Rwanda Fund 2003

 

This was the website for the Rwanda Fund. Three projects will be supported from the money that is raised: creation of genocide memorial centres, education and economic regeneration.
The content below is from the site's 2003 archived pages.

The Rwandan Civil War that was between the government of President Juvénal Habyarimana and the rebel Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) began on 1 October 1990 when the RPF invaded and supposedly ended in August 1993 with the signing of the Arusha Accords that supposedly created a power-sharing government. A second conflict, often referred to as the Rwandan genocide was a mass slaughter of the Tutsi in Rwanda by members of the Hutu majority government. Genocidal killings began the day following the assassination of Habyarimana. Soldiers, police, and militia quickly executed key Tutsi and moderate Hutu military and political leaders who could have assumed control in the ensuing power vacuum. Forces recruited and pressured Hutu civilians to arm themselves with machetes, clubs, blunt objects, and other weapons to rape, maim, and kill their Tutsi neighbors and to destroy or steal their property. The breakdown of the peace accords led the RPF to restart its offensive and rapidly seize control of the northern part of the country before capturing Kigali in mid-July, bringing an end to the genocide. The genocide had a lasting and profound impact on Rwanda and its neighboring countries. The horror of what took place is beyond imagination. I happened to work at a commercial cleaning service company during this time. Several of my co workers were from Rwanda. The company offers professional janitorial services that include day time porter services, evening cleaning services, office cleaning, restroom cleaning, breakroom and cafeteria cleaning, trash removal, dusting and damp wiping, vacuum cleaning, sweeping and mopping, spot cleaning, window cleaning, specialty cleaning, emergency cleaning, construction clean up and exterior cleaning. Over the years I have worked in all those janitorial capacities, although now I am in management. However in 2006, I was still doing evening cleaning services with my Rwanda co-workers. They were constantly distraught during this time not knowing what was happening to their family and friends who were still living in the refugee camps along the borders or were actually in Rwanda. The cleaning company sent loads of goods via several organizations that were helping the refugees. The stories of the Rwanda people and this horrific period of history should never be forgotten.

Country with a thousand hills

Rwanda is a beautiful country full of hills and lakes. It has been called Milles Collines in French, meaning it is a country of a 'thousand hills'.

100 nights - the genocide and the aftermath

  • learn about the role of the west, the genocide
  • learn about the legacy of the genocide: the orphans, widows and the huge burden of justice and reconciliation. What is being done to enable the country to live with itself?
  • the future rests on how well the present is dealt with. How will poverty be tackled and health improved, what is being done and what else should be done?

 

Three projects will be supported

  • Genocide memorial centres: preserving the memory and providing hope
  • Education: opportunities for life
  • Economic regeneration: creating a fair chance

It is essential that a message is given to Rwanda that although they were abandoned in 1994, today the world takes notice of them and their story. Reversing the sense of betrayal and neglect among survivors is imperative to avoid long-term reconciliation being undermined.

Rwanda's future is in the hands of its young people. While truth, justice and reconciliation are important foundations, the country cannot rebuild without investment in its greatest assets: its people.

Education has been shown to improve income and stability and this is why this project will target some of the most deprived areas to provide education opportunities for youngsters.

Economic regeneration can occur if the local population is given a fair chance. So methods will be sought to encourage new business and independence.

Here are a few stories of people who survived the genocide in 1994. They speak on behalf of those who cannot speak for themselves: those who did not survive.

The testimonies here remind us why we must recognise ideologies and divisions that may lead to this kind of mass killing and why it is that preventing genocide should become a greater priority for everyone.

These survivors provide some of the reasons why we support this project 'Rwanda: A Step Forward' and why we should not forget. Most of all they convey to us why we should build hope

+++

My name is Julien Apollon Kabahizi. I was born on 18 April 1972 in Kigali, Rwanda. My parents took me to Burundi to avoid the killings in 1973 and I was later brought back to Rwanda, where I remained until I was 19. In April 1994, I was in Rwanda.

From an early age, I knew I was Tutsi. At primary school, they would tell Hutus to stand up, and I would see my friends standing, yet I was forced to stay seated. I would go home and ask my parents why they didn't want me to stand up too. They told me I was not the same, I was Tutsi. I didn't want to be Tutsi because in history and civic education courses, we were taught that Tutsis were bad people. 
The anti-Tutsi campaign became a lot stronger in 1990 with the attack of the RPF (Rwandan Patriotic Front). This proclaimed to Hutus that Tutsis were enemies who wanted to take over the country because of their love of power. Hutus were told, "So you'd better kill them now, because they are attacking. If you don't kill them now, they're going to take power and they're going to kill you." I don't think the genocide happened instantly. But people had planned the genocide, the world watched it happen and did nothing to those responsible. After the Holocaust, they said, "Never again". This "Never again", was it just a statement or was it meant for some people, and not others?

I left Rwanda in 1991. Things were getting worse and I told my parents that there was little hope, so I had to go. I wanted all the family to leave, but as I had younger brothers and sisters, it was impossible just to go. My parents also had faith that things would eventually be all right. When the genocide started in 1994, especially with the presence of the UN force protecting them, they thought that nothing would happen to them. 

I was back in Rwanda in 1994 and witnessed many things that can probably never be described. One of the worst episodes involved the Tutsis who took refuge in a school under UN protection. It took place in the neighbourhood where I grew up. During April 1994, several thousand people sheltered in the ETO school (Ecole Technique Officielle). The school was surrounded by militia; everyone knew they were waiting to kill them. The United Nations Peace-Keeping force was stationed there. It was called UNAMIR - the UN always like to give their operations names like that. It stands for United Nations Assistance Mission in Rwanda. So the people thought they were safe under "UN protection". Many members of my family were in that school. Then the UN, their last hope, decided to pull out. Immediately, everyone in the school tried to flee, but they were stopped on the road. They were told that they would be taken to safety by the gendarmes.

Most of those who fled the school were marched up the road about two miles to a place called Nyanza. This was on the outskirts of Kigali near to a place where they took rubbish. That is symbolic of how they saw the Tutsis. There they killed everyone. The next day, I found the massacre site. They say it was 2,000 people. It was difficult to tell. It was just a sea of human bodies, all cut up or shot, contorted and covered in blood. When I arrived at that place, everyone was dead, but you could still hear the screaming and feel the brutality. They had been killed in an horrific way, and the stench of so many humans rotting in the heat was awful. It was all over the city. With their owners now killed or fled, the dogs in the city had no food. They turned semi-wild, former pets scavenging and eating human remains.

Most of the people abandoned by the UN were my neighbours, my friends and my family. People I had never had a chance to see alive together as a group, I saw together dead. If the UN had not removed the soldiers protecting them, those people might not have been murdered. But within hours of the UN leaving, they were all taken and executed. 

Looking back to nine years ago, it felt like a nightmare. Many of us were hoping that we would wake up at some stage and find it was all over. But unlike a nightmare it didn't end. It still goes on today, stronger than ever. During those three months, we were perhaps alive, but we had stopped existing. We were hiding in toilets, halls and bushes, under beds; or we were even lucky enough to be covered by our family or friends who had been killed and fallen on top of us.

As a survivor, this is difficult to cope with. If staying in Rwanda was going to be so hard and perhaps make me feel like seeking revenge, then I had to leave and go elsewhere. People don't understand this in the West. They say, "It's all OK for you in your country now that it's over; you are not in danger." They assume we just want a good life elsewhere. Sometimes by staying, your life may not be in danger, but you are in danger of going insane. So just after the genocide, I left Rwanda and lived in several African countries as a refugee. Eventually, I came to England where I worked as a designer and then worked to help other survivors in London for five years. Now I have returned to Rwanda because I know it is important for us to rebuild the country, and the country needs to come to terms with the past. We cannot pretend it did not happen. It needs to be faced and we need to try and find some kind of justice. That is the only way we have a future as a people.

Revenge is not the answer. That will make things worse. I could go and kill the killer who killed my parents, but his child would come after me and my cousin would then go after him. Where do we stop? It is a cycle that somehow has to end. The Rwandan population is very young, what you might call a new generation. If these people have good direction and good teaching about how they should deal with others, I think Rwanda could be a great country. It is about what we do with it, rather than what has happened. 

I think the world turned its eyes away from the genocide; only now are some international authorities visiting Rwanda again and saying things like, "We are sorry we didn't react at the right time." Then they shake their heads and go. But that is not enough. How do you develop a country where you have all those killers? Where do you put them? I think other countries should do something about it, rather than just saying they are sorry. 

The ones who are dead - they are gone. But the ones who are left are suffering now. And the message I give now is: please go and help the people who have been through this terrible thing, because the pain does not end.

I think that people should always be aware that genocide can happen and should be prevented. We shouldn't concentrate on whether 800,000 were killed in Rwanda, or a million. We are talking about individuals, people like me, people who were killed next to me; one victim was my mother, a second was my father; a third and fourth my brother and my sister, then there was my best friend and his girlfriend, and so on… We must always think of them as individuals, people who were living a simple life, people loved by other people. If genocide has happened before, it can happen again. The only thing I can think of is to be aware of it all the time. Learn about it. Teach it. Tell people.

+++

Beatha's Story

I was born in the province of Gitarama, but Kigali was the nearest city to my home. My father had died when I was two years old and my mother married again. When I was five my mother had other children and I went to live with my grandmother in Bugesera. This was the region where many Tutsis had been sent after 1959. They thought we would die of disease because there were many Tsetse fly there, but we survived. Tutsis used to look after many cattle and the main town is called Nyamata which means the place of milk. One night when I was seven years old people came into our house and dragged my grandmother out of her bed. 

I was terrified as I watched them cut her up while she was alive. They left me alone - one of the killers said "Leave her, she is only a child and cannot do harm." I wondered what harm my grandmother could have done. They left her in a ditch and I was too frightened to go anywhere so I stayed with her dead body all night until the sun came up.

That was eight years before the genocide. Bad things were happening long before 1994. Some say the genocide really began in 1959 when the Hutu Power took control. They killed tens of thousands of people then and most Tutsis were driven out of Rwanda to places like Uganda. But nobody did anything about it. Maybe that is why the government thought they could keep doing worse things. That was before I was even born.

After my grandmother was murdered, I went back to stay with my mother and her growing family. When I was twelve, my mother sent me to Kigali to go to school. The younger children stayed at home with her. I know she had worked hard and saved for me to go to school and I am very grateful to her for making that sacrifice. I loved her very much.

When the genocide broke out in 1994, I was fifteen. I will never forget being stopped at a roadblock. They made four of us girls sit and watch while they killed other Tutsis at the junction in the road. We saw them kill about seven people. They laughed at us and told us they wanted to rape us before they killed us. That is why they were saving us until last. At one moment when all the militia were distracted killing someone, all of us girls fled. They chased after us. They swiped at us with machetes; eventually we got away as they had to get back to their roadblock. I remember one of them shouting at the others "They will get caught by someone else - let the cockroaches run." That is what they called us - cockroaches or "inyenzi" in Kinyarwanda. Sometimes they called us snakes. People only did one thing with cockroaches or snakes; they killed them.

All over the city there were roadblocks so it was very difficult to hide. When we stopped running, I saw my hand was bleeding. I had a deep cut on my finger, which is still scarred today. I had not even felt them cut it although I saw them just behind us swinging the machetes. I thank God that was all; it was very close.

I hid for a few days in the sugar cane, but the government people searched in the fields with dogs so I went down into the drains. They had said for many years that we were like vermin, now I was made to live like a rat in a drain. I would sometimes sneak out to try and find food.

After the genocide was over, I found that my mother had been thrown alive into a river. No-one else in my family survived apart from a cousin of my mother who I did not know. None of my brothers or sisters are alive now. After some time I was sent to a school in Gisenyi in the north of Rwanda. I stayed in an orphanage there and they looked after me for a year until I returned to Rwanda. I am always grateful to the nuns there and one day I want to go back and do something for them in return. I think if you have been helped, then you should be grateful and give something back in return to others. That's what I try to do.

Over the past year I have been fortunate. Somebody from England sponsored me to learn English and use a computer. Even though I missed my schooling because of the troubles, this has helped me to do better for myself. Now I have a job in a gift shop in Kigali. It is long hours to work but I can live well. I have a place to stay and I don't go hungry anymore. I have enough to buy clothes sometimes. Most others in Rwanda are not so fortunate as I have been, especially those who live in the countryside.

Every day something reminds me of the genocide. For instance recently I started to learn to swim and when I swallowed some water, I imagined what it was like for my mother to die when she was thrown into the river. I know that fish probably ate her and I remember that every time I see them. Until recently I did not like to eat fish because of that. These memories make me very sad.

+++

Dancilla's Story

When the militia came in April 1994, I hid in the little church at Ntarama with my children. There were several thousand people crammed into the building - people who could not run into the hills. Our men had left us there as they thought we would be safe. In previous years when the government came to kill, they usually killed the men and left the women and children alone. We were very frightened but could not imagine what was going to happen.

The gendarmes arrived and broke some holes in the wall of the church - which you can still see today. They threw grenades into the crowds of people, then fired shots into the congregation. The noise of screaming and the mess was awful.


I was pregnant at the time of
the massacre and after the 
genocide my son Eric was
born. He now lives with me.

There were parts of bodies everywhere. I was covered by dying people, blood and filth. Some were still moving slowly, but most were dead. Then the doors were broken down so that the militia could come in and find anyone still alive - then they finished them off with machetes. I could hear the militia going about their 'work' while my friends and neighbours groaned and breathed their last. I dared not move and thought I would suffocate under the bodies while I waited my turn to be butchered. There were so many people in there that they did not find me buried under the bodies.

After the militia left and everything was silent and dark, I crawled out from under the corpses. I learned later that my husband had been killed not far away from the church. My two children had been killed in the church also.

We survivors of Ntarama decided not to bury our loved ones. Why do we leave the bones of our families lying on the floor of the church? It would be easier and better for us to bury our loved ones and give them dignity. But that would also make it easy for everyone to forget. We do not want people to forget. Everyone must know what happened because of the extremists and because of the hatred. If people forget what happened when the UN left us, they will not learn. It might then happen again - maybe to somebody else. We owe it to our families to make the world remember. That is why we wait here like this. It makes me happy that people can come here and learn what happened, or that people far away can know about this place. For the sake of the future we must keep this memory alive.

 

+++

 

Rwanda was abandoned by the world in 1994. One million people were murdered in 100 days.
The tragedy of Rwanda, a little country in Central Africa, represented the utter failure of the international community to stop genocide.

 

Even though there was a way, there was not the will to do so. There are many reasons for this, but the overarching one seems to be that Rwanda was not important enough.

For most the genocide did not end then. The impact is still felt by many today.

The Aegis Trust is launching "Rwanda Fund" to give a message, especially to the survivors, that people outside Rwanda do care and that we are making an effort to avoid these kinds of tragedies again.

As well as preserving the memory of the genocide, these projects will promote opportunities for children to attend school and local economic activities.

+++

What You Can Do



"I have seen for myself the human devastation that occurred when the world walked away. The least we can do now is show solidarity and help re-build. Your support for the Rwanda Fund will create hope for the future.

Few places on earth need it more."

Chris Tarrant




We are all moved or angered by what happened in Rwanda. But it is not enough to walk away and do nothing. We can all do something today to give hope and provide opportunities. You can be a partner in rebuilding a nation.

Your support will:

  • Give dignity and hope to the survivors who have been forgotten.
  • Enable more Rwandan children to go to school.
  • Help build independence in local communities by supporting economic and business projects.

+++

RwandaFund.org