Family photographs of some of those who died hang in a display in the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre in Kigali, Rwanda Saturday, April 5, 2014. On April 7. 2014, the country commemorated the 20th anniversary of the genocide when ethnic Hutu extremists killed neighbors, friends and family during a three-month rampage of violence aimed at ethnic Tutsis and some moderate Hutus, leaving a death toll that Rwanda puts at 1,000,050. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

Editor’s note:  In 1994, an estimated 1 million people were killed in a genocide in the African nation of Rwanda. In the aftermath, thousands of women were sexually assaulted.  The three attorneys who successfully prosecuted rape as a war crime will be at TCU on Thursday to discuss this shift in law. TCU 360 staff writer Yvonne Umugwaneza lived through the genocide. This is the second part of her first person account. You can read the first part here

The 10-minute walk took two hours.

Members of the Hutu militia were stationed in front of my aunt’s house. They had been trained and equipped by the government. They had listed of Tutsi who were to be  killed. Because I wasn’t from Kigali, they let me pass and enter my aunt’s yard.

My family looked at me as if I were ghost, sure that I had been killed.

My aunt asked: “How did you get here?”

“I walked.”

My uncle asked: “Are you OK?”


My uncle: “Where is everybody?”

“I don’t know, we got separated.”

Family friends and neighbors were being killed around us.

For three days, military and local militias came in and out of my aunt’s house.

It was hard not to wonder when death would come for us.

April 12

It was around noon on a Tuesday when the gunshots stopped.

Instead, artillery fire shook the house and roared through the night.

By morning there was quiet.

My aunt’s house maid, a Hutu, warned that we were to be killed the next day.

That night rebel soldiers infiltrated the neighborhood. They rescued us along with other Tutsi neighbors. We fled to the Rebero hotel thinking it would be safe because it was under rebel control.

It was a battleground under constant fire from government troops.

The next morning, after the heavy shooting ended we bathed in the swimming pool, only to be told it was the only source of safe drinking water left.

On Monday, some Tutsi had herded to Nyanza Hill. At least 5,000 were slaughtered. Others were maimed and mutilated.

The injured were brought to the Rebero.

We had to take care of them. At 14, I had never imagined such carnage.

The first person I took care of was a woman. I was giving her water when I realized she was not swallowing.

I called a soldier over. He shook her, then looked at me and told me that she was dead.

I tended the injured until late in the evening. I went to our family’s room and I told my aunt what happened.

“At least she is now gone,” she told me. “She is no longer in pain.”

In addition to the wounded, they brought children.

Children who had nobody left.

April 18

That morning, I was in the kitchen feeding children, when I suddenly felt smoke in my chest.

I started coughing as blood streamed from my right side.

I could not feel my legs.

I fell down and slowly I started to see people in shadows. I could hear people speaking, but they seemed to be far away. Then it was quiet and dark.

I woke up in my family’s room. My aunt was sitting next to me holding my hand. She told me that I was shot. I had a huge wound in my upper right side and small one in my abdomen.

The following night I was moved to the Gishushu neighborhood, another area that was partially under rebel control.

I was alone.

I do not know how many days I spent in Gishushu. Eventually, I was moved to an area north of the city under rebel control. There, I was reunited with my aunt’s family and hospitalized. Days later, I went through a surgery in which they got some bomb fragments out of my body.

I am humbled and grateful to be alive. This experience taught me not to take anything for granted. I try to do my best, always knowing after the darkness there is always a light.

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