News / Africa

Trauma Still Fresh for Rwandan Genocide Survivors

Trauma Still Fresh for Rwandan Genocide Survivorsi
Roopa Gogineni
April 04, 2014 2:30 PM
The Rwandan genocide happened 20 years ago, but the trauma experienced by its survivors still lies close to the surface. Roopa Gogineni heard one survivor’s testimony in Kigali.
Roopa Gogineni
The Rwandan genocide happened 20 years ago, but the trauma experienced by its survivors still lies close to the surface.

Every April, a sadness falls over Kinyaya, a community of genocide survivors, home to Cecile Umurerwa.

"Each time in April, I feel very anxious and sick because I remember the genocide.  It is like a film in front of me, because I can remember very well.  There was nowhere to hide.  We were sitting when the first group of killers came.  They told us to pray, that the next group would come within 15 minutes.   We prayed.  After we prayed, the Interahamwe took us to Kabeza where they had dug many holes," she said.

The Interahamwe (Hutu killers) forced Cecile and her children to the ground.  They began shooting but soon ran out of bullets.  Cecile and her younger sister were the only ones left alive.

The killers made a promise to return.

"They said, those we have killed will serve as a mattress for our dead president, you will be the blanket.  Instead of me staying alone, I thought, “let them kill me.”  I have no reason to stay alive," said Umurerwa.

But before the Interahamwe could come back, soldiers from the Rwandan Patriotic Front found Cecile and her sister and brought them to an IDP camp.

Today, Cecile cares for five young people orphaned by the genocide in a home built for her by the government. 

Two hours south of Cecile's home in Kigali is the Murambi Genocide Memorial, another stark reminder of lives cut short.
FILE - Rwandese refugees cross Rusumo border to Tanzania from Rwanda carrying their belongings even goats, mattresses and cows, May 30, 1994.
FILE - Rwandese refugees cross Rusumo border to Tanzania from Rwanda carrying their belongings even goats, mattresses and cows, May 30, 1994.

Forty-five thousand Tutsis were killed over three days there at the Murambi technical institute.  Today, thousands of bodies have been exhumed and now lie covered in lime on desks in old classrooms.

Eric Gatabari, a guide at Murambi, lost his own family during the genocide. Now he takes groups of school children through the site.

"Some Rwandans and other people, sometimes they deny there is genocide of Rwandan Tutsis.  So that is why we have decided to preserve it, in order to educate the consequences of bad ideology and ethnic divisionism," he said.

Gatabari said the memorial raises awareness in young Rwandans and ultimately served to promote unity and reconciliation.

You May Like

Tired of Waiting, South Africans Demand Change ‘Now’

With chronic poverty and lack of basic services largely fueling recent xenophobic attacks, many in Rainbow Nation say it’s time for government to act More

Challenges Ahead for China's Development Plans in Pakistan

Planned $46 billion in energy and infrastructure investments in Pakistan are aimed at transforming the country into a regional hub for trade and investment More

Audio 'Forbidden City' Revisits Little Known Era of Asian-American Entertainment

Little-known chapter of entertainment history captured in 80s documentary is revisited in new digitally remastered format and book More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Jeffrey M. Collins from: Boston
April 06, 2014 12:13 AM
Can a (meficsl) doctor actually make a comment like the first one here? The US & the UN looked the other way from this genocide and did nothing to stop it. Would we had spent a few bucks to save 800,000+ lives. If you're looking for a big waste of US dollars and American lives, look no further than now-painter, then-president George W. Bush's costlly war folly in Iraq.

by: Dr. Masta Marina
April 04, 2014 1:40 PM
does anyone have any idea how many Trillions of Dollars we have sunk into this diseased continent..??

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs