Testimony by Frida Umuhoza, a survivor of the 1994 Genocide Against the Tutsi in Rwanda

Annual commemoration of the International Day of Reflection on the Genocide in Rwanda (7 April) (organized by the United Nations Department of Public Information (DPI), in cooperation with the Permanent Mission of Rwanda) - Remarks by Ms. Frida Umuhoza, survivor and author of "Frida: Chosen to Die, Destined to Live"

Annual commemoration of the International Day of Reflection on the Genocide Against the Tutsi  in Rwanda-
– Remarks by Ms. Frida Umuhoza, survivor and author of “Frida: Chosen to Die, Destined to Live”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was only 14 when the Genocide started. At the age of 6 I already knew I was a wrong tribe, Tutsi tribe.

I was not told by my parents that I was a Tutsi, but by my best friend who was 6 as well told me that we both were Tutsis since her grandfather had already been killed so, she knew who she was.

Every three months in our school the principal came in to count how many Hutu, Tutsi and batwa kids were in our classes. So, as children we knew who was who.

April, 1994 we had to leave our home since the killings had started and homes were being burnt or demolished. We run around trying to find a neighbor who would be compassionate enough to hide us. My father went his way, my mom and brothers went their way and my sister, my cousin and I were sent to a neighbor who refused to even have us, saying he did not want our blood in his hands.

After one month it was then said that the killing had stopped, but it was a lie. They lied to us so we could come back home and have us killed. We decided to then go back home, but my home was completely demolished. We then went to my grandfather’s house and found that grandfather was still alive then.
The following day my mother and my 3 brothers and 2 other little boys of my mom’s best friend came home too. My father who was still alive by then also came back. In the end we were 18 people in that house that was half demolished.

My father stayed hidden on the roof of our house. Few days after we had returned home, a lot of other people in that village had returned too. They then took all of us to the roadblock, when we got there we were asked to pay for a grenade since we were too cheap for a billet as they said. In my village, to be shot you had to pay 5000 francs, but we were too poor at that time to pay for own death.

Since we could not pay for a grenade and they said they were tied we were asked to go back home. Three days later we were then told by a young man who was a friend of my brother that they had a meeting about our day which was going to be on May 7th.

Early morning on that day children at our neighbors were crying, screaming and begging for mercy saying they will never be Tutsis again. The next turn was ours, a young man whom we knew well came in the room where we were hiding. He looked like had been killing, because he had blood on his clothes and on his machete. I think he had a little bit of compassion left in him too because he walked out when he saw how scared we all were.

He then lied to his group leader that we were not there anymore, but his leader refused to believe him. The leader came in himself and when he saw how many we were he mocked us and led us outside telling the young man that if he wanted to be forgiven of that crime of trying to hide us he will have to kill 10 of us.

We were then led to the ditch where we were to be burred. At that time my father was following all that was going on but did not come down. I have always believed that every little girl thinks and sees their own father as the strongest man; in my case during the Genocide the strength of my father was taken away by those who killed him and all I saw was the weak and fearful man.

Laying down in the ditch my grandfather tried to talk to our killers, begging them to let us go, but one guy jumped in the ditch and hit him with a club. It is at that moment that they all jumped in and started killing us all with their weapons.

My young brothers that were 11 and 9 years were screaming my little cousins too. I saw my mom’s head being chopped off, and when I saw blood I covered my face that is when a man I had chosen to kill me hit me at the back of my head with a club and I fell unconscious. I’m not sure how long I was unconscious for, but when I regained my consciousness they had already started burying us.

When I realized that they were burying, found out that I was bleeding from my nose, and hearing them talk as if nothing just happened made me then kept quiet because I thought that if they discovered that I was still alive they would pull me a side may be rape me and kill me so bad

Burred alive, hearing my aunt next to me taking her last breath as well as my 16 year old sister is an experience I will never forget.

For hours and hours in that shallow grave, trying to call for help and praying, in the end a lady that was not too far away heard my voice. She was so scared thinking it was a ghost since she knew it was just a grave, but hearing a voice coming out of it was strange and scary to her. She then run and told a young man of what she had heard and this young man pulled me out.

Right after I was pulled out I heard the men who had just killed my father (who offered himself to die after he watched what was done to his family) celebrating. My hope of seeing him, and surviving was even more destroyed.
The next day I had a chance of being hidden by a man who was Hutu. This man hid me until the RPF rescued us.

I then realized it was reality that I was all alone and that my whole family was gone. The Genocide was stopped by Rwandans, the RPF that had the courage to give their lives away for us. They fought hard to rescue us, and stop the saying “we will wipe all of them out to the point a stranger will ask what a Tutsi looked like”

It is the Rwandans themselves led by President H.E Paul Kagame that rescued the Rwanda of today.

As a survivor I went through all stages of a survivor. From being angry to the pain that have no words to express. But I choose not to be defined by pain, and I chose to be a better woman each day not bitter.

Telling my story, our story as survivors, is not to attract pity but to raise the awareness of what happened to us. And a million Tutsis that were lost within just a hundred days.

To tell our story is to fight the genocide ideology as it is this year’s theme.

The purpose of telling our story is fight the genocide denial for that is the last step of a genocide itself.

To tell our story is to remind the international community that saying never again is not enough, but acting upon it is what is necessary.

Finally encouraging my fellow survived to keep the hope within themselves and to not let the pain define who they are. To be able to preserve the dignity that was stolen from us, having the courage to work hard and keep moving forward.

That is my story and God bless you all of you.