Bamurange: Orphaned by Genocide, healed by sports

April 7, marked the commemoration, for the 23rd time, of the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi, in which over a million-people lost their lives.
Peace Bamurange, left, seen here playing for NUR against APR in the national women basketball league. S. Ngendahimana
Peace Bamurange, left, seen here playing for NUR against APR in the national women basketball league. S. Ngendahimana

April 7, marked the commemoration, for the 23rd time, of the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi, in which over a million-people lost their lives.

According to statistics, during the period between April 7 and July 4, more than 6 men, women and children were murdered every minute of every hour, of every day. This brutally-efficient killing was maintained for more than 3 months and as a result, over 75,000 children were orphaned.

 
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Bamurange takes aim as she attempts a free-throw for NUR against APR, a side she later signed for.

Among those orphaned is APR women basketball shooting guard, Peace Bamurange. At the time that killings started on April 7, 1994; Bamurange was just 1 year, 11 months, 26 days, enough not to understand an enemy.

 

Born on August 12, 1992 in Nasho sector, Kirehe district (then Kibungo) to Steven Kambanda (RIP) and Jean Musanabera and is the last born in the family of four, including two boys and two girls.

 

Escape from the hands of death

By 1992, the family was living in Ntungamo, Western Uganda but her pregnant mother had come to Rwanda to visit her family in Nasho where Bamurange was born and stayed there until 1994.

For staying in Rwanda, she never had a chance to see her biological father, who she says was a soldier in Rwanda Patriotic Army (RPA) and was killed by the enemy in 1994 in Nyacyonga, Gasabo district, shortly before the capture of Kigali.

“I never saw my father and he never saw me, I haven’t gotten anyone to tell me the truth about my father and how he died,” she revealed in an interview with Times Sport.

In 1994 when the killings began, Bamurange’s mother went back to Uganda to check on her other two siblings and left her and her brother with their grandmother.

She noted, “A few days later, though I was too young, I remember our family decided to flee to Tanzania but my grandma and my elder brother were left behind, and I went with my uncle and when we reached in Tanzania at a place called Benako, we heard that my grandma and my brother were thrown in a toilet alive and died.”

“While in the refugee camp in Tanzania, I was separated with my uncle because of overcrowding and I stayed with sympathizers until 1995 when we came back to Rwanda,” Bamurange recounts.

Upon return to Rwanda, Bamurange, who had no other family with her, stayed at Nyakarambi refugee camp in Kirehe district where, as luck would have it, she met her paternal aunt.

“I remember asking her where home was, who is my father and also asked her about my mother, who went to Uganda and never came back,” she disclosed.

She was later taken to Uganda by her aunt and reunited with her other brother and sister but never saw her mother, who, at that time, had also returned to Rwanda to search for them.

In 2008 while in senior three, Bamurange and her other siblings, were reunited with their mother, after 14 years.

How sports helped her overcome grief

Bamurange says that the fact that her father was a soldier, who died trying to liberate his country, has been one of the weapons she has used to overcome the psychological agony.

“Being a sportswoman has given me hope to live a normal life. It is always a difficult period for anyone who, was affected by the Genocide, directly or indirectly. Although I didn’t get a chance to see my father, he is my daily inspiration, whenever I remember that he gave his life for his country, I feel re-energized.”

She noted, “I did not have a proper childhood because of the genocide but playing basketball has been very helpful to me, I don’t get time to think much about my past.”

Bamurange says she started playing basketball while in senior five at Saint Aloys Rwamagana and when she joined university, she went on to feature for University of Rwanda, College of Arts and Social Sciences (UR-CASS) in the national league for four years until she graduated last year.

She signed for reigning league champions APR Women basketball club this season and she is aiming to continue playing for as long as possible.

editorial@newtimes.co.rw

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