Over 200 family members were killed: The courageous journey of Mukanyiligira after Genocide against the Tutsi #rwanda #RwOT


To share with the world the events of the genocide and honor the over one million victims who perished, she authored a book titled 'Don't Accept To Die'.

The book encompasses various sections, detailing life before the genocide, the onset of the atrocities, the execution of the genocide, and the targeted killing of the Tutsis.

Moreover, she reflects on the aftermath in the book, exploring how survivors coped, rebuilt their lives, and the ongoing challenges the country faced.

"In the book's second section about the Genocide against the Tutsi, I depict how we, as residents, witnessed its planning yet felt helpless to intervene. It covers the genesis and execution of the genocide, culminating in a recount of my personal ordeal," she noted.

In her writings, Mukanyiligira revisits the harrowing experiences she endured during the Genocide, including how she concealed herself, narrowly escaped assassination, and ultimately survived. She recounts her encounters with the Inkotanyi and their role in liberating the country.

Even after surviving the Genocide against the Tutsi, Mukanyiligira remained vigilant, haunted by the fear of being pursued and expelled in broad daylight.

She expressed mixed emotions, stating, 'There is happiness in survival, in the chance to live again. Yet, there is the deep sorrow and anger when recalling loved ones lost in an instantâ€"seeking answers about their deaths, their last words. It overwhelms you."

Mukanyiligira often questioned her faith, grappling with why she survived while many others did not, a burden that impeded her progress for a long time.

She shared, 'There's sadness and grief but also resolve. I am freed from these burdens; I set them aside. A renewed lease on life has been granted to me, to live well."

Post-genocide, embracing life was a conscious choice, fueled by the losses she had endured.

Mukanyiligira had five siblings; during the Genocide against the Tutsis, she and two brothers survived while three were killed, partly because they were not at their home in Kibagabaga, in the current Gasabo District.

She reflects on this narrow escape: "It was an inexplicable chance. The killers had a list, and when they didn't find someone at the house, it somehow gave us a chance to live, even though our cousins, who were visiting, and our parents were killed. Over 208 family members are remembered in this book."

Accepting these events was challenging, but her faith in God remained central to her coping.
Furthermore, she clarifies her spiritual perspective, saying, "No priest or pastor manifested God to me; I faced a gun pressed to my cheek and survived. It wasn't the Interahamwe militia; it was God's plan."

She added, "This experience reinforced my personal connection with God. I survived by His grace, and I trust that He will guide me through the rest of my days."

Hiring Interahamwe

One month after the halting of the Genocide against the Tutsi, Mukanyiligira returned to her former home, only to find it reduced to ruins.

She discovered that her house had been destroyed, suggesting a grim reality for survivors: even those who escaped the killers would face immense challenges, partly as an attempt by the perpetrators to erase evidence.

Undeterred, Mukanyiligira persevered, intent on proving to those who had tried to exterminate the Tutsis that their genocidal plans had failed.

By 2001, as the situation began to stabilize, she found returning to Kibagabaga painful because the killers of her family were still there. This prompted her to settle in nearby Nyarutarama instead.

She expressed a poignant wish from that time: "I prayed that the Interahamwe from Kibagabaga would come and ask for work where I lived, as a form of silent revengeâ€"without resorting to insults, violence, or wishing harm."

"The house was flimsy, reflecting the poverty we Tutsis grew up in. For them to see that the child they couldn't find in the bush is now building a big house and will employ them was a form of retribution."

This approach served as a form of revenge for survivors of the Genocide against the Tutsis, aiming also to protect survivors from further exposure to their assailants.

Mukanyiligira noted that daily life for survivors involved working more efficiently, achieving more in less time, "so that if I were to die again, I'd leave a meaningful legacy."

"There's something profound about feeling like you've already died. It felt like we were living in an era of surplus, lacking essentials to sustain life. Choosing a man from five or six wasn't based on anything substantial. If we were targeted again, at least we'd have justifiable reasons."

Being successful, for Mukanyiligira, was not a matter of having a prominent job or coming from a powerful family; it was about her indomitable spirit and the progress she made, which nobody could hinder. This spirit fueled the reunification and empowerment of Genocide survivors.

Her determination led her and 150 others to establish IBUKA, aimed at fostering connections among survivors. "That spirit of unity and mutual support also permeated AERG, GAERG, AVEGA.
Surviving took immense effort, and we helped one another. These organizations provided a space to understand, accept, and uplift ourselves," she said.

'I Was There'

After the release of her book 'Don't Accept to Die,' Mukanyiligira is now working on a new book titled 'Nari Mpari,' which translates to 'I Was There.' This forthcoming work emphasizes the theme that life follows death, and it explores both her personal growth and the country's unprecedented development.

She explains, "I was there during the Gacaca courts, where murderers were forgiven. I witnessed everything that happened, everything the nation has accomplished. That's why I'm naming it 'I Was There.'"

Mukanyiligira highlights the responsibility of providing testimony and information to document the events, which demands not only resources, time, and skill, but also the delicacy of narrating without inflicting harm.

She reflects, 'I embraced the pain because it was part of healing. After 28 years, there are memories that only resurface when recalled. But writing about them triggers something deeper, something necessary for the reader to understand. That's when the wounds reopen."

This book was penned during the challenging times of COVID-19. "There were nights when the echoes of past screams would surface as I wrote, reminders of the country's tumultuous journey. Yet, I persevered because it is part of the healing process."

Currently, the book is being translated into multiple languages, a task that Mukanyiligira says demands significant sacrifices, including time away from family and friends, but she sees it as essential to ensure that the story of what happened in Rwanda reaches a broader audience.

Following the initial English publication and last year's French translation, a German version and an audiobook are now being prepared.

Reflecting on the past 30 years, Mukanyiligira stated unequivocally, "The fact that I survived and can honor the values of those who were killed feels like a debt I've managed to repay."

She expressed gratitude towards the Inkotanyi for liberating Rwandans and for their efforts that went beyond building infrastructure like roads, hospitals, and schools.

They also transformed how Rwandans are perceived abroad, "because now when we go overseas, we are no longer seen as murderers, but as contributors to meaningful development."

Esther Muhozi

Source : https://en.igihe.com/news/article/over-208-family-members-were-killed-the-courageous-journey-of-dimitrie-sissi

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