Rwanda has always been a country of different stories stemming from its gory history.
Though many are sad and poignant, there are some encouraging ones as well, for instance those that depict a positive turn-around of things for individuals, families and the country at large.
Recently, one of those positive stories emerged yet again! A lady who had not seen her family for 26 years finally found her brother and sister.
Christine Akayezu, now 28, was about only two years old when the Genocide against the Tutsi separated her from her family. As the 1994 killings unfolded, her father was killed, and the lives of the rest of the family members were in danger.
Fearing the worst, the mother distributed her children among different families, to increase their chances of survival.
She gave out Akayezu, her elder sister Geraldine Bayizere, and eldest brother Bertin Kwizera – each to a different family, while she stayed with the other two children. This is according to an account by Kwizera who was 7-years old then.
The killings were sustained for more time. By the time they stopped, Akayezu’s mother and the two children that stayed with her had been killed.
Bayizere and Kwizera survived, and in the aftermath of the tragedy came to meet since the families to which they had been given were neighbours.
Akayezu also survived, but her two siblings didn’t have enough information about her. The family that was taking care of her gave her out to soldiers of the Rwanda Patriotic Army, the armed wing of the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF), who also handed her over to a charity organization called Concern.
Being a toddler, she did not know what was taking place.
However, there are some things that later gave her a clue about her early story.
For instance, she says that according to her identification documents from the orphanage, it is clear that they neither knew her name nor relatives.
On her orphanage ID document that she got to see later, the name written was “Kijyambere,” and this was because she was a big young girl.
Fate reunites her with her siblings
In 1995, a family adopted her and took her from the orphanage. She started a new journey with her new family – an old lady and some other young children related to her.
It is here that she got to be named Christine Akayezu. She thought this was her biological family, but sometimes when she conflicted with the fellow young children at home, they could tell her that she was “picked” from somewhere.
This aroused her curiosity. She tried to instigate conversations about it, but the old lady could not tell her the story. It was until she was in Primary 5 that the old lady told her the real story about her life.
“I had sorrow and heartache for not having my family. I used to ask myself: do I have relatives, and are they still alive?” she says.
She studied and finished secondary school. At 19 years old she met with a young man and they got married.
They gave birth to two children. The need to know her family increased as the children persistently asked her to show them their grandparents, aunties and uncles.
She would tell them to relax, promising that they will see them.
Her husband kept encouraging her about trying to look for her relatives. This year, she decided to take a step, and sought media assistance.
One local media house gave her a platform to announce for her family through a written news article and a video that were published for all readers and viewers.
Fortunately, one of the viewers was her eldest brother Bertin Kwizera.
“When we saw the video and heard what she said about the orphanage life and the places where she suspects to have come from, we connected the dots and came to suspect that this was our sister,” he said.
Kwizera and his sister Bayizere requested for her phone number, called her and requested for a meeting.
Upon meeting, they just got more persuaded that she was their sister from even her looks.
They later went for a DNA exam, and it turned out 99.9 percent.
It has now been a few weeks since they came together, and they have not yet believed that it really happened.
When talking about it, sometimes Kwizera gets emotional and starts sobbing.
Bayizere also shares feelings of sheer happiness.
“The sorrow we used to have and the thoughts of wondering about the whereabouts of our sibling are gone,” she says.
“I thank God who gave us back our sister. I want to encourage the people who are living like Christine used to live without family. They should take a step and not be afraid to look for their family because God is there and He does miracles,” she adds.
Even a number of their friends are so amazed at how things have turned out.
A friend of Kwizera, a musician Jean de Dieu Ngarukiyintwali aka Maître Dodiane, recently put out a song titled “Hobe,” aiming at welcoming Akayezu home.