Valerie and Her Son Robert

Kayonza, Rwanda

01_Valerie and Robert_DIPTYCH.jpg
 

The genocide started when I was 15. All the Tutsis from this area ran up the hill where the strong men from the area put up a resistance. Our job was to collect stones so the men could throw stones and spears at the militias. At least twice a day they came in big numbers but we kept repelling them until the 18th of April, when the soldiers from the presidential guard overpowered us. That day they killed many people. My two brothers were killed, my sister died, my father died, and my mother died.

When I awoke the next morning, I heard voices. My heart told me that it would be my father and mother, so I ran to see who was talking. It wasn’t my parents – but people I knew – they were neighbors and other Tutsis that had come from this area – but militias held them captive. One asked if we had money to give them. When we gave them money, they left us – they said go through this road. Little did we know that we they were telling us to pass by a group of merciless militias.

At that roadblock, one of the militias knew my aunty, the sister of my mother who was staying around that place. He asked me whether I was related to her, so I said yes, and he said he was going to take me to my aunt. At that roadblock all men were killed, all women were let go. My aunt was very happy – she thanked him and gave him a goat for securing me. But later he came back and said he wanted me to go with him. My aunt begged him not to take me, but he said, I take her or I kill her right here.

He started raping me from that night and for two weeks until we heard that the RPF were near the village and the militias became scared. He told me that in the evening they were going to kill us, but if you trust me I will save you. I didn’t have a choice. He took me to a place where he had relatives and I stayed there for a month. When he heard that the RPF were going to take over the government, he decided we needed to go into exile. We went to Tanzania and there, when he realized that I was pregnant, he declared that I was his wife.

I had never had sex until I was raped during the genocide. I never loved that man at all. I always feared him. He always scared me. Even now, I hear people say they enjoy sex – I don’t know what it means to enjoy sex. For me, sex has been a torture. But as we stayed on in the second year in Tanzania, he insisted that he wanted to wed me in a church. I had no alternative. They took me to church and we got married. When we got back to Rwanda, I went to my church and told them what happened to me and that I wanted a divorce. At first they refused. I got annoyed and thought that perhaps the leadership of the church was Hutu. I wrote a letter to the chief of the big parish and told him my story and he understood me. The church allowed me to divorce and now I am free. I feel satisfied and have hope and faith in God and in the survivor organizations that support us. They encourage us to live positively – whatever I do, I struggle and strive to see that my parents’ killers are not going to laugh at me. Instead, they are going to see me progressing everyday and keeping alive.

-Valerie, mother of Robert, 2006

Next Story >