National volleyball captain Christophe Mukunzi Gasarasi’s father was killed by the Interahamwe militia during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. Yet 23 years later, the family is yet to locate his remains so they can accord him a dignified burial.
Mathias Gasarasi, his son says, is said to have been killed by the militia from their ancestral home in Birambo in the former Kibuye prefecture (now in Karongi District), a day after he had managed to hide his young family at a relative’s home in another village.
Mukunzi, 28, vividly remembers the events of the 100 days of the Genocide during which their home was attacked by machete-wielding men. He was only six then, having been born on February 8, 1988 to Veronique Nibasenge and Mathias Gasarasi.
Born in the now Birambo Sector of Karongi District, Mukunzi is the second-born in a family of four boys.
His father was a businessman and plumber.
“We don’t exactly know what happened to our father and we’ve never known the whereabouts of his remains, all we know is that he was killed by the Interahamwe,” said Mukunzi.
He recalled: “All I remember is that he took us away from home to our grandmother in Bwakira where he left us for safety because we were not known in that village. He then returned to Birambo along with his friend the day after our home was attacked at night. That was the last time I saw or heard from my father.”
“Our father was a popular man in Birambo, and he was one of the main targets when the perpetrators invaded our area. I was young but I could understand everything. When his friend came back a week later, he told us that on return to Birambo, they were attacked and they were scattered in different directions.”
“We later came to learn that once dad arrived at our family home in Birambo, he was immediately picked up and led away to a place we have never known from where he was killed.”
All his other relatives, including his father’s siblings, also perished in the Genocide.
No justice yet
He said the family miraculously survived the killings after the Rwanda Patriotic Army liberators captured Kibuye.
Over two decades later, the family does not only remain in the dark with regard to the fate of Gasarasi Sr, but they have also never managed to have anyone brought to book for his murder.
“We have decided that we have no choice but to move on,” he said. “My mother organises a low key memorial service every April during which we pray for my father but that’s just about it.”
The 23rd official national mourning week started Friday last week and will end on Thursday (April 13), but commemoration activities will continue across the country and beyond for a total of 100 days.
“Every other time people give us contrasting information about the possible whereabouts of my father’s remains. We wanted to give him a decent burial but our efforts have been in vain. Some people told us that his remains are in Gitwe, others have said they could be in Gashari, but we are yet to succeed locating them,” said the national captain.
“We hope one day we’ll finally locate his remains and accord him a decent burial.”
Mukunzi says the death of his father changed his life and that of his family, since his mother became the sole bread winner at a time the kids were still toddlers.
The mother was pregnant of their last born at the time their father was killed.
His brothers include Hanson Gasarasi Micomyiza, Christian Gasarasi Nkurunziza, and Clement Gasarasi, who plays for national league side Kigali Volleyball Club.
The former Kigali Volleyball Club star says sports has been and continues to be a key tool in the unity and reconciliation of Rwandans.
The soft-spoken Rwanda international says he has since found hope and comfort in sport.
He plays for Bulgarian first division side VC Marek Union-Ivkoni and is currently in Rwanda recovering from a shoulder knee he sustained late last year.
“I think we need to continue on the part of unity as Rwandans and embrace everyone with love. Sports will continue to play a key part in this,” he told The New Times.
Mukunzi added: “We need to continuously mend the relations among Rwandans and work together toward stronger and prosperous country.”
Mukunzi played for Kigali Volleyball Club (KVC) since 2007 before turning professional four years later when he joined Libyan side Tarsana Club.
He also featured for Blida Club of Algeria, Qatari side Al Arabi Sports Club, Algerian side El Fanar Ain-Azel Club and Turkey’s Payas Belediye Sport Club.