Clare and Her Daughter Elisabith

Kibuye, Rwanda

Clare and Elisabeth.

Clare and Elisabeth.


Before genocide I had a family, I had parents, I had relatives, I had brothers and sisters, we lived a happy life until genocide came and destroyed our life, everybody was killed. None of my family members survived apart from me.

I would have been happy and have the joy of being a mother, but I’m alone. I don’t have a family, and I struggle with these children alone. I love my daughter so much; actually I see her as my sister, I don’t regard her as my daughter. The relationship is like we are sisters. I think I would rather be alone and have my daughter with me. My thinking is that this child belongs to me, to my home, and so if I have any means I would let her go to secondary school, because that is the only inheritance she will have. She doesn’t have any other inheritance anywhere. So school would be her inheritance. What I really want is that she studies, she gets knowledge and wisdom, she becomes employed and she survives.

It was on the 6th of April when the former president was killed, and on the 7th and 8th Tutsis around our village were targeted and attacked by militias, Hutu militias who were very organized and had communicated to each other like they had prepared this for many, many years. So we went in the bush, and on the 9th we went to the church, to the parish nearby, all my family went to the same church. On the 9th at about four or five in the afternoon, a priest came and said I should go and hide in the head priest’s house. When we entered the house he called his friends, they said this was an opportunity for them to “enjoy a Tutsi girl.” And so they raped me, both of them raped me in the room of the chief priest, in the house of the chief priest, each of them raped me three times. Later one of them mocked me and said, “I wanted to love you, but you were too proud, now I have enjoyed you when I don’t even want you.” So he went to call the other militias. The militias came and that is when they got me from that house and almost killed me, my upper teeth were removed by clubs. They thought I had been killed, really, but

God protected me. On the fourth day they brought a vehicle to take all of us from the church, but before we went, they had dug holes in the forest, that’s where they hit me with clubs and machetes and threw me in among the dead bodies. They thought I had also been killed. I was buried.

The next morning I walked to the stadium in Kibuye. I stayed there for one night, and on the second night we were attacked by militias, by the army, and by the police. They shelled the stadium until the evening and many people died. I don’t know how I survived, but in the night when they thought they had killed everybody I managed to walk slowly through the dead bodies, quietly through the bushes and managed to survive. But on the way from the stadium to the bush, I was discovered by many militiamen and they all raped me. I don’t know how many raped me, I can’t remember, but each time I was “saved” by someone, he raped me first and then led me to another bush where I was raped again. And so that’s how I moved, it was a long distance and I was raped by many men. Actually the final person who raped me kept me captive in his house for several days. He went to kill, he came back at night, he did whatever he wanted to do to me, the next day he went to kill, at night he came and had forced sex. Fortunately one day when he went to kill he never came back…

When I found out I was pregnant, my first thought was if I could get away with aborting, and have that child killed, but because of the conditions that I lived in I didn’t even know how to abort. I had never been pregnant. When the kid was born, before birth I was saying in my heart that I’ll produce it and then kill it, but when she came out she looked like my family, and I realized she was part of me so I started loving her. I stopped the idea of having her dead.

In 2000 I started falling sick, but in 2007 my health really deteriorated, I was very weak. I was transferred to the central government hospital in Kigali, and when I arrived there they tested me. All along I thought it was a result of the hard beating and torture of the militias, but when they tested me I was HIV positive, I was so weak and they put me on ARVs immediately.

At first I got disoriented whenever I looked at a Hutu, I looked at an animal. It was very difficult for me to cope with seeing a Hutu or being near them. Even in church I could get traumatized. Even to an extent of going to the hospital because of extreme headache. But slowly after getting therapy, I have accepted them. The other thing that gives me hope to live is the children. When I see my children now at least I know I have a family. I have someone to live for. I have faith in God, but disappointment in people. Although things happened to me I still think God is God. As people we are bad, but I’ve also learned to respect others because of my faith.

If you look at the history of Tutsis in this country, we have been degraded, we have been tortured right from 1959. We have lived like we are not human beings. We don’t have value. There are hills you go to today in Rwanda that you will not find a single surviving Tutsi. In ’94 they killed everybody.

The message to my children is: Don’t give value to ethnic differences. Don’t look at whether one is Hutu, whether one is Tutsi. That is not important. What is important is to look at ourselves as Rwandans, as people of the same country. And I don’t encourage you my children to advance ethnic ideologies.

-Clare, mother of Elisabith, 2006

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