Catholic Priest who attempted suicide during 1994 Genocide

In 1994 Father Vedaste Kayisabe, a priest of Mukarange Parish located in Kayonza district (Eastern Rwanda) struggled through a horrendous killing spree.Injured with deep cuts, he camouflaged by hiding among the annihilated corpses in his Mukarange home Church and survived.During the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, over a million people were slaughtered.
Father Vedaste Kayisabe (Photo S.Rwembeho)
Father Vedaste Kayisabe (Photo S.Rwembeho)

In 1994 Father Vedaste Kayisabe, a priest of Mukarange Parish located in Kayonza district (Eastern Rwanda) struggled through a horrendous killing spree.

Injured with deep cuts, he camouflaged by hiding among the annihilated corpses in his Mukarange home Church and survived.

During the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, over a million people were slaughtered.

Father Kayisabe said that there was a time in his life when he considered committing suicide. Thank heavens; a fellow hunted man restrained him from taking his own life.

Father Kayisabe is a priest who has reconciled with his past. He narrates his experience and journey to The New Times.

Bloodshed in Mukarange Parish
A day before former President Juvenile Habyarimana died in a plane crash, conflicts and chaos involving Burundian students had erupted at Mukarange Parish.

The students wanted special prayers for their leaders who had died in Burundi—this was denied because it was politically motivated.

It had something to do with the Genocide that followed in the next two days.

Many Tutsi families started coming one by one, complaining of killings and tortures that were going on in their villages. I was among them and we were given refuge in the Church for a night. Unfortunately, we were woken up by a massive attack by the Interahamwe.

They had surrounded the Church area from all corners; we divided ourselves into groups and the young men carried stones that they would use to confront them.

I moved behind a primary school to join others, only to encounter a gruesome scenario, where a middle aged woman had just been hacked to death with machetes.
It was my first time to see a battered body lying in a pool of blood.

After about six hours of confrontation with the Interahamwe, we managed to repel them since they had no firearms that day.

The next day a pick-up truck carrying gendarmerie (Police) came to the Church grounds to calm us down. They told us to go back into the Church premises where they would easily protect us.

We later learnt that the vehicle which belonged to the then Murambi Burgomasters Jean Baptiste Gatete, was carrying grenades and some guns to kill us.

We were ignorant of their usage, so when they opened and placed them down, and run away we thought they had cowered. We chased after the gendarmerie in a bid to push them out; we innocently walked over the grenades that exploded and killed many and maimed hundreds.

This is when fragments hit my left leg and I had to leap back to the Church. One Priest, Jean Bosco Gatare told me to go inside and rest.

I was later joined by several others.
I hid in a small room with two other people; a woman and a man. The interahamwe broke in and started killing people inside.

I could hear the militia going about their ‘work’ while my friends and neighbours groaned and breathed their last. It was horrible!

The killers had not yet reached us in the small church room, but knew some people were inside hiding.

Some interahamwe climbed over the roof and ordered us out waving grenades shouting out and snarling that we would be detonated, if we never listened to them.
Others were incessantly knocking at our door asking us to open or be burnt inside.

By this time, I had completely lost hope in everything on this earth and tried to commit suicide. I had a spear next to me that I used to defend myself.

I used my fingers slowly to trace where my heart was located, but as I pointed the spear towards my chest, a man seated next to me pulled it away.

He said, “You don’t need to kill yourself, let the interahamwe take the sin of shedding your blood.”

While we waited for ourtime, we heard them brag that Father Jean Bosco Gatare had been shot dead by the Interahamwe while forcing their way into the Church.
Somehow, during the confusion of the killings, I managed to slowly crawl out of the room and hide under heaps of bodies, playing dead.
 
The Interahamwe trampled on me like they did other dead bodies, while searching and finishing off those who were still breathing.I did not move or make a sound.

Trouble came when one of the interahamwe became skeptical, he couldn’t imagine how I could have died yet I had no injury on my face.

I only had fragments in my leg. He then hit me several times in the head, mouth and legs, but I never shook my body, probably due to shock.

So he thought I was dead and left me. With my head drenched in blood, I was counted among the dead.

Later that evening, I slowly scampered away from the church and met an old woman who hid me and treated my wounds with traditional herbs until the Inkotanyi soldiers came and saved me.

This is a long story cut short, but the fact that I had lost faith in God to commit suicide yet I survived the Genocide, still haunts me.

mugitoni@yahoo.com

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