A memorial plaque stands on a hill in Southern Rwanda where on May 19, 1994, only women and their children were gathered from different locations by marauding Genocide militia.
One woman survived the horrific ordeal that happened there and only agreed to narrate what she saw last week.
During the days preceding this May 19 date, Tutsi women with their babies and girls found hiding around Mbuya hill were not killed. Instead, they were matched to a particular grass-thatched house.
Twenty-four years later, the perpetrators – including those convicted, have refused to speak, preferring to serve out their jail terms. Information pieced together by survivors association IBUKA shows that the act of collecting Tutsi women and children had been planned by local leaders to end an entire generation.
Those brought were straight away pushed inside the house. As other interahamwe militias continued hunting for the targets, some stayed to guard the house. Then on D-Day, an unknown number of militias gathered outside the house.
Inside, Jeannette Mukagasana with 104 other women and children were sure they were going to be killed but had no idea how it would be done. In the midst of crying children, a voice on the outside shouted: “Mukagasana ni asohoke” (Mukagasana come out).
She refused to come out, but was persuaded by her family members who were telling her that maybe the militia would spare her. “You could survive to tell our story,” they said.
When Mukagasana came out, one member of the militia was arguing with others – trying to convince them that she was his neighbour. They made her lie on the ground with her face down.
The militia locked the house with a padlock and set it on fire. Mukagasana narrates, amid repeated breakdowns, that voices of wailing people still haunt her.
Due to the traumatic experience, Mukagasana told a gathering commemorating the victims this past Sunday May 20 that she did not want to speak much. It was the first time she had accepted to narrate what happened.
With the fire raging, the militias kept on adding dried wood to keep the blazing furnace hot enough to kill everybody.
After the house had been completely burnt out, and no sound was coming from the victims, the militias used sticks and stones to continue hitting the bodies to make sure none was still alive.
Today, at the site in the then Nyakizu commune – now Ngoma sector of Nyaruguru district, is a memorial plaque with names of some of the victims from the carnage.
Full details of the testimony were first published by Kigali Today, our sister publication.
Events commemorating victims of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi are still ongoing around the country up until July.