Genocide survivors, perpetrators in their own words

Leaders found us in the church and told us that we should go to Murambi. They told us that they couldn’t get enough soldiers to protect us if we remained in several areas.

Juliette Mukakabanda, Genocide survivor, Murambi District. ‘Leaders found us in the church and told us that we should go to Murambi. They told us that they couldn’t get enough soldiers to protect us if we remained in several areas. They promised security in Murambi and we believed them. But it turned out that it was a trap as they wanted us to gather in one place so it would be easier for them to massacre all of us.’

Fidèle Rurangirwa. Genocide Survivor, Rutsiro District. ‘Every survivor is working hard to uplift their lives and we have achieved a lot in that aspect. Survivors now have decent accommodation, are able to educate their children and access medical care.’

Joseph Bagirinshuti, reformed Genocide convict; from Nyabihu District. ‘I will continue to preach love and unity among my children, friends and neighbours. I will stand actively against any ideology that might promote divisionism, hatred or discrimination. That is the least I can do for a country I helped destroy 20 years ago.’

Emmanuel Nyirimbuga. Genocide perpetrator. ‘During the Genocide, I was aged 33. I was among people who manned a roadblock that was just metres from this school [Murambi Technical School] and there we selected Tutsis to be killed based on their identity cards.

Later, we attacked the school itself. The then leaders used to tell us that Tutsis were our enemies and that if we didn’t kill them, they would be the ones to kill us. They also told us that killing Tutsis would allow us to take over their property. On April 18, we tried to launch an attack on people who were gathered at Murambi but they repulsed us.

Later, on April 21, in the wee hours, we surrounded the school. Gendarmes started firing and throwing grenades into the crowd. We later followed with machetes, clubs, arrows, axes and swords finishing off those who were still alive. I carried a nail-studded club; we called it Nta mpongano y’Umwanzi (‘No atonement for the enemy’).

In 1998, I was arrested for my role in the killings. I confessed and sought forgiveness. In 2007, a Gacaca court sentenced me to seven years in jail, but as I had already served a sentence, I was spared another jail life. I feel ashamed for my role in the Genocide.

For my inhumane acts, I once again seek forgiveness from the Rwandan people, the government and, particularly, survivors.

As a young man, I was lured into committing atrocities instead of using my energy to build the country. Twenty years down the road, young individuals should learn from our history and never act as we did. They should rather use their strengths and skills to build, not to destroy and never accept to be lured into killings or destroying our motherland again.’

Eric Ngarambe, 44, former Genocide convict. ‘We were taught to hate Tutsis when we were young, especially in schools. During the Genocide, we thought by killing Tutsis we were contributing to keeping our country safe. We had been taught that the enemy was the Tutsi.  

Today, I regret my acts. The guilt of my deeds lives with me. I thank government for fostering unity and reconciliation. The Kwibuka Flame further enlightens us and is a symbol that we will stick to what is good and never commit evil again.’

Joseph Ntibiringirwa, 40. Former Genocide convict. ‘It is sad Rwanda was destroyed by its own citizens and I regret being one of them. I apologised for my evil acts and I am thankful to those I offended for forgiving me unconditionally. We must all put aside anything that might tear our country apart once again. Together, we can achieve a lot.

This torch we have welcomed is a sign that we have totally overcome divisionism and discrimination which led us to the Genocide.’

Dominique Mukeshimana. Genocide perpetrator, Muhanga District. ‘While growing up, our parents taught us to hate some of our neighbours and fellow countrymen. We were always told that Tutsis were bad people. When the killings erupted, some of the then leaders spread messages that the enemy is the Tutsis.

That, coupled with the bad lessons from our parents, pushed me into the killings. I did not kill any Tutsis with my hands. My only crime was handing them over to the killers. I thought I was helping the country get rid of its enemies, but I was wrong.’

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