Bernadette  and Her Son Faustin

Rusizi, Rwanda

Bernadette and Faustin.

Bernadette and Faustin.


My mother negotiated with a militia member to try and save us. We gave him part of our eucalyptus plantation to save my brother Turgen. We didn’t know that they would kill women. Three days later he came back and said that he no longer wanted the land. He said, “I want your daughter, I want this girl.” My mother said no, that the land was enough. Then he came back again with other militiamen. Eventually they took me to the forest and he told them to gather around. He raped me and said that now I had no choice but to have a permanent relationship with him.

He told the other militiamen to reduce my height because I have always been arrogant, so they got clubs and hit my legs. They didn’t cut my leg off but they hit it until it was all broken and I now I couldn’t move, it was all shaking.

Later, I went to a refugee camp for Tutsis and I stayed there, but little did I know that this man had made me pregnant. I had the problem of the pregnancy and the problem of the leg which was now beginning to swell. There was a lot of pus in it, but they hadn’t cut it off yet.

I knew that nobody would be happy with the child, but deep in me I was prepared. I was excited about it. Today, if you want trouble with me, show me that you hate my child. I am a mother, yes, but I am not a mother like I ought to have been a mother. But maybe God chose that this is my life. I’ve accepted it. Although, I think if it wasn’t genocide I would have been a better mother.

My family didn’t show me that they didn’t like my child. In Rwandese, a child is an angel, is innocent, you can’t take the sins of the father and blame them on the child. My family accepted this child but I am emphasizing that only my family, not the family of the father.

My son is 12 years old and I think he knows, though we have never sat and squarely talked with him about it. Once, he came crying and yelling that someone told him, “You’re the son of a militia, your father is in prison.” The therapy that I use for my life is to laugh, so I laughed, and after laughing told him: “Why should that worry you? Why should that make you cry?” If he has brains, he should know by the way that I laughed, I confirmed to him that he is the son of a militia.

Whenever I think about his future, I don’t know, and that is my biggest problem. Sometimes he sits here for a whole school term because I have failed to get pens and books. If there is anything that tortures me, it is the tomorrow of my son.

-Bernadette, mother of Faustin, 2006

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