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We Cannot Forget

We Cannot Forget: Interviews with Survivors of the 1994 Genocide in Rwanda

Samuel Totten
Rafiki Ubaldo
Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: Rutgers University Press
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    We Cannot Forget
    Book Description:

    During a one-hundred-day period in 1994, Hutus murdered between half a million and a million Tutsi in Rwanda. The numbers are staggering; the methods of killing were unspeakable. Utilizing personal interviews with trauma survivors living in Rwandan cities, towns, and dusty villages, We Cannot Forget relates what happened during this period and what their lives were like both prior to and following the genocide.

    Through powerful stories that are at once memorable, disturbing, and informative, readers gain a critical sense of the tensions and violence that preceded the genocide, how it erupted and was carried out, and what these people faced in the first sixteen years following the genocide.

    eISBN: 978-0-8135-5106-7
    Subjects: Political Science, Anthropology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-ix)
  3. [Map]
    (pp. x-x)
    (pp. 1-23)

    In one hundred days, between April 6 and July 4, 2004, extremist Hutu and their followers murdered between five hundred thousand and one million Tutsi in Rwanda. The genocide was largely carried out with rudimentary farm tools (such as machetes;massues, a traditional weapon fitted with nails sticking out from the head of the club; and hoes) versus modern, high-tech weapons, thus its appellation, “the machete genocide.”

    While many leaders and officials around the world, including those at the United Nations and in the United States, claimed that the genocide happened so quickly that it could not have been prevented,...

  5. Interviews:

      (pp. 24-37)
      Samuel Totten and Rafiki Ubaldo

      The night of the crash of President Habyarimana’s plane [April 6, 1994], we heard about it on the radio. He had been causing conflict between Tutsi and Hutu so when I heard he was killed I thought maybe now there can be peace between Tutsis and Hutus.

      Before the shooting down of the president’s plane, I had gone to Kigali to visit my aunt. She lived in Nyamirambo. While I was there I was dressed traditionally. I dressed my hair so it was piled high and dressed in akitenge[a multicolored flowing gown with a flowing shawl. It is...

      (pp. 38-64)
      Samuel Totten

      As I grew up, I discovered that many of my family members were living outside the country. For example, my auntie and uncle moved to Burundi in 1977 because the [Rwandan] government was killing Tutsi. They went to Bujumbura. My grandmother told me that she [the auntie] had a very difficult life there, but when she decided she wished to return to Rwanda she was not allowed to do so by the authorities at the time [the government of Rwandan president Juvénal Habyarimana]. Even when my grandparents went to visit her, they could not cross at the border [the official...

      (pp. 65-80)
      Samuel Totten

      In 1990, when the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) invaded Rwanda, the government leadership at the time [members and followers of the president, Juvénal Habyarimana’s government] made a kind of generalization: they said all Tutsis living in Rwanda were supporting the RPF and they referred to them asinyenzi. I am talking about the leadership at the central level making [such] statements on the radio [Radio Rwanda], and the leaders at the regional and cell levels repeating what they heard on the radio. In fact, even before 1990 there were rumors going around about a possible war brewing [between Habyarimana’s government...

      (pp. 81-97)
      Samuel Totten and Rafiki Ubaldo

      On the 7th of April 1994, the bourgmestre, Semakwavu Felicien, and the sector councillors, Munyempara Joseph and Gakwaya Innocent, had a meeting of the commune at Nyamagabe. The meeting started around nine in the morning and at about three in the afternoon it was finished. At the end of the meeting, they came to the market of Nyarusiza. They told the population, “Go and destroy the houses of the Tutsis! Kill them! God has abandoned them!” and “Don’t hide any of them [to protect them from harm,] for they have killed the father of the nation [a reference to the...

      (pp. 98-114)
      Samuel Totten

      I first experienced the ideology of genocide in 1992. It was when I first entered school. That’s when they [the teachers and school administrator] asked my ethnicity. We were made to stand up, and say what our parents were [Tutsi, Hutu, or Twa].

      I knew we were Tutsi, but I did not know the deep meaning of it. My parents didn’t even like to talk about it.

      Children I played with called me names [because he was Tutsi]. They heard information from their parents and other people. They knew it [that his family was Tutsi] even more than I knew....

      (pp. 115-126)
      Samuel Totten and Angelique Mukamurenzi

      In our village, we had a good relationship with people, Tutsi and Hutu. But leaders from the high [national] government brought disputes to the local government, and caused problems for both Tutsi and Hutu. They [national government leaders] wanted to differentiate [between groups of] people in school. When I started primary one, in September 1992, teachers asked us: “How many Tutsi are in this class?” and “How many Hutu?” When I first started school I did not know if I was Tutsi or Hutu. So when we were first told to stand up if we were Tutsi, I stood up....

      (pp. 127-136)
      Samuel Totten and Angelique Mukamurenzi

      Here, in 1990, in Gisenyi Town, there was a military group called Zoulou, a government military group from Mutara [which was a province near Uganda]. The Zoulou were the ones who fought the RPF there, and when they returned to Gisenyi they were feeling very confident. They came to Gisenyi to disturb the Tutsi. At this time, when Hutu neighbors told us, “The Zoulu will come today,” we went to hide in the bush. Others went to hide in the Catholic church. Sometimes they just told us that [the Zoulou were coming] as a lie so we would go hide...

      (pp. 137-155)
      Rafiki Ubaldo

      On 9 April 1994, in the evening when I was coming back from the grazing fields, I found the whole family gathered in our kitchen. This was the first time in my life that I saw my father sitting in the kitchen. I [had] never seen it before. In our tradition, adult men do not sit in the kitchen. The kitchen is only for women and children. Three days earlier, the presidential airplane had crashed in Kigali.

      As a child, I used to joke a lot, especially when my father was at home. So, when I saw everyone gathered around...

      (pp. 156-168)
      Samuel Totten and Angelique Mukamurenzi

      In 1990, when the war [following the invasion into Rwanda by the Rwandan Patriotic Force] started, people [Hutu neighbors] began to insult our family and other Tutsi families in our village. There were many families of Tutsis in our village, and they were all insulted.

      The Hutus also hit Tutsis, only the men. Both my father and uncles and brothers were attacked, hit at this time. They [the Hutu] hit them with branches [long, thin branches with leaves that served as whips] from the trees. I saw this happen. I was six years old. Our father told us to pray...

      (pp. 169-175)
      Samuel Totten and Rafiki Ubaldo

      Even before I left Rwanda in 1992, the war between the government soldiers and the RPF [Rwandan Patriotic Front] was going on and people were being labeled as accomplices of the rebels [the RPF].

      I left Rwanda in 1992 to go to Burundi to visit relatives. Since my parents were healthy I didn’t see any reason to come [return] to this porch [small house in the countryside], and it was the first time I went to a big city, Bujumbura. I was living with the family of my brother who had moved to Burundi.

      In 1994 I thought I should...

      (pp. 176-192)
      Samuel Totten

      In our village, among our friends and our neighbors, Tutsi and Hutu, we had no problems because we were good neighbors, helped one another, attended weddings and celebrations and like that. But at school we had problems. There, teachers made us stand up and tell if we were Tutsi or Hutu. Before I went to school, I didn’t know that I was that [whether he was Tutsi, Hutu, or Twa] because my parents did not talk about such, did not tell us. At school, when I was first asked, I did not know, but since my teacher knew my parents,...

    (pp. 193-194)

    It is vital for survivors of genocide to tell their stories. This is as true for survivors of the 1994 Rwandan genocide as it is for survivors of the Khmer Rouge-perpetrated genocide of their fellow Cambodians (1975–1979), the Holocaust (1933–1945) or the Ottoman Turk genocide of the Armenians (1915–1919).

    Talking about what happened to themselves and their loved ones during genocide help many survivors feel less alone in the world. For many, it is comforting when others take the time to truly listen to what they experienced and continue to deal with in the aftermath of the...

    (pp. 195-206)
    (pp. 207-207)
    (pp. 208-208)