Stella and Her Son Claude

Butare, Rwanda

Claude and Stella.

Claude and Stella.


Sometimes I forget where I am. Today we may be talking and all of a sudden I think I am in the forests in the Congo. Sometimes I see myself, around me are men running, chasing me or raping me. Then, I realize I am in a normal setting. I have these hallucinations and nightmares. I have never overcome them

The militias took us to the forest. They were very mean and started raping us one after the other. Afterward, they thought we had died and they left us there. When they were gone, there was a kind Hutu lady nearby who saw what was happening and came over to see if we were still alive. She took us to her house and gave us porridge. But the militias saw her and asked her why she was helping the cockroaches. (Note: Hutu militias referred to the Tutsi population as cockroaches and snakes during the genocide.) Overcome by fear because they threatened to attack her, she told us to go back to where we came from. When night came we slept in the bush. Every day, every night, another man had sex with me forcefully. It was a surprise if a night passed and no man raped me.

My son was born on July 7, 1995. That day I’ll never forget. My wish was that he would die immediately after birth. I was surprised that he didn’t because I didn’t have anything to give him. My kid was almost a skeleton because I didn’t have milk in my breasts. But that man, that rapist was with me. Despite those problems, he kept raping me again and again.

My problem is that boy, my son. When I think about his life, he is like a tree without branches. I am alone. I don’t have any surviving relatives apart from my old mother. He is my life. He is the only life I have. I love him. If I didn’t have him, I don’t know what I would be. I don’t think about Rwanda often. I think about my son. I ask myself, suppose I die now, what would happen to him? One thing that would make me happy is to have my life as it was originally. Perhaps then, my son would have a future.

You are requested to tell the world that genocide happened in Rwanda – that we went through torture like no other person has gone through. Even the legacy of genocide is too hard to live with. The international community has a debt because they didn’t come to our rescue. They should now come to support us and deal with the legacy of genocide.

-Stella, mother of Claude, 2006

Next Story >