In the aftermath of the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi, Rachel Mugorewase- then eight years old was among people who were lured to fleeing Rwanda into Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of Congo(DRC).
Born to a Tutsi mother and a Hutu father, at her tender age, Mugorewase was naïve when it comes to Rwanda’s history.
“Teachers would tell us to provide information about our parents, grandparents and great grandparents to verify whether one had Hutu or Tutsi roots,” she said.
Mugorewase later on came to know that this was intended to identify Tutsi students, for ill-treatment.
In an interview with our multimedia journalist, Mugorewase said there was fear created among Hutu civilians, aimed to promote hatred against the Tutsi.
She later on found out that it was done by Hutu extremists, especially after killing the Tutsi.
This would later be amplified by another lie that the then President Habyarimana was assassinated by former Rwanda Patriotic Army (RPA) that also “had intention to murder all the Hutu in the country.”
“Leadership at that time believed in ethnic discrimination, unjustified vengeance and mass killings, based on distorted history,” she said.
According to Mugorewase, there is a big difference between the Genocidal regime and the current Government of national unity which helps people to draw lessons from the past, to avoid another Genocide from happening again.
Life-threatening conditions in the Congo forests
Mugorewase further narrates that life was tough in Congo forests which brought her many regrets.
She said the refugees, both innocent and Interahamwe who had committed Genocide crimes were led into accepting to go deep into the Congo’s impenetrable forests. This was because they were fed on wrong information of “Rwanda following them to revenge the death of Tutsi.”
“I remember that before the Genocide, our family used to employ casual laborers. It was sad to find ourselves looking for the same jobs in a foreign country,” she said.
This dreadful experience under extreme poverty, fatigue, lack of access to food, sanitation, healthcare and other necessities left many dead. Had we known that Rwanda had a justifiable cause to bring us back home, we wouldn’t have gone further in Congo forest, rather, we would have repatriated way earlier,” she said.
Mugorewase was repatriated in May 1997. She believes that fighting the Genocide ideology requires constant campaigns and pledged to play a role in healing the wounds of the genocide survivors.
This is where the idea to form “Twubake ubumwe n’ubwiyunge” an association aimed to promote unity and reconciliation came from.
“I formed the association to add strength to my voice and join Genocide survivors to commend the Government of national unity for having liberated us from the Genocide ideologists,” she said.
To these that are still adamant to repatriate, Mugorewase says they will keep telling them the truth through testimonies so that they don’t continue to mislead.