Home Kwibuka29 Umuhoza Olive: In the House of Killers, Bitter Genocide Aftermath and Miraculous Healing

Umuhoza Olive: In the House of Killers, Bitter Genocide Aftermath and Miraculous Healing

by Jean de la Croix Tabaro
5:15 pm

Olive Umuhoza

The testimony of Oliva Umuhoza from Rwinkwavu in Kayonza district will tell you that after surviving the barbarity of interahamwe during the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi it was not obvious for a child to transit to good people who handle with good care, rather, the aftermath itself was also costlier.

However, she is a living testimony that God can heal all wounds, using other people of heart on one’s way.

The story of persecution in the family of Umuhoza starts way earlier with the grandfather who was a chief in Muhanga during colonial era.

He was chased from his Gitarama home at the start of persecution of the Tutsi in Rwanda and a foreigner who was working in Rwanda found him a job in the mining in Rwinkwavu.

The grandfather had three children, including Umuhoza’s father who would also get employed in the mining. This gave them a status of a wealthy family.

Umuhoza was a lonely sister of five boys. The Genocide found her at the Godmother who was near their home.

“I heard people screaming and was very much concerned and I woke up my Godmother thinking that it was a case of theft. However, for her she knew,” Umuhoza recalls.

As she was still wondering what had happened, Umuhoza’s father came running with his first born and told them that it was over; the mother who was sick was killed, together with the grandmother and the three remaining children.

The Godmother who was married to a Hutu man thought she would be safe, thus she requested to hide Umuhoza, but the father was not sure of the safety.

He took Umuhoza with her elder brother and went to hide in the bush around their house as screaming continued back home.

“I kept pushing my father to go rescue them but he just ignored me because she knew the story. I kept insisting until he put me on his shoulder and we walked down in the valley that night,” she said.

They kept hiding for some days, and the father recalled that there was a church mate who could potentially provide a safe haven.

They headed there and the church mate put them in her house until Interahamwe militia dislodged them and they changed a hideout.

Umuhoza Olive(L) slightly after the Genocide against Tutsi

Through their hideout, they would see awful incidents and Umuhoza will never forget a baby who was ‘breastfeeding’ from her mother’s dead body.

“Through these trying moments, my father kept praying while for me I kept my eyes wide open to watch the killers. I had thought that they were the same people following just my family. I didn’t know we were a whole community that became a prey of a whole nation,” recalls Umuhoza.

On the fateful day, interahamwe came and disloged Umuhoza, the father and her brother and told them: “Today we are just interested in boys and men. We shall deal with women and children later.”

Right there, they killed the father and the brother. One of the interahamwe took Umuhoza home.

“Every now and then, going to fetch water I would see the bodies of my lovely father and brother laying down and think that they were alive because I had no idea how one dies, thus I used to shake them to wake them up in vain,” she said.

Umuhoza did that for a couple of days until some children told her: “you know your dad is dead and will never come back.”

After a few days, the bodies decomposed and the killers just “threw them in a pit.”

The Interahamwe militia who took Umuhoza home would leave her and go to kill more Tutsi. They had just taken her like one of their children, but she was not grateful.

“I never took it a charity act-having killed my father, ‘saving’ my life was not something I would appreciate,” Umuhoza said.

On a very good day, a soldier who managed to know about Umuhoza’s whereabouts came home and Umuhoza thought it was again someone coming to kill her, but it was a savior from Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) Inkotanyi.

Interahamwe militia had decided to leave Umuhoza while saying “thus lonely little girl is useless and cannot do anything to us because we have finished her entire family. “‘

“That’s how I knew that I was the only survivor on earth in my familym,” said Umuhoza.

“They didn’t know that God had a good plan for me.”

The soldier took her to Rwinkwavu hospital, where she found so many injured people, including Interahamwe militia and left her to the hospital.

One of the soldiers found Umuhoza disparate and asked her: “where are you coming from little one?”

Umuhoza did not have anything to say, but the soldier didn’t want to let her go.

“Where is your mother?” he asked and Umuhoza replied that the mother was killed.

The soldier asked a follow up question: “And your father?”

At this, Umuhoza who saw it all about his father burst into tears.

The soldier took good care of Umuhoza and drove her home for fostering.

In a family of male soldiers, the guardian understood that the young girl would be better off in the hands of a woman. Thus, he entrusted Umuhoza to a female soldier, one Joy.

Umuhoza Olive(R) with Joy

The later took very good care of Umuhozar to an extent that she marked her life ever. Umuhoza gave her a deserved name of Mommy Joy. She is the one who started efforts to search for Umuhoza’s origins, a very tough job because she didn’t know much about her family except the names of her parents.

The search took long and it yield no result, not until a cousin sister from RPF Inkotanyi learnt her whereabouts.

“Mommy Joy recommended that they go show me the place where I was born and bring me back and that’s what they did,” Umuhoza said.

“She is the only person in the world who showed me true love.”

The notorious Foster Family

After a couple of years with Mommy Joy, the relatives of Umuhoza decided to  “take their child”, but this was the start of a Calvary.

“It is in this family that I realised that I was lonely, an orphan kumbe!” she said.

“Brethrens, some families took children Genocide survivors as housemaid, even slaves-those are some of the consequences that we had.”

In that foster family, at her age of ten-twelve, they used to curse her.

“Some families that received us after the Genocide thought that our being would not allow them to enjoy some properties that were left by our parents,” she said.

Umuhoza Olive after the Genocide

“They would come and tell me: how if you give birth to an illegal child? Where will you take him since your mother is no longer?”

At first, Umuhoza had just accepted the life of losing her parents, but she was not feeling that much pain because she was in good hands of Mummy Joy, but returning among her relatives deteriorated her already difficult condition.

She started secondary school, and she managed the first year, but when she reached the second year, she got stuck because she was always wondering about the bitter holidaysbg that were awaiting her in the foster family.

She repeated the class.

“I was a sickly girl who detested God abhorrently; that God who killed my whole family,” she said.

At fourteen, Umuhoza decided to go throw herself in a river and take her own life, but on the shore of the river, she had a second thought.

“I thought that if I don’t die, the same family will see me again, yet I wanted to die such a death where they don’t even find my corpse. I was a bitter girl,” she remembers.

From this however, Umuhoza teaches the community a lesson to always accept the behavior of every Genocide survivor and try to listen to them as a way of accompanying them in a healing process.

In this family, Umuhoza was rescued by the Fund for Genocide Survivors(FARG) which took her to start a new life at AVEGA Rwamagana.

“I was feeling fine this time, but they later on brought together a group of eleven children and bought a house for us. We started a family of that format,” she said.

They all had their wound but Umuhoza believes that God used her mightily to support her fellow despite the previous family saying that she would be a useless person.

“Sooner, I started learning to pray and my life was never the same.”

Umuhoza persevered in life and studied university. She now a successful woman,  married with three children and she believes that God hears prayers and can really heal the wounds even though healing is a journey.

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