived the terrible genocide, thanks to soldiers of the Rwanda Patriotic Army (RPA) who defeated the killers and stopped the slaughter.

For a long time, Habonimana had wanted to tell his story to the world but didn’t have the writing skills or information about getting in touch with publishers.

But thanks to French author Daniel Le Scornet, he was able to publish his book and the latter is a co-author.

Looking at what happened in Rwanda through Habonimana’s story, Le Scornet told the audience at the book launch that what happened in Rwanda leaves people fearing that genocide is a crime that can happen again anytime and anywhere.

“It is possible in the future for genocide to happen in any country, even in democratic countries,” he said of what he thinks when he looks at how Rwanda’s genocide happened in the know and sight of the whole world.

Habonimana said that, for the sake of memory and comforting genocide victims who include his beloved parents and siblings, he will always be ready to tell people what happened.

“I will always be that 12-year old boy who knows and tells the genocide story. (For survivors) Genocide has become our reference for everything we do and say,” he told his audience at the book launch.

The book’s title, ‘Me, the Last Tutsi’, powerfully summarises the feeling of every Tutsi survivor of the genocide looking at the time of the slaughter when they would feel like being the only Tutsi remaining in their communities as they witnessed the death of their relatives and their continued hunting.