News / Africa

    Former Teacher Spent Years in Refugee Camps after Rwanda Genocide

    Over half a million perished during the Rwandan genocide (VOA)
    Over half a million perished during the Rwandan genocide (VOA)

    Location

    3, Rwanda
    Mariama Diallo
    The Rwandan genocide in 1994 killed nearly a million ethnic Tutsi and moderate Hutu -- and led to a mass exodus of mostly Hutu fearing reprisals into neighboring countries.

    ​Pierre-Claver Ndacyayisenga, his wife and three children were among the hundreds of thousands who fled Rwanda. In his recently published book “Dying to Live,” the author, a Hutu, writes about traveling thousands of kilometers on foot without food and water. The family was forced to cross dangerous rivers and hide in animal-infested jungles from rebels hunting them.

    “Many people wondered how we survived for so long in that jungle of the Democratic Republic of Congo, and this is a story to tell people:  that you should never give up on your life,” he recounts.

    The author said he spent five years hopping between refugee camps that stretched across the Democratic Republic of Congo; from Bukavu to Tingi Tingi, Ubundu, Obilo and other regions.

    Dying To Livei
    X
    July 16, 2013 2:28 PM
    He is a former history teacher whose life changed forever when he was forced to flee his native Rwanda with his wife and three children. What happened in the five years following the 1994 Rwandan genocide is a story of survival that author Pierre-Claver Ndacyayisenga recounts in his new book “Dying to Live.” He told his story to VOA’s Mariama Diallo during his recent visit to Washington.

    In one of the most touching moments of the book, the author relates how he was nearly separated from his wife in a disagreement over which route to take. One would cross the path of former DRC President Laurent Desire Kabila and his rebels heading from Kisangani to Kinshasa to oust long-time strongman Mobutu Sese Seko. The other route, he said, would put them in the cross hairs of the Rwandan Patriotic Army, which had assumed power in Kigali.

    Speaking in French, he said, “I told my wife 'I am taking the route through the forest.Better to be killed slowly by insects, reptiles and others rather than being massacred by rebels.' My wife answered 'how can we do that with the children?'  She responded that she would not follow me this time; she want to go through Kisangani.”

    In a chilling account, he described how their son saved the day by convincing his mother to follow his father. He held back tears while recounting the story during our interview.

    While those moments make the reader cry, other episodes in the book evoke humor.  Sometimes, the family commissioned the acting talents of their three-year old daughter Emerance as they passed checkpoints -- stops where they were often mistreated and robbed of all their money. So, they decided to stash everything they had in the cast the little girl wore over a broken arm.

    “She was very little, so we told her that we’d leave her behind and directed her to start crying after we passed the checkpoint pretending that her parents left her behind by accident,” he said with a smile.

    Ndacyayisenga said the distraction worked, and check point guards seemed more interested in reuniting her with her family than in checking her cast. 

    He describes the lesson he wants people to take away from the book.

    “What we lived through during this ordeal happened because of previous events, and I am talking about endless ethnic conflicts; basically, I want people to understand that evil breeds evil. When someone does something bad today, someone else will eventually pay for it later. Let’s respect human beings.”

    You May Like

    Turkey, US Splits Deepen Over Support for Kurdish Militants

    Ankara summons American ambassador to protest remarks by State Department spokesman who said Washington does not consider Syria's Kurdish Democracy Union Party (PYD) a terrorist organization

    Obama Seeking $19 Billion for National Cybersecurity

    Move, touted as attempt to build broad, cohesive federal response to cyberthreats, calls for increase in cybersecurity spending across all government agencies

    Video Foreign Policy Weighs Heavy for Some US Voters

    VOA talks to protesters in Manchester, New Hampshire, who sound off on foreign policy issues such as the Guantanamo Bay prison, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the wars in Iraq, Syria and Yemen

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Omodo Tim from: Capetown
    July 17, 2013 5:28 AM
    Funny, he learned respective others after what he went through. I guess he laughed when his Tutsi neighbors and friends were hacked to death. Why of all people who remained/returned to Rwanda did he decide to venture into the forest for years? What did imagine had happened to his relatives who were comfortably living in Rwanda? He needs psychological support. At least now he knows better; let him "respect human beings." You may run, you may hide but murder catches up you.
    In Response

    by: JulieM from: Canada
    July 22, 2013 2:57 PM
    Your comment doesn't make sense. It is explained that he was a simple bystander at the time of the events. Yes, he is Hutu but that does not make him evil. Moreover, nowhere does he mention partaking in the horrible events of 1994. I would strongly encourage you to read the book before making harsh and unsupported statements.

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clownsi
    X
    February 09, 2016 8:04 PM
    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clowns

    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Rocky Year Ahead for Nigeria Amid Oil Price Crash

    The global fall in the price of oil has rattled the economies of many petroleum exporters, and Africa’s oil king Nigeria is no exception. As Chris Stein reports from Lagos, analysts are predicting a rough year ahead for the continent’s top producer of crude.
    Video

    Video Foreign Policy Weighs Heavy for Some US Voters

    VOA talks to protesters in Manchester, New Hampshire who sound off on foreign policy issues such as the Guantanamo Bay Prison, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Middle East Affairs and national security.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.