Penine Rutayisire was employed by Electrogaz in August 1990. The parastatal has since changed to Water Sanitation Corporation Ltd (WASAC) and Rwanda Energy Group (REG) after it was split into two over the years.
While other employees enjoyed work, Tutsi workers then were the subject of psychological torture and victimisation, Rutayisire says.
She was reliving the past experience of ethnic segregation at an event to pay tribute to more than 172 former Electrogaz staff killed during 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
“I worked in Kigali station. I happened to be positioned to receive many people but most could pass without greeting because they thought that I was a collaborator of Rwanda Patriotic Army. Due to psychological torture; out of fear I could enter a toilet and cry from there,” she recounted.
The victimisation worsened with the employment of a new director who swiftly fired some Tutsi and demoted others, Rutayisire added.
“I was transferred to laboratory department yet I barely had related knowledge. I had studied social work. Even before that, they had demoted me on accusations of collaborating with Rwanda Patriotic Army. Some other Tutsi were jailed on false claims that they would poison the city water.”
Not only was Rutayisire demoted, but she was transferred to maintenance services in the group of extremists (CDR-Coalition) who were always listening to hate speech on RTLM radio.
“It was unbearable,” she said of the situation at work back in the days running up to the Genocide.
CDR-Coalition for the Defence for the Republic, during Juvenal Habyarimana regime, was a Rwandan army – left wing Hutu power political party that played a major role in inciting genocide ideology.
It was allied to the then ruling party MRND.
CDR’s slogan was “Mube maso” (which translated to ‘watch out’) warning the militia to be aware that Tutsi were enemies invading.
“But God answered my prayers. I got another job elsewhere but women who worked there were happy with my exit as they hated me. My colleagues were also replaced by CDR people. Before our going we were told to train them so that they could replace us,” Rutayisire said.
Speaking at the event, the Minister for Infrastructure, James Musoni, called for unity and reconciliation through Ndi Umunyarwanda programme.
“We employ people on merit regardless of where they come from,” Musoni said. “We do not want to emulate the past divide and rule style… this was the essence of liberation.”
Musoni said the current government believes in equal rights for all citizens, which has informed several development projects such as Girinka, and VUP to lift all poor Rwandan families out of poverty.
Senator Wellars Gasamagera said telling the truth about the Genocide would disarm deniers in and outside the country.
James Sano, WASAC director-general, reaffirmed government’s commitment to ensure that Rwandans have access to power and clean water.
The gaps left by the Genocide must be filled with our commitment, he said.
On the same day, Wasac and REG connected 54 households of Genocide widows and orphans to electricity and clean water in Rukoma and Kanyinya villages in Kamonyi District.
Other 14 households in Nyabugogo Cell in Nyarugenge District were connected to clean water.
“The light we got lights our hearts; we are redeemed after the tragedies that befell us. We could see electrical cables without hope of getting power but we sigh with relief now. We could not get power to charge phones, no one could follow news on TV,” said Esperance Mukamusigwa, 62, a survivor.