How I narrowly cheated death when killers came for us

Sunday April 23 2023
Eric Mwizerwa

Eric Mwizerwa, the Genocide survivor giving his testimony on April 7,2023, during the 29th Commomoration ceremony of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.Photo:Cyril NDEGEYA

By Ange Iliza

Events of April 7,1994 are still fresh in the minds of many victims of the Genocide Against the Tutsi. While many Rwandans lost their lives on this day, survivors like Eric Mwizerwa, who miraculously survived the attacks, are still shaken to the bones today when they remembers the fateful day.

During the week of commemoration, Mr Mwizerwa gathered the courage to share his story of how he survived the murders the day the country marked 29th national commemoration event.

Mr Mwizerwa grew up in Rusororo sector in Kigali, where he enjoyed a normal childhood with his family and friends. When the killings began, Mr Mwizerwa was trapped and there was no escape route.

Mr Mwizerwa's first close brush with death came when his neighbour, Gatikiri, arrived at his home on the morning of April 7. Mr Gatikiri was armed with a club spiked with nails and threatened to kill him and his family. The family knew they were in grave danger and decided to flee to a nearby church where around 15,000 other people had sought refuge.

For five days, Mr Mwizerwa and his family lived in the church, thinking that they were safe. They had been told that those who fled to church during the 1959 killings were spared. But on April 14, the church was raided. Mr Mwizerwa, however, survived the attack, but it was just the beginning of his ordeal.

The killers then told those who were still alive to come out of the church and they would be spared. Many of the survivors exited the church thinking it was over, only to be asked to pay for their death. Mr Mwizerwa witnessed the brutal murder of a woman who had paid Rwf1,000 for a bullet.


He fainted, and when he woke up, he was lumped together with dead bodies and burnt ones, which were covered in blood. Miraculously, he was uninjured. Mr Mwizerwa had cheated death for a second time.

From the church, Mr Mwizerwa joined a group of 17 other Tutsis who wanted to reach CND, now parliament, where the RPF soldiers were, for haven. But on their way, they were spotted by the killers and 10 people from the group were killed on the spot.

The rest of the survivors hid in a nearby house through the night. At dawn, they decided to let four of them leave the house first. Mr Mwizerwa left with three others, and immediately he left, the house was set on fire, killing his little sister.

Mr Mwizerwa was now the oldest in the group and had to lead the team to safety. But he didn't know the directions, so he decided to return to the church. When he got there, he found everyone was already dead except for his brother, whose legs had been amputated by a grenade.

His brother begged him to take him with him, but before he could, he heard the killers coming. He covered his brother with a piece of cloth, asked him to stay quiet, and ran to hide. When he returned, he had been beaten to death by a hammer. Mr Mwizerwa managed to spare one of the three children who had been with him in the bushy house.

He lied his way through many roadblocks, claiming that his father was Hutu untill he was taken to RPF soldiers.