Jackie and Her Mother, Aline (deceased)

Kigali, Rwanda

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Some of the questions I had before were why whenever we did something wrong my mother would scold and punish me  and leave out the other kids, and whenever I smiled or laughed, she would be annoyed and say, “you laugh like your father’s people, (the Hutu militia killers) you should not be here.” So that was the kind of treatment I received from her when I was growing up. I now understand why she was doing it. I love her now even more, even if she is not here, because I know that whatever she was doing was not intentional. One rainy day before my mother died, I asked her:, “Am I really your child? You treat me different from my brothers.” She didn't say anything, she just took me and tried setting me on fire, but my brother came and stopped her. Now I know why she was doing all these things. It was very confusing for me at the time, because I have done nothing wrong.

Life has not been too good for me in the past few years; sometimes I’m happy, sometimes I’m not. Especially after the death of my mother, life has become more difficult for me, living with different families, and I have a constant headache, and sometimes my headache goes on and on, but here I am. I have completed my secondary school. The last four years of primary school I was in boarding school, but no one came to visit me. I have completed my high school studies, and my dream is to become a lawyer.

I asked my mother before she passed away about our family, but she said “I will tell you when you are older,” but she died in 2009 before she could tell me about my family, My older brother said my mother told him that during the genocide she was raped by Interahamwe (Hutu militia killers) and contracted HIV/AIDS, and the virust had a big role in making her sick and dying very quickly. I didn't have a chance to talk with my mother about the genocide before she died. What I know is that during the genocide she was raped, and that her relatives were killed and burned in the church, and then I was born.

After she died I found my mother’s diary  in her bedroom, hidden. I opened it and didn't want to read it initially, but when people left the house, I decided to read it. On one of the pages the title was “My Life and My Daughter.” There my mother wrote about how she was raped during the genocide and how her husband was killed, and how my older brother was hiding and trying to escape, and her relatives were hiding in the church, and later all were killed in that church, and then how I was born later and my grandmother helped my mother give birth. After her funeral and the days that followed, I just fainted and couldn't even function; I was experiencing severe headaches and trauma.

After my mother died, my brother sat next to me and said, mother lived a life of pretending that everything is okay, but she wanted to protect us and that is why I didn't want to talk to you about this, but since you asked I can tell you that mother suffered from HIV/AIDS and that is how she died, she was raped during the genocide and contracted HIV/AIDS, but she was very happy that she had a baby girl. It was very difficult for her to take care of us, and that is why she took us to live in an orphanage. But she didn't talk about her disease to us.

After I read my mother’s testimony and learned about what she went through during the genocide, how her relatives were killed and how my mother was raped, it hit me that I didn't have any other relatives because all her relatives were killed and my father is not known, and I realized that my mother was alone, with no blood relatives. I now realized that I have to work very hard for my future because I have no one to look up to. I always wanted to know who my father is, and now my hope of knowing is gone… not knowing who my father is affects me, but after learning from my mother’s testimony what my father did to her, I no longer have interest in knowing who this man is, I do not want to know. I felt a lot of shame and a lot of pain knowing I was a product of genocidal rape and of such a man, but now after reflecting and reading my mother’s testimony again and again, I realized it’s not my fault. I am coming to terms with who I am, but I’ve felt a lot of shame and pain inside my heart knowing my father is a rapist and a killer.

I forgive my mother after reading what she went through, I forgive her because now I reflect and think that she kept the truth away from me as a way to protect me.

-Jackie, daughter of Aline (deceased), 2018

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