My Brave and Dignified Sister

April 7, 2015. It is a clear and calm morning. Few are the motos or cars, fewer are the people on the street.

It reminded me of April 7, 1994 in Kimihurura – the strange absence of people in the street. That day, even at home they refused to let us kids go outside to play.

We cooked inside the house and we sat, listening quietly to the radio for fear to call attention to ourselves. Little did my grandparents know that the list of Tutsi to be killed had already been drawn up.

Suddenly, in the afternoon, a group of people with machetes, clubs, knives and small guns kicked down the gate of our compound, chanting loudly and violently.

Inside the house we were caught by surprise. The first reaction of our parents was to hide us children.

But where to hide when a house is surrounded by people who want blood at any cost?

We went under the bed – as many as could fit.

A few minutes later the doors of the house were broken. I can feel even today the desperation and fear.

Under the bed, we squeezed together, with the hope that maybe ‘they will not see us’. But in vain.

They entered the room. Fear and terror took over us. We knew nothing was left for us. Hope was taken and death knocked.

Two Interahamwe militia looked at my sister and said, “reka duhere kuri uyu turebe nimba ubwiza biratana bumukiza” – let’s start with this one and see if her fancy beauty can save her. She was slaughtered with a machete.

I was the little one in that room. Everyone else had made sure that I got the best place. I mean, where they could at least try to protect me. But at that moment, they couldn’t. Death had visited us and only a prayer was on the agenda, and acceptance.

At the end of the slaughter, I had blood all over me. They thought I was already dead. For them, in that moment after spilling blood, they were taken over by their madness and didn’t notice that I was still alive. They rushed out for another kill.

My sister, with her last breath, crawled towards me, trying to say something. She died with her hand on my arm.

How brave that even in her last moment she wanted me safe.

April 7, 2015. We are three people in the street. April 7, 1994. We were three people to survive in a house that once had 18 living souls. The only difference is that yesterday I was going to my office to work – something I have been doing for years. During the commemoration week, I work hard as my way to escape my memory.

For years, I have tried to act tough.

Yesterday I cried as I listened to President Kagame’s speech. When he said that remembering is an obligation and that no one reminds us to do it, I knew that I have been doing it wrong. Every year, I have been trying to shut down my feelings, my memories.

Today, I feel tired, very tired, as I passed my night travelling through memories.

April 7, 1994, I was just a kid – five years old. Twenty-one years later, I’m an adult with a job (I hope I don’t get fired as I’m writing this post in my room). My job is preserving the memory of the genocide and creating tools to share what happened here.

I hope that I do my work right. Because my sister deserves that last word she never had a chance to say.

She deserves the chance to live in our memories, dignified and brave. The same way she died twenty-one years ago.



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