He was 13 years old in 1994, an age of big ambitions when the guidance of parents is highly needed, but Samuel Dusengiyumva would burry his hope quite prematurely during the Genocide Committed against Tutsi.
First born among five children including one girl, Dusengiyumva saw the tragedy of the Genocide befall his family and neighbors in former Ntongwe commune, current Kinazi sector, Mukoma Cell in Ruhango district.
Dusengiyumva remembers everything. His mother, a professional midwife, and leader of the maternity section at Mukoma health center had put much trust in him.
“My mother used to call me a man in the house. She trusted me really much and was my good friend; she would consult me for important decisions like selling or buying a piece of land,” he recalls.
In fact, the mother was the most present in the family while the father, a pastor in a Baptist church was obliged to move very often to cater for Christians.
” I recall my mother telling me that I should be valiant to make sure that my siblings are safe. Our house was in the middle of Hutu extremists who had developed hatred against the Tutsi,” he said.
Their family was particularly victim because the father was arrested and imprisoned among the so-called Ibyitso – accomplice wave where the genocidaire government accused several Tutsi of being accomplices of RPF Inkotanyi.
He, however, could not make much sense of the hatred and never imagined that the hatred would escalate to killing until early April 1994.
Not only the Hutu extremists in his area hunted them from their home, but also followed them until they wiped out his family but for him, he narrowly escaped.
When Dusengiyumva tells his testimony, you feel how interahamwe militia was bloodthirsty.
I Will Protect You – Interahamwe ringleader dupes
Signs that the future of the Tutsi was uncertain in Ntongwe commune way earlier than April.
Dusengiyumva recalls cases of teachers violently beating Tutsi students for no reason, unpleasant words to him and his classmates, to mention but a few.
However, the worst started on April 7 a day after President Habyarimana’s plane crash.
“Interahamwe militia started conducting meetings to plan killings, we started seeing smokes from houses being torched from the neighboring Bugesera region,” says Dusengiyumva.
“We started seeing bodies on the river and it was very clear that we would not be safe. After the evening meal, the last we had together as family – April 11, 1994, my mother told us that we should put on many clothes to prepare for the worst because she was feeling that the night was strange.”
Barely had we gone to bed, recalls Dusengiyumva, strange noise started echoing in the neighborhood.
A guard from Mukoma health centre would come toward wee hours and he told Dusengiyumva’s mother that a plan was made to kill her with family.
“My mother came in my room and told me: Sam, wake up and please bring your siblings. We have to leave now,” he recalls.
The family headed to the health centre and the mother squeezed her four children under-delivery table which she covered with a bedsheet and she took her last born with her in another room.
“The logic of my mother was that the killers, if they came, would only taget her and leave the children. That’s how parents are always ready for any sacrifice on behalf of their children,” he said.
Nothing happened at the health centre that night; the killers instead went to their home and tried to open the door without damage. Until morning, they did not manage and they left.
That very morning, Dusengiyumva’s mother took the children from hideouts and returned home.
She went to see the burgomaster, one Charles Kagabo to ask for protection.
“Last night, we had death threats, but thanks to God we survived. What’s going on?” Dusengiyumva recalls the conversation.
The Bourgmester, a wolf in sheep’s clothing responded by handcuffing the cell chief pretending to hold him accountable.
He however added something strange “You know Hutus have become mad and I can’t do anything about it, but once you come to the communal office, I will try my level best with my police officers. I hope none will afford to attack them.”
Dusengiyumva’s mother did not wait. She put together a few stuff in a bag and took the children with her.
Campaign to gather all the Tutsi at the communal office was general; he gathered more than a hundred thousand according to Dusengiyumva. Some camped in the communal garden, others in several offices, a huge crowd.
Some Tutsi had even strategically moved to some hills where they thought they would defend themselves if anything but Kagabo was able to bring all of them.
“He was a very dangerous person. He made sure that everyone moved to the commune peacefully. There was no harm, no roadblock no looting, which made everyone to think that we were facing something that would take a few days before returning home,” says Dusengiyumva.
Barely had Kagabo brought more than 100,000 Tutsi at the commune, that he started laying traps, finalising the plan to exterminate them.
On April 19,1994, so many militias, in collaboration with Burundian refugees on opposite hill of Nyagahama attacked the Tutsi with crude weapons.
The Tutsi at Ntongwe commune managed to push them with stones, but, little did they know that the worst was in the making.
Civilians Raise Fund for the Soldiers to “Come for the Job”
The attack of April 19 angered the Hutu, and they came together, collected about Rwf 2 million and crossed to Bugesera commune for support of the Interahmwe who had finished the job that side.
“The money was handed to Gako military camp as facilitation to soldiers to come and wipe us out. They also invited interahamwe from Bugesera to come and help in looting and finishing anyone who would not meet the bullet,” Dusengiyumva recalls.
More soldiers were brought by Kagabo from Sub Prefecture. He placed them in the wetland of Nyamukumba, a valley between two hills forming a kind of a corridor on the road to Ruhango such that none would escape.
Then on April 21, recalls Dusengiyumva, a huge crowd of Interahamwe jammed the Tutsi camp.
“It was a really huge crowd estimated to 30,000. They formed a wall of some 5 kilometers and we saw ourselves helpless,” he said.
Bourgmester Kagabo turned to the helpless Tutsi and told them, “You know! I am overwhelmed. I am not able to protect you in front of these mad Hutus. Better flee to Ruhango.”
“He was well aware of all his plans. He opened the way to Nyamukumba towards Ruhango and allowed us to proceed,” said Dusengiyumva
On this road, Dusengiyumva’s family was together.
Barely had they reached Nyamukumba a small military jeep had blocked the road and soldiers gave a signal of the grenade.
“They opened fire to the innocent civilians for some 40 minutes and when they paused, the crowd with crude arms came from all over the hills to continue. I can’t describe the strange noise they were making.”
Dusengiyumva took one of his young brothers and with exceptional courage, they climbed Nyagahama hill, coming across Interahamwe who were going down the hill for looting and killing.
“They were not interested in isolated cases like us,” he said.
Meanwhile, the father took a different direction with Dusengiyumva’s young sister and another brother.
He managed to reach a chapel of Baptist church at Nyarugenge hill, a place called i Rwanda.
Little did he know, that Christians had also turned mad. They refused to hide him.
He returned and once on the roadside, he saw a roadblock in some 200 meters ahead.
He hesitated for sometimes and warned the children who were behind him that all was not well.
The children managed to make a u-turn without being noticed by the militia while the father proceeded to the roadblock.
Kill me? Allow me to Pray First
At the roadblock, the late Ruhamya Silas, the father of Dusengiyumva greeted the killers who would say “Uuhm! You are still alive?”
“Yes,” he replied.
“We are going to kill you now,” the bloodthirsty Interahamwe said.
“I know, but allow me to pray first,” he said.
The pastor’s prayer was “Father God, I know these people are going to kill me. Lord of Mercy, if any of them repents, please forgive them,” said Dusengiyumva from the information he gathered.
After invoking his God, the Pastor told Interahamwe, “I am done.”
Mercilessly they hit him with a machete and a club and “were happy that he did not require them much energy to kill,” recalls Dusengiyumva from the information he gathered in Gacaca.
“Well, my father knew that he was going to God. He did not have to resist,” says Dusengiyumva.
The father stayed at the roadblock and the second shift foud him there. The following morning, when the same killers returned, they placed a rope on his neck and carried him under a banana tree.
Meanwhile, the two children who had escaped that roadblock, unfortunately, met other interahamwe the same day. They had not eaten for two days.
The killers took them to Bourgmester Kagabo who “ruled” that they should die.
“Kagabo had a principle; that every Tutsi could be taken to their village to be killed. The thinking was that their neighbors would torture them fiercely,” Dusengiyumva said.
They took the children back home, a journey of 12 kilometers.
The children were received by 200 villagers who were coming to see them killed.
“They included my beloved sister and the last child but one who was really lovely. They took them to a one Jacques Nsabimana who had named himself Pilate, referring to his merciless heart in executing the Tutsi.
Nsabimana who is still around had installed his ‘judgment’ chair on a mass grave. He killed the children and threw them in the pit.
Take My Son with you, he may survive – Dusengiyumva’s mother
As all these tragedies were happening, Dusengiyumva and the brother with him were hiding from bush to bush, enduring all sorts of challenges while heading to Kabgayi in the current Muhanga district which was allegedly a safe haven.
At a place called Shyogwe, the two boys hid in two different families where the mother would join them with her last born still alive.
This was only God’s plan to allow her to bid her children last farewell.
The family that was hiding Dusengiyumva planned to flee to DR Congo – former Zaïre and they approached his mother and told her ” Unfortunately we are leaving for Zaïre. You may take your son. We wish you well.”
Dusengiyumva’s mother insisted, ” I beg you, take my son, maybe he will be the only survivor in my family.”
That family accepted to take Dusengiyumva aboard their car and all they witnessed was butchery all along their way.
“I regret that I was not able to bid farewell to my brother who was in the other family,” he said.
The foster family headed to Commune Muko in Southern Province.
Dusengiyumva thought he had reached a place where he was not known.
His father was a pastor, allow him to say the last prayer
Another day that was going to be fateful came when Dusengiyumva was in Commune Muko.
After feeling that he was far away from the killers from his Ntongwe commune who knew him, he went to the local market with a child from the family that received them.
“Jesus! A child of a Hutu extremist from my hometown saw me there and before I could understand how in the world he was there, I was surrounded by a bid group of Interahamwe from my birthplace,” he said.
“And You thought you had escaped us!” they said.
“For your information, we killed your father and siblings, and here you are, the next,” they said.
As one of them raised his hand to hit him and throw him in the mass grave, his colleague said, “Wait! his father was a pastor. Give him a chance to say the last prayer.”
“I prayed like never before. I have never prayed such prayer until now,” he said.
By allowing Dusengiyumva to pray, Interahamwe created him another escape. The child with him rushed back home and alerted the mother who hurried up to the commune to tell the police: “Help! They are killing my son!”
The police were ushered to the place as the child was still praying.
A policeman told the killers: “Stop! you are displaced, yet you want to saw insecurity here.”
He threatened to arrest them and they apologized.
Dusengiyumva was warned never to return outside, and he respected the instructions for a while.
After sometimes, he still escaped, found a breakthrough until Murambi of Nyamagabe where there was a camp of orphans managed by the French contingents.
They were advising any Tutsi to try and escape to Maraba in the current Huye district if they were to be safe.
“From Murambi, I felt that I really had no one who minds my case. I felt quite lonely in the middle of a crowd but managed to reach Maraba. Meeting Inkotanyi, I felt relieved, slept, and regained hope of life despite all odds,” he says.
Dusengiyumva would later learn about the end of his mother and their last born.
“When she reached Kabgayi, she got no help and remembered that around that place there was a family she knew,” Dusengiyumva recalls.
That was the fateful day. When she reached there, she found Interahamwe from Ntongwe camping there.
“They disputed and failed to agree on whom would kill my mother and they took him to a nearby classroom. After a while, they brought her back,” he said.
They wanted to remove her baby from the back but when she refused, “they quickly macheted her and threw her in a pit latrine with child still alive,” Dusengiyumva said.
“Once in the Pit latrine, the child started crying and the killers brought rocks, threw them in, until the child breathed the last.”
Dusengiyumva was saddened to hear that a lady who ordered that his lovely mother be killed was someone the mother helped to deliver once.
“Strange that people can return evil for good,” he said.
Dusengiyumva, with all these wounds, returned to school, was successful.
In 2008, he married a medical practitioner like his mother and has a happy family.
“On her advice, I named my four children after my four brothers and sister,” he said.
His belief is that “Any parent who survived the Genocide should give such an abundant love to children, to bridge the gap of late parents.”