Yohani Bizimana was a public servant for over 30yrs the Rwandan Office of Tourism and National Parks (ORTPN). He narrates his encounters with death and how he has found hope 16 years after the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
NAME: YOHANI BIZIMANA
MARITAL STATUS: MARRIED
EDUCATIONAL BACKGROUND: COLLEGE SAINT ANDREW KIGALI, NATIONAL UNIVERSITY OF RWANDA, BUTARE.
I was 50 yrs old, married with six children. April 6, 1994 started like any normal day but things started changing drastically. I was from watching a World Cup football match at KIE (Kigali Institute of Education) former (IMSEA] (The African-Mauritius Institute for Statistics and Applied Economics) with other village members and we saw a ball of fire at Kanombe Airport near the home of the former President Habyarimana.
We all went to our homes without knowing what had happened. The next day a neighbour came and told us the news about the crash and the President’s death.
He also said that his landlord had told him that ‘ak’abatutsi karashobotse’ meaning that it’s the end of the Tutsi tribe. I got surprised because the crash was not caused by the Tutsi.
Immediately we switched on the Radio and there were announcements that were informing people not to leave their homes. I did not worry because even in the earlier days when the Inkotanyi Rwanda Patriotic Force used to attack, Habyarimana’s government would air announcements on Radio that people should stay in their homes due to the insecurity.
So we got used to these kinds of announcements and stayed at home. However after such attacks, people would be taken from their homes being accused of being “ibyitso’’ meaning RPF accomplices.
On the 7th April, 1994, Hutu interahamwe started setting up road blocks within the village centres; we then got to know that most of the Tutsi Ministers were killed at midnight of that same day.
We spent three days indoors. On April 9, 1994 at around 6:00 a.m government soldiers stormed our home and the Hutu interahamwe came in, looted and took all the money we had. They forced us to lie on our bellies while they did whatever they pleased.
I had a bar in front of my home. The soldiers started drinking the beers that were in it. They called me to join them and because I was scared and had no choice, I did what they asked me to do.
During this time one soldier asked for my family background and he got to know that we came from the same hometown of Gikongoro, today’s Nyamagabe. That same evening, these soldiers escorted us and took us to KIE (former IMSEA).
At that time the School was occupied by foreign students from West African countries especially Senegal, Nigeria and Mali.
Foreign students had connections with soldiers of MINUAR (United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda) who came and picked them from the school and took them to Kanombe Airport within three days.
There were also Rwandese students and professors who remained on the school premises. My family was able to stay there since my wife was the school secretary.
After two days, “interahamwe ninjas’’ came to KIE and asked to present our “indagamuntu’’ (National identity cards) from each one of us. We were then ordered to make lines according to our ethnic differences.
They told us to make several lines when leaving the school premises. We headed to where the current round about next to Bank Populaire in Kimironko, is. We found two pick-up trucks full of gendarmes (police) waiting.
Immediately, all those in the first row were shot dead by the police. I was saved by the other soldier who was from my home town but, my wife and our three children were killed in the scuffle. I escaped back to KIE with my remaining three children.
Some students took my three children to Gitarama since I wouldn’t go with them because of the road blocks everywhere—there was no way I was would escape.
Soldiers, including the one who saved me, come looking for me every day until one day, when a some soldier got hold of me and told me to pay him so that he would spare me from being taken to the “killing spot’’ where the current roundabout in Kimironko is.
I gave him my radio that I had got from abroad since it was the only property I was able to get from my home while we escaped with my family. He accepted and I survived being killed.
On April 17, 1994 I decided to leave KIE at night and go to the Parliament building. I crawled on my belly until I reached Amahoro stadium the following morning.
I saw people at the stadium and first investigated to see if they were my fellow victims. I joined the group of people at the stadium and we were protected by the RPF but we had to be shifted since the “interahamwe’’ kept throwing bombs into the stadium.
We were taken to Byumba refugee camp. I left the refugee camp when the RPF had conquered Kigali and went to Gitarama to look for my children.
I failed to find them. However after a few days, my 5 and 8 year-old girls managed to find their way home. My 11 year-old daughter had been separated from the rest but was later safely brought home by the RPF soldiers.
My wife and our three children had been buried in a ditch at Kimironko; they were later cremated at Kibagabaga Genocide Memorial Site.
After the genocide, I resumed work but later retired and got married again. My wife is a nurse. We have had two children and we are family with a total of five children. My oldest daughter is married now.