A very dear friend, Marcel Rudasingwa (head of the UNICEF office in Nairobi, Kenya), posted this testimonial on Facebook yesterday. He has given me permission to reproduce it here. It is powerful and stands on its own merits. Much love goes to Marcel, Monica, and their two new children, Rose and Mico.
A personal testimony in honor of all the victims of the Rwandan genocide against the Tutsi
I survived the Rwandese genocide through luck. I left Rwanda on official mission on April 5th 1994. Twenty-four hours later the killings started. My family was trapped in the genocide. My wife survived but our five children did not. They were killed together with their grandmother, three cousins, an uncle an aunt and over 60 other people.
We learned from eyewitnesses that the carnage occurred on May 20th 1994. Our children: Paul, Edna, Christa, Emmanuella and Benjamin were 12, 10, 8, 6, and 4 when their lives were cut short. My wife and I have heard shocking accounts of what happened. We will never get to know the whole truth of what happened. Our main source of information was from people suspected of complicity or ashamed of doing nothing to avert the slaughter.
It all started in mid April when, more out of desperation than faith, some people gathered for sanctuary at the Central Rwanda Adventist Mission. On 20th May, the mission Treasurer called these people out of their hiding places to allegedly receive rations. They were gathered in my late father-in-law’s backyard located at the entrance to the mission. As though on cue, a jeep full of armed gendarmes (police) sped into the compound as soon as all the people were gathered. To prevent the escape of the powerless group of children, women and mostly elderly men, some of the gendarmes brandished machine guns with bayonets menacingly clamped on them.
One aged Pastor sprung up from the crowd and tried to run. He was shot from the back. To frighten other escape attempts he was left to slowly die a few meters from the crowd.
At about three o’clock in the afternoon, the gendarmes commandeered a school truck from a college neighbouring the mission. About 70 people were huddled onto the truck and transported to their massacre 10 kilometres north of the mission. We are told that as the truck sped to the disastrous destination, meek and shaky voices sang church hymns until the truck stopped on the slopes of an isolated village called Gitovu.
The manner in which our children and the other people were killed was atrocious. One would have expected the gendarmes to shoot them, which would at least quickly end their commission and the victims’ anguish. On the contrary, we are told that the gendarmes incited the villagers gathered around the scene to strip the people and kill them with their machetes and clubs. The gendarmes supervised the butchery that followed. The people were then hastily buried in a shallow rift.
In July 1994 I went to the mission to try and find out what had happened. Ironically, it is the same Treasurer that drove me to the site where our children and the other people were killed. Strong evidence was later established and he was arrested in September 1994. He was later tried by the Gacaca court and freed. 20 years after, we are still waiting for some justice to be done. I say some justice because the mission Treasurer is only one of the suspects. Other suspects are on the run. We expected that through the case of the Treasurer we would know who else was involved.
I take this opportunity of the 20th commemoration of the genocide to share the story of my family. Telling their story is the most significant memorial for them and other victims. Memorials are so that people do not remain ignorant of a tragedy. When people know what happened, they will want to understand why it happened. Trying to understand why genocides happen may yield more questions than answers.
Despite the frustration of too many questions and not enough answers, the search for truth and justice remains for me an inspiration in life. Succumbing to the pangs of my tragedy would be the delight of the perpetrators of the Rwandan genocide against the Tutsi.