When Genocide survivors become authors

Director General of Research and Documentation at CNLG, Dr Gasanabo Jean Damascene, and Florence Prudhomme during the launch of the ‘Cahiers de Memoires’ in Kigali on July 8, 2019. Craish Bahizi.

Genocide survivors on Tuesday launched a 407-page book, ‘Cahiers de Memoires’, which is a compilation of testimonies of survivors on their life before and during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi and their journey to survival.

The book, loosely translated as ‘Books of Memories’, was written under the guidance of French author, Florence Prudhomme, with funding from the National Commission for the fight against Genocide (CNLG).

The commission also provided assistance in making corrections in the book before being published.

The book was originally published in French, and later translated to Kinyarwanda by local publisher Edition Bakame, under the title ‘‘Amakaye y’Urwibutso’ to give a chance to more Rwandans to fully catch insights in the book.

The book comprises two editions whereby 15 authors contributed to the first edition in 2014 while the second edition, published in 2019, features 20 authors.

During the book presentation, Genocide survivors who contributed to the book revealed that it was not an easy step to make at the very beginning when Prudhomme tried to convince them to document their testimonies through a book.

“After she told me that we must write to respond to those who deny the Genocide, I realised I was in the best position to testify because I lived that tragic moment for a long time, even before the Genocide,” said Julienne Mukamazera, one of the Genocide survivors who contributed to the book.

“But I mostly had to write not only for my children, but for the entire young and future generations so they can know the reality of what happened to us, not just during the 1994 Genocide but in the past 60 years,” she added.

Prudhomme has been involved in several of activities in Rwanda since she arrived in the country in 2004, and because she has been working closely with Genocide survivors through her organization ‘Rwanda Avenir’, she proposed that they write.

In their book, the authors share memories of their destroyed families, the horror they endured in that chronology from the days and nights they walked fleeing the killings to the discriminatory state of life they lived since 1959 until the 1994 Genocide which cost over a million of Tutsi in just 100 days.

“I had known them for years when I suggested that they write. They suffered a lot and sometimes their past would lead them into being affected by trauma. I thought I would help them to discard what happened to them in the past by writing down whatever they had in their hearts,” she said.

“They are really sad stories and terrible stories to tell but I thought it would be a good opportunity for them to write their stories to let the world know the Genocide, partly in response to those who write it the way they want. They helped each other and understood each other while sharing their testimonies,” she added.

Prudhomme said writing down testimonies was very important for the young generation to understand what happened to their parents and grandparents instead of being misled by stories in books published by foreign authors.

Marie Ntabugi, who is also an author, hailed the work done by the survivor authors as a way to give honour to their lost families.

“When you are a Genocide survivor, you feel like you are already dead along with your slain loved ones. You feel like you owe something to those who lost their lives to save you, who fought to help you regain the right to have a country. Writing is a good way to mourn and honour the loved ones,” she said

Prudhomme is the author of ‘Le Rwanda, l’Art de se Reconstruire’, published in 2015.

Jean Damascene Bizimana, the CNLG executive secretary, told survivors not to give up but to continue documenting their experiences and get all your memories out so the world knows the truth as told by those who were affected by the Genocide.

“Your testimonies play a very big role in silencing Genocide deniers. You can continue to write as long as there are lots of stories to tell about the sorrow and the sad moments you endured with your families and friends. You can die but your testimonies will remain,” he told the authors.

So far, three books have been written from the testimonies of Genocide survivors while another one is being written on the testimonies of Tutsi who survived the 1973 killings.


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