, NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 10 – On April 6, 1994 an airplane carrying Rwanda’s President Juvénal Habyarimana was shot down with the death of the leader marking 100 unforgettable days in the country that left over 800,000 Tutsis dead.
Josephine Murebwayire witnessed it all in a tale that leaves many in tears with the only comfort within her being she lived to tell the sorrows encountered in a way she feels will prevent another ordeal not only in her country, but the world.
During the 24th commemoration of the 1994 Tutsi genocide in Rwanda, she narrated that it all started in 1959 right from the schools and hatred grew over time until it boiled over in 1994.
“The genocide started in 1959. In the school there was clear tension and harassment with animosity between Hutus and Tutsis. We the Tutsis were compelled to drink from different tea cups; blue cups with the Hutus using red ones. Our cups would later be thrown away,” she narrated.
“Upon my completion of my education and got married in 1974 and the family served to be a less rescue to my tribal background as I was the reference of how Tutsis looked like. People would line up at my house and to come and see how to differentiate a Hutu from a Tutsi,” she continued.
Fast forward to the year 1994 after the president’s death and the morning of April 7 she was met by military police who accused her children of being Tutsi soldiers.
“I was met by soldiers outside my home that morning and asked who had killed Habyarimana. They asked me for guns and if not, to provide all the money in the house. The soldiers stated the money did not belong to us and our time had come for us to leave.”
Josephine narrates emotionally of her witnessing the death of her entire family.
“I only felt the first cut on my head… the rest of the three head cuts were passive. I woke up only to find I still held my 13 year old daughter’s arm as I shook her lifeless body hoping she was still alive. My whole family had been killed; my husband and my six kids were all dead.”
I looked around and a pile of 450 people hacked to death at the Msave Seminary a place we had gone to seek refuge. All Tutsis had been hacked to death; no one was spared and I was the only one who survived,” a tearful Josephine narrates.
She said she still remembers her community members being referred to as snakes and cockroaches who needed to be kicked out of the country as the militia associated to the Hutus burned bodies.
She says she had to survive in a dirty toilet for almost a month with no food or clean water and injured hoping for the best.
“I hid in a dirty toilet for almost a month taking no food as I hoped for the best. I was severely injured with injuries on my head, ruptured lips and hurt ribs and all I took was clean water provided to me by a young man whom we hid with,” she says.
Josephine would in the month of May that year be rescued by the Rwanda Patriotic Forces (RPF) who took her to the hospital and ensured her recovery.
The act of her survival she says was only through the hand of God and believes her survival was to serve fellow victims of the genocide whom she joined for the healing process.
Speaking during the commemoration, Rwanda’s Ambassador to Kenya said her survival and narration was proof that genocide does not happen overnight but rather starts with classification in human traits before dehumanizing people.
He further says the world should never sit back and watch a country burn as it happened in his homeland.
However, he notes all was now in the past and appreciates his government’s effort in bringing the people together in socio-economic growth.