Whenever she remembers the tragedy that befell her and her colleagues when the infiltrators attacked her school in Nyange and indiscriminately shot them after they defied orders to separate along ethnic lines, TheodetteAbayisenga sheds tears.
That was the mood that swept over Nyange SS, last week, during a ceremony to honour the heroes of the attack.
It was three years after the Genocide against the Tutsi when the remnants of the perpetrators, also known as Abacengezi, attacked her school and indiscriminately killed innocent students.
No sooner had the students finished taking their dinner than the militia forced themselves inside the classroom where Abayisenga was, ordering them to separate along ethnic lines so that they could kill the Tutsi who were in the classroom.
“We had just taken our dinner and gone back to class for revision. Just as we started our revision, the militiamen forced themselves into our class and asked us to separate along our ethnic groups. We defied the order and told them we were all Rwandans,” she says.
Infuriated by the students’ remarks, the militia started shooting at the innocent students indiscriminately, leaving seven of them dead.
The memories of the Nyange survivors still linger on vividly.
“I remember them entering and the shouting to us and asking us whether we knew them; I remember the noise of bullets and us screaming hopelessly to be spared. I remember the smell of bullets and blood,” narrates a 39-year-old from Nyange sector, Ngororero District.
Abayisenga lay among the dead as the militiamen left the place hoping they had killed all the students.
She had her two legs shot and other parts of the body. Fortunately, she was taken to Kabgayi Hospital along with other injured.
Sadly, Abayisenga’s leg was amputated and now she uses clutches to walk.
“I spent four years in hospital receiving treatment because I had been amputated. I endured extreme paid and had no hope to ever gain life and walk away from hospital, I used to think that I was going to become dependent to my family and had no hope to go back to school,” she adds
After four years of treatment, Abayisenga was discharged and she went back to school.
However, her dream to become a teacher could not be realised as it could require her to stand for long period. She enrolled for an accounting course instead.
“I managed to study despite the delay and later enrolled at the former National University of Rwanda with support from Government. I completed the university and have so far worked with various institutions,” she says
Abayisenga graduated in 2009 and served as in-charge of people living with disabilities in Ngororero District, where she currently works as the district logistics officer.
She previously worked for various institutions, including the National Commission for the fight Against Genocide (CNLG) as a guide at Nyange memorial site, and as an officer at Rwanda Social Security Board, among other positions.
“I have regained hope and I am now contributing to the national development. I have managed to complete my studies and support my siblings. I have a family and despite the disability, I can’t say I am as vulnerable as many others. I am thankful that the Government supported us survivors and are happy to be one of the living heroes. I believe in a better a united and reconciled Rwanda and that what happened won’t happen ever again,” he notes.
Abayisenga is one of people who are mending the society through preaching unity and reconciliation through various platforms.
There are over 47 heroes categorised among the Imena category 39 of whom are living heroes.
Six of them, namely, SylvestreBizimana, Chantal Mujawamahoro, BéatriceMukambaraga, SéraphineMukarutwaza, Hélène Benimana, and Valens Ndemeye, were killed on the spot while two others died later.
In 2002, the survivors of Nyange attack started an association to uphold their legacy and named it Komezubutwari (Uphold heroism).
The association is engaged in keeping together Nyange Heroes and their families and promoting the culture of peace building and heroism.