Bearing Witness

Bearing Witness

It was around the 15th of April 1994 that we started to spend the night in sorghum fields and in the woods. People were being pursued during the day, killed or tortured. When I saw this, I put my little brother on my back, for Mama was pregnant. The killers found me in the forest and beat me on the feet. The girls with me were raped. It was useless to hide. We knew we had to die.

So we returned to the place where we lived and found that our houses had been burned. We took refuge in sorghum fields again and spent the night there. In the middle of the night we climbed Mount Kanyarira to try to reach Kabgayi. But it was impossible, for we ran into a roadblock.

At daybreak we made it back to our old houses near Saruheshyi. It was around the 25th. We were visited by a cripple who said, “Go give yourselves up, for sooner or later you’ll have to.” He led us on the road to Evode’s house. Our clothes were taken. We were told to pray, for it was our last day. After our prayer, they began to beat the old, for, they said, the old ones knew the whole history of the Inkotanyi. They took our grandfather, named Straton Ruhoryongo, and his sons, three in number, and beat them to death with nail-studded clubs. They attacked everyone, even the little boys. I was paralyzed where I sat. They took my little brother. I begged them, “This one isn’t a boy.” They left him alone and took away everyone they had chosen and went to kill them behind the house. They told us, “The women and girls can clear out.”

So we took the Bukomero road and neared a group of school buildings, believing we could find lodging there. Instead, we found frightening young thieves who took away a girl among us. We continued on our journey and came to the asphalt road. There we received the order to go back.

So we turned in the direction of the commune to put ourselves in the hands of the authorities. We were led to the Women’s Training Center, where we found many gravely wounded people. There we spent the night. The next day I noticed that policemen were carrying something that looked like a corpse. It was my little brother, seriously injured in the head but not yet dead. He was laid out in the vestibule. Unable to lift him, I dragged him along the ground. I saw that he was in agony and poured some water over his body and more in his mouth. A few moments later, I saw that Mama was dripping blood and water down her legs, which were very swollen. Her head was swelling up too, for she had received a blow from a club.

On the 29th of April buses came to take us on board. We were driven to the school of St. Joseph. By chance I found someone to help me carry my little baby brother. Arriving at the school, we realized that death was better than staying here. We spent the night under the sky, in the rain. The next day everyone was looking for someone to give him a piece of potato to eat. Food was prepared, but to get any you had to be strong for th...