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'I have not healed but I have hope for the future'

Saturday June 12 2021
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Many Survivors of 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi face personal challenges during commemoration. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

By SANDRINE UMUTONIWASE

Just when seven-month pregnant Hyancithe Mukamuringa and her husband then living in Remera near Christus Centre, were settling down to enjoy their marriage and preparing for the arrival of their first born, the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi began.

On that day, at about 8pm, they learnt from the radio that the then president Juvenal Habyarimana had died in a plane crash.

Fear gripped them after they heard people were being hunted down based on their ethnicity and killed.

“Despite that, we went to bed as usual. Early the next morning, around 5.30am, my husband woke up and prepared for work. But before he left, he turned on the radio and we heard a curfew announced banning all movement. My husband exclaimed, ‘we are going to die.’ He was worried about my pregnancy and was thinking about finding a way to escape to his grandmother’s home in Rwamagana.

But the curfew meant he couldn’t do much.” They heard gunshots in the neighbourhood. Neighbours had come over to their house. Men stayed outside, leaving the women indoors.

“When I was about to take a shower, I saw, from the bathroom window, a group of men enter our home asking my husband for his identity card. They took him with them.”

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She left the bathroom, bathing abandoned, to find out where they were taking him but the sounds of gunfire scared her off. But before she backed off, she heard commands that Hutu search for and kill anyone of Tutsi descent.

“I waddled back to the house and tried to hide under the bed but could not fit in due to my pregnancy.”

She hid under the ironing table instead. Luckily, it was big enough. “People were screaming all over. I took my rosary and prayed. After a while, our neighbour’s maid came and told ours that the men had killed my husband.

A neighbour whose husband was Hutu later came and took me in.” She lived at the neighbour’s for a week until the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) evacuated them to Amahoro Stadium, where she stayed for a week, but she fell sick and was transferred to Byumba.

On June 2, she gave birth to a boy. Unfortunately, she had not carried any clothes for the baby so the nurses wrapped it in an eight-year-old’s clothes.

Later, Mukamuringa’s husband’s brother, who was a soldier in the RPF, brought food while friends bought her son clothes. She struggled through life with only one motivation: Her son’s happiness and decided to never remarry.

“The experiences that fellow widows who remarried shared dissuaded me from remarrying.”

When the son became of age, she told him of his father’s death. “Though I have not healed, I am a happy business woman with much hope for the future.”

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