Claude and His Mother, Stella

Butare, Rwanda

Claude and Stella.

Claude and Stella.


My mother told me about her experience during the genocide, she told me how difficult it was for her to have me as a baby during the genocide and at one point she wanted to throw me away and get rid of me, but she didn't do it because she loved me. When my mother talks about these things she is very emotional. We talk about these things, although it’s very difficult for her.

My mother told me how during the genocide she was raped by the perpetrators of genocide and as a result I was born. She told me that men promised to protect her but they ended up raping her, they took her for sex.

I was sitting with my mother outside eating dinner. My mother liked to tell me how they lacked food during the genocide and how she was begging for food, and so we were eating and she brought this up. I asked her, “Can you tell me more about this experience and what really happened?” So we got into the conversation and she told me about what she went through. She was very emotional and sad. I also felt very emotional and traumatized, but I got strength from looking at my life and the story my mother told me, and how we were living today, which gives me strength and hope that the future will be better.

My mother told me that this man who raped her would come and demand sex from her and tell her that if she refuses he will turn her in to other militias or kill her, and so he raped her, and as a result she became pregnant and I was born.  She told me that after I was born she was running in the forest with me on her back, and as she was running a branch hit her and I fell off her back without her noticing. When she realized I was not there, she thought perhaps she should continue running and leave me there, but she gathered strength and came back, picked me up, and continued. When she told me this I felt bad, but I got courage to realize that I will not be defined by the way I was born, as a young person born from rape, but I want to build a good future and be a responsible person in my life, and not be looked at as a child born from rape.

Whenever other kids in the community would talk about their fathers, I would become emotional and cry for not having a father and siblings, but I didn’t know who my father was. I avoided asking my mother about my father, because there was one experience when she was talking about what happened during the genocide and a relative asked about my father, and I saw my mother’s face change completely and she shut down, so I sensed there is a problem. So I decided I will not ask anymore.

The effect on my life of how I was born  is a feeling of shame and stigma. If I am with other young people, I think to myself that I was born in a different way than these people, and that makes me feel shame. They do not notice how I am feeling, but inside I feel shame. Now things are better and these feelings do not come so often. It is slowly going away as I am looking at the future and becoming a better person.

It makes me feel shame that my father had a role in killing people, and raping my mother, but I wish I had an opportunity to ask him what made him do all these things. Unfortunately, I had no opportunity to ask him. He died before I had a chance to meet him. When I was still young I didn't think much about him, and didn't think it would be useful for me to think of forgiving him. But now that my mother has disclosed to me how I was born and I know what really happened, I think I will forgive him and continue my life.

When I was growing up and even now, I know my mother loved me very much, considering what she went through. My relationship with my mother improved after she disclosed to me the circumstances of how I born. I now realize what she went through for me to be born, and how life must be difficult given what she went through, my love for her grew more after she told me how I was born. The way I was brought up by my mother will have a positive impact on my life when I have children because I want to love my children the way my mother loved me.

-Claude, son of Stella, 2018