A year after the start of the 1994 genocide, Rwanda’s children are still trying to put their lives back together. Hundreds of thousands were killed, lost their families or are separated from their parents. All the survivors are still haunted by their memories of those 100 days of mayhem and brutality.
Original broadcast: April 1, 1995
A year ago this week, the gates at border crossings like this one into Rwanda were closed. A plane carrying the presidents of Rwanda and Burundi back from peace talks in Tanzania had been shot down. Both men were dead. An hour later, the interahamwe, the militant Hutu militiamen, set up their first roadblocks in the Rwandan capital Kigali. The killing had begun. By the time the rebels, belonging to the Rwandan Patriotic Front, captured Kigali three months later, an estimated 2 million people had fled the country. 1.5 million were dead. 60% of the victims of the Rwandan genocide were children.
Radio Netherlands, the Dutch International Service, presents “Children of the genocide”. The program is produced and presented by Eric Beauchemin.
All children in Rwanda have been affected by the war. One immediately thinks of the loss of life and the war period itself, but it didn’t stop there. Immediately after children were displaced from their homes, their schooling was stopped. Thousands upon thousands of children lost family. So the institutions, the health systems, were disrupted. The water systems were disrupted and all other parts of life. So yes, it’s a pervasive effect on children.
A year later, the children of Rwanda, like the rest of society, are still putting their lives back together. All the cities have suffered damage. One Rwandan in 5 is dead. One in four is a refugee. Children were not spared. Half saw family members being killed. 90% had to hide to survive. Almost all thought they would die. And in the mayhem, tens of thousands were separated from their parents, according to Ray Gilberto Torres of the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF. In UN jargon, they became unaccompanied children.
For the moment, we are estimating that there are approximately 80.000 unaccompanied children in Rwanda and the camps surrounding the country. So the situation is still very critical because on top of that problem, we also have the problem of the internally displaced persons. We know that there are 350.000 approximately adults now internally displaced. We would think that 5% of that amount is constituted by unaccompanied children: 15.000, 20.000. We also included in that figure the unaccompanied children that are being cared for in unaccompanied children’s centers within Rwanda. There are approximately 50 UC centers within Rwanda, and we also include between 5 and 7.000 children that are being cared for in foster families in which the fostering took place spontaneously.
Nyanzara Makiri (sp?), who comes from southern Rwanda, is one of the many who has adopted children, the children of her brothers and sisters. All her siblings were killed in the genocide, all that is except one.
I adopted four orphans, as well as the children of relatives I found. Their parents were all killed during the genocide. It wasn’t easy – 11 kids all of a sudden. Right after the war, I no longer had a house. It was destroyed during the fighting. I didn’t have any money. I didn’t have a job. I simply couldn’t have all 11 of them come live with me. I have 5 now. I put the other 6 in an orphanage, but I want to get them back as soon as I have enough money. The orphanage is far away from here, so I’ve only been able to go there once. From what I saw, they should be OK, maybe.
During the war and the genocide of the spring of 1994, hundreds of thousands of people in Rwanda were separated from their families, as they tried to escape the interahamwe, the Hutu death squads, and the fighting between government forces and RPF rebels. It was estimated after the war that 115.000 children had been separated from their parents or other relatives. Today, 80.000 unaccompanied children remain. Save the Children UK, the International Committee of the Red Cross and UNICEF are trying to reunite the children with their families. The quest for relatives takes Save the Children employees, like Patricia Mohomo, a Rwandan raised in Uganda, through every single administrative unit in Rwanda, from the largest – the prefecture – to the commune or town and then to the smallest units, the secteur and cellule. When I joined Patricia Mohomo, we drove 1.5 hours east of Kigali to bring home a mother and her 4-year-old daughter. They had been reunited the day before in Kigali.
So, this is the family which she joined after when we had traced the kid. That is the grandma. That’s the mother, this lady, and that’s her sister. EB: Why are you taking these pictures? Yeah, we take these pictures. We have to show some of this to our bosses at work. EB: To show that you are doing your work. Yeah, at times, it’s even good because we remember when we are doing the…we do the follow-up. We look at the picture. We know the place where we took the picture from and the people from whom we are going to do the follow-up because we shall come to visit the family again. EB: Why? To see the situation in which the child was, the new situation in which the child is now. EB: To see if everything is working OK. If everything is OK. You see, she was now maybe not as healthy as she might be in some few days to come with the mother.
She said that she first put the announcement on the all the communes here with the Red Cross people, but she couldn’t get the kid. Then, they asked her to wait for maybe some days, that they were just dealing with the case. But she waited. She couldn’t find the kid. Then, lucky enough, she found us. She saw us trying to look for her and tell her that we had seen somebody who had the kid. EB: How had you found the child? When we were doing the tracing – in a different place than this one – they had a meeting. Among the people who were there, one of them came out and said: ah, you are trying to join parents with children who are separated here and there. We said yes. He said I have someone. I’m keeping a certain kid at my house. If you can try to trace the mother. EB: Did you have a lot of information about this child? How old is she? She said she’s 4 years old. We didn’t have enough information. We only had two names. EB: And what were the names? The name of the mother, the first name of the mother and the father and the kid herself, the nickname. It is just a nickname for the father. Then we came on tracing. We went where they are staying before. We found that there were some people who knew these people before – the mother and the father. Even the kid. From there we went to the mosque where this kid had said that they were staying near the mosque. Then we went at that place. We found a certain man. We asked if he could try to bring us to…to tell us at least some more information about these people. EB: The parents. About the parents. So we came all around trying to trace these people. We asked about three places in this town where you’ve seen. Then we tried tracing, tracing, till we reached this place, and we found this lady. She was so happy when she heard that we knew where the kid was. EB: Can you ask the mother what the reunion was like yesterday…because she was reunited with her child yesterday. Instead of being happy, showing the reaction of happiness, she started crying. She said that the people who had the kid, they were really happy to see her. The child was so happy and the mother was so happy that they made a very big celebration. Those people were really very nice. And they’d promised to be visiting each other, the family visiting each other. EB: Is she happy? The child isn’t saying anything but she’s got a big smile on her face. EB: We’ve driven around 5 minutes away from where we left the mother and the daughter. What are we doing here Patricia? We are still doing the tracing with another family with a certain kid. We don’t know whether the family is still around and we don’t know where they are. So we are trying to go around tracing, but here the commune have come to inquire from the people at the commune to ask them if they knew about that person before or if they can direct us where to go.
Yeah, she says she knows the man. Now we are going to ask her to direct us where the man is and see if we can talk to that man and let him know where the kid is and when we should reunify the two. EB: So this is the man we are looking for. This is the father. Yes, this is the father. We met him along the way. EB: Is he surprised to find out that his son is still alive? Yeah. He said that he had heard about him before, but he didn’t know where he was. EB: How long will it be before the son is reunited with the father? We are telling him we don’t know when exactly. He said that he didn’t know where the son was. EB: But he knew that his son was alive. He didn’t know exactly what had happened, but they were together before the war, and the child just disappeared like that. At times…you see, we got this from the Red Cross. EB: The thing that you are showing is the piece of paper where the son has given the information about where his father is. Yeah, but he never said he was with the parent before. Now he wants to come back to join the father. So we shall bring him and reunite him with the father. EB: Is this very satisfying work for you personally to be able to reunite families? It is. Yeah, it is really. Like now, he knew the son was alive but he didn’t know where he was. So what we are going to do is we’re going to go to his home because he says it’s not very far away from here. Then we take a picture of him. We take the picture to the son, and then we talk to the son. You see, for him it is…now it is another case. He say that he might not have wanted to stay with the dad. So, we shall talk to the son, see what happened between when he separated from the father because it was just after the war. And then we ask him if he is ready to come back and join the father. If he says yes, we shall bring the son and then reunify the son with the dad.
So far, over 30,000 children have been reunited with their families, but the tracing program is being hampered by the destruction of Rwanda’s infrastructure. The fact that an estimated 2 million people are still in refugee camps in some of Rwanda’s neighboring countries explains in part, says Ray Gilberto Torres, the long time frame UNICEF has given itself to reunite the remaining 80.000 unaccompanied children with their families or other surviving relatives.
We would like to set a time frame not longer than 5 years. We think that in 2 years, the very easy – if you wish – reunifications will have taken place, the ones for children that are old enough to remember where they come from and what the name of their parents is. For the other children, for which we need a tracing activity, it will take a bit longer. EB: For somebody listening far way, 5 years sounds like an incredible leeway that you are giving yourselves. Not really if you take into account the difficulty of this country in terms of communication, in terms of transportation, in terms of lack of records, in terms of the archives and files that have been destroyed. Let’s take a very concrete example: in Rwanda, we have found many centers in which, from 72 children, 21 children know where their parents come from. But the director of the center doesn’t have enough money, simply enough money to pay for the transportation for that child to reach his dad or her mom somewhere, in another part of the country.
Children were not only the most innocent of victims of the Rwandan genocide, they were also the most innocent of killers. 150 boys between the ages of 11 and 17 are currently being held in the central prison of Kigali. There are among the 150.000 people suspected of having take part in the genocide. But no one, says Ray Torres, has a clear idea of how many children murdered.
This is a very rough estimate that in Rwanda, there must be between 300 and 400 kids that have been accused of genocide. Our efforts now with the government of Rwanda is starting as soon as possible the necessary actions to investigate all those cases and to make sure that the appropriate judiciary and legal procedures are taken so as to ensure the respect and protection of their human basic rights.
I killed Monte Garaba, Iribambe and Matoge. All three were Tutsi. I killed them because the military gave an order to the interahamwe to murder people. That’s why I killed. I killed all three of them with a machete.
In his late teens, he comes from a village near the Rwandan capital. He’s being held in the central prison of Kigali, along with 6.000 others. The jail is designed to house 2.000. At night, the prisoners are squeezed together, several to a bunk. Everyone, including the child suspects, gets only one hot meal a day because of a lack of firewood. Many have been interned since July when Kigali fell, but it will be months before they appear in court. Rwanda simply doesn’t have the money to carry out investigations into the genocide.
I wasn’t a member of the interahamwe. I had to kill to save myself. The interahamwe killed everyone who didn’t give them their full support. I ask God to forgive me for what I did. I had no choice. I shouldn’t have done it. I ask forgiveness. I had nothing against the people I killed. I don’t deny what I did. What the survivors say is true. I don’t deny it. I killed. If that means the death penalty awaits me, so be it.
No matter how serious the human rights violations of the several hundred children being held, with no trial date in sight, they pale in comparison with what’s happening with the rest of Rwanda’s children and teenagers. Adults are trying to provide some normalcy to the kids, but Tarcisse Kayunga, the principal of a school in southern Rwanda, says it isn’t easy.
There are many problems. For example, children come to school late because they are hungry. Teachers too. There are children without clothes or school materials so they can’t really follow the courses. There are teachers who are poorly housed or who come from far away. There are children who are orphans, children who directly experienced the war. So you’ll understand that these conditions aren’t conducive to learning.
And like everyone else in Rwanda, Tarcisse Kayunga and his teachers are trying to deal with the wounds of the genocide. Treating the trauma is essential to rebuilding the country, say the experts. But the principal is having trouble coming to terms with his own traumas from the genocide, let alone those of his pupils.
There are some who are traumatized, but not many. Some saw how their parents were killed, how their brothers were killed. Every time they see one of the killers, they are afraid. To help them get over it, we tell them that it’s over, that it won’t happen again, that they must be patient, that everyone is here to help them. All that. We aren’t supposed to talk about what happened here in class, but sometimes you have no choice, like in the religion class. You tell them that children must love each other. We must forgive.
But how can even adults forgive Rwanda’s murderers? Leslie McTyre of UNICEF is the Westerner who ha s interviewed the largest number of child survivors of the genocide. The children’s experience, he says, are simply incredible.
Some of them have managed to escape traumatic events and situations by running fast and consequently carry guilt because they left their families behind to be slaughtered. There are many children in many orphanages carrying machete wounds in their heads, arms, legs, back, etc. There are others, particularly the young girls, a few of the young boys also, who have been raped and otherwise mistreated. There are others who have been thrown into mass graves and presumed dead and have later on crawled out. There’s a wide range of experiences further than the imagination normally handles.
Or wants to handle. The majority of Rwanda’s children today suffers from trauma. It’s a normal reaction to an extremely abnormal event and, says psychologists, it’s also a way for the survivors to protect themselves. Trauma manifests itself in a variety of ways, according to Leslie McTyre.
Most of the children are having severely bad nights, in the sense of nightmares. The more severe cases of trauma are not eating. All of them are haunted by fears. Many of them are haunted by images that continually come up in front of their eyes of the worst part of the traumatic events. This is particularly disturbing because they may be doing something that requires concentration and therefore puts their life in danger, etc., etc. These are some of the effects of traumatic reactions, but these are the short-term effects. The long term effects, we really don’t have too much to go on, short of the studies done on World War II trauma victims. And since this particular situation is so different from anything – World War II or even any of the modern man-made catastrophes – it’s very difficult to tell what we can expect in the future from trauma victims unless we can start to help to partially heal these trauma victims. I really don’t leave an option for not healing them, particularly in the case of Rwanda that has a previous history of 5 major massacres that could be sparked up by unknown events such as trauma victims themselves as they grow older.
…which is why UNICEF has begun a major trauma healing program for children. But trauma, says Leslie McTyre, can never truly be healed.
As a trauma healer, you’re beaten from the beginning. Trauma is a sense impression that is deeply burned into the memory. And therefore, no amount of work is ultimately going to totally erase the trauma from the victim. What we are trying to do at this point is to heal to the extent that the individual can continue a self-healing process due to the fact that he is now able to function normally, more or less normally. The process is fairly simple. It consists of what traditionally – what very old psychology books will call abreaction – and that basically means getting it out of your system, either verbally or by drawing or by play-acting or a number of different techniques, all or some or one of which can be used in a single victim. Africa as a matter of fact provides some additional opportunities in terms of song, dance. So we are using everything and anything that will work. But the most efficient is the verbal expression of the traumatic incident. Get to it in detail. And it’s usually painful when you go through the worst part of the incident, but once you’ve shared it with somebody, it becomes a shared pain and therefore it dissipates, it dilutes itself in the person’s mind. Immediately after the abreaction you go into what I call futures building. Basically it’s the trauma victim has had his entire sense of planning his life destroyed. There is no future. There’s very little past, except the event, etc., etc. And at this point you start to rebuild the social categories that permit the person to start thinking of himself as a human being with a future who should be working, planning, having activities towards this future.
EB: Are there some people who are so severely traumatized because you mentioned that almost everyone in the society has been affected, but some people were affected more than others. Are there some people who are so severely affected that no amount of counseling will help? Oh yes. I’ve met a young girl that was continuously raped by over 50 men over a 2-month period, whom I really frankly don’t expect to see smile for many, many years. There are a number of similar cases, different people getting affected by different level circumstances. I would say that many of these people – fortunately not a majority – but many of these people may never really understand the true sense of happiness, joy, bliss…the wonderful words that we aspire to achieve in our own personal lives. I don’t even know if they’ll aspire to these words, let alone get to know them because of the extreme burns in their memories at this point in time.
You can chose another method than talking, or if you really want to talk to the child, you can say I know this is painful for you…
We’re carrying out training in a number of different – what we call – social actors, child caretakers in unaccompanied children’s centers, health workers, social workers, teachers, etc., that are also helping us to assess the various levels and degrees of trauma, and the possibility of taking on mass-healing techniques, at least in groups, because treating each one individually is going to become increasingly difficult, particularly with the time-bound emphasis that we have in trauma healing at this point. The sooner you treat the trauma, the better off everybody is. And, at this point, we have already gone 6 months beyond the end of the war, and some of the effects are becoming more established into the personalities. Some of the symptoms are becoming more veiled and masked, which means that it’s harder to get to the crux of the problem. We’re running against time at this point, and we have to look for techniques that may help us to possibly deal with trauma on a wider social basis although we may lose efficiency on an individual basis.
The experiences of the victims were not only horrific, they are also linked to sense impressions and those can never be forgotten.
There’s an example of a little girl – I believe it was in Somalia, I’m not sure. She was running from gunfire and explosions, and she felt something mushy under her foot. She looked down, and she noticed that she had been stepping all over a destroyed body. Her trauma was not a sight or a sound. It was a feeling on her foot, which she kept trying to wash out and clean out and desperately get out of her system during her trauma episode. But she couldn’t until she went through the trauma-healing session. OK, that was feeling. There are numerous examples of the smell of death. A little boy who had hidden underneath the floor boarding of the house and had been so scared as not to move for a number of days and in the meantime his family was rotting right above him. Although he didn’t see anything, the smell of death launches the boy into a state approaching catatonia. It’s basically freezing up, freezing up and not being able to move, and not being able to focus, not being able to carry on any movement or daily functions. Sounds, the sound of gunfire is one constant source of trauma. I would say, however, that the most common source is the visual images. This means the visual image of a machete hacking or a bludgeoning to death or a shooting or burning or whatever it was comes up. In the case of a smell, smell will suddenly pop up. The smell of death, although there may actually be no smell of death around in the environment, the smell of death will suddenly come, and the traumatized victim will start smelling and begin to freeze up into this frozen state again until the image or the sense impression in the memory stops and permits normal brain functions to take over again.
Throughout the country, adults are trying to find some way to heal the traumas of the genocide and the war. But so far little has been done. One of the places where they have been active and they have had considerable success is the unaccompanied children’s center in Nyanza in southern Rwanda. It used to be run by an Italian religious order, but after the war broke out, Avsi, an Italian organization and another Italian group moved. Avsi was asked to provide assistance because it had been working for more than a quarter of a century in neighboring Uganda. It arrived in Nyanza a month after the war ended. The team consisted of 3 people: an Italian doctor, a social worker and Doreen Muzirakon, a teacher who is originally from Rwanda but who was raised in Uganda. When the 3 of them arrived, 800 children had taken refuge in a center designed for 150.
There were orphans and unaccompanied children. They were coming from different centers because each time they were running and so on. They came here and were being given refuge by the father. So most of them were here. EB: And these are all children who lost their parents because of the genocide. Yes, yes, they were the children. At the very beginning, when we came here, the children were very many, and most of them were really traumatized. The children, most of them, had lost relatives. So they had really been so much, much, much involved in this kind of thing. So we go together to speak with them and also to stay with them, to give them the psychological treatment and the therapy generally.
EB: What’s your name? Kavyatoré Habyankaré. EB: How old are you? 16 years old. EB: What happened to you during the war? They heard that the president was killed. They just saw people coming in in big numbers, and they realized that war was on. First, I didn’t think that it was a serious thing, but they saw more kids coming in, and some were wounded. EB: Were there adults around to help you and the other children?They didn’t see many adults around. But they saw more kids coming in. At first, they didn’t realize what was happening. But later they heard gunshots, and the priest told them to stay indoors and to lock the doors to stay here. EB: Since you were one of the older children, did you take care of the smaller ones? There were too many kids in the house. Sometimes 8 kids were sharing one bed. EB: Was there enough food and water? There was enough food but sometimes they needed to wait so they could cook some more food because there were too many children here. EB: Were you afraid? Yes, she was much afraid because she saw many people who were injured and sometimes wounded because of gunshots. EB: So, there were more and more children coming here. What happened afterwards? Later, the RPF, the inkotanyi, came here to protect them, but before, the interahamwe, the militias, came to steal the car and they took some money. EB: Were you afraid that you would be killed? Yes, she was afraid because they were shooting near the house where she was hiding. EB: Were the small children particularly afraid? Yes, the small kids were scared and they run out of the house. But later the adults went to find them and brought them near the other children. EB: When the RPF came and started to protect you, did you feel now everything is OK and life will get back to what it used to be? When the RPF came in, they felt more secure because the gunshots stopped and they could go out and feel more secure.
EB: She almost seems like an adult for a 14 year old. Yes, she’s really great in this orphanage because she’s very jolly, first of all. She’s always very hard working. She’s good because she even looks after the young ones. And she’s a very interesting character. She gets together all the children and she’s always playing with them, singing with them and so on, and she takes care of them. We started to talk with them. Each one would talk about his or her experience during the war. So they would talk that really what happened to them, what they witnessed during the war, when they witnessed their parents being killed, their relatives. And so some of them were also insulted. EB: You mean, they were hurt. Yes, the majority of them have got injuries. Some were cut, some were beaten and so on. We started on to talk with them. Each time we talked to them, some of them never wished to express what really happened to them. They said it was not useful for them, and they never liked to talk about it. But slowly by slowly, we told them that this type of thing was very important for them to speak about it. And they would be helped in their daily life if they really talked to someone who cared to listen to what really happened to them. Then they started telling us that when war began at my place, I was together with my family. Then all of a sudden my parents were killed at my side. I witnessed my parents being killed. I tried to hide all along just for my life because I was very scared at that time. I was afraid of my own life until God helped me and I was here. So each time when you ask them that when you witnessed your parents being killed, what did you do? How did you feel at that real moment? They told me that each time, I didn’t feel anything but I always asked God to help me and I prayed that God, you can do everything that you wish for me. You see that most of them really express that for them to survive, it was not the power of anybody else but the power of God. So, after they talk about their experiences, we propose to them to give them an exercise book, where they can write, where they can draw. They write about their experience. They write whatever they want to tell to the people that they have lost, that they no longer see. Ourselves, we make a kind of psychodrama. We put together all the instruments that were used for the massacres, things like pangas, clubs and so on. EB: What’s a panga? A panga is something they used for cutting. EB: A machete. We exposed them at the sight of the children and then we begin to ask them: did you see this being killed. What do you feel now when you look at a panga and so on. They have different reactions and answers to this. We ask them now, you have to relive again, to think about your experience during the war. And then after you think what you can play. If you would like to make a tile tree about the tree. EB: What’s a tario tree? A role play. Then they sit down and think about it. Then they compose their own tario tree. They also compose a song about war. The war is very bad. War is very bad. It contributes to nothing. We saw a lot of soldiers coming to this orphanage. They attacked us and we tried to hide. So war is very bad. We saw a lot of people being killed, using clubs, pangas and a lot of other tools. So war is very bad.
Most of them have been doing this. And after we ask them again, now after the events of war, after the war has been completed in Rwanda, what do you think of Rwanda now? They say, I think now, since I don’t see interahamwe chasing me and so on I think there is some kind of peace in Rwanda now. I feel it myself and I think there is peace because now I go to school and so on. We ask them now: since you think that there is peace in Rwanda, you think about everything you see around you, what you think contributes to this peace. Then, they sit down and think about it. Then they compose another role play about the peace and the song of peace.
Let us get together and celebrate happiness because the war has come to an end. We are very grateful for the organization of Avsi that worked hard, very hard, so that it helped us to become more happy. Yet, at the beginning, they found us very miserable, and now we are very happy. So we are very grateful. The war has come to an end. Let us work hard so that we can work for peace and develop our country.
This is one of the books for the children, the drawings that they make. She was drawing some of the people when they were hiding in the bush, and they were being searched for… She wrote some faces that express what she wanted to say. Here, she wrote that this person was searching for the Tutsi people. EB: This is a person with a machete in his hand. Yes. He was searching for the Tutsi people. Then, at long last, this person got one person hiding in the bush and said that I’m going to kill you. This person was carrying her goods that she had looted from the houses. Then, these are children who were hiding in the forest. This is their former home. She dreamed before it was destroyed. It was destroyed when she was hiding in the bush. And she saw the interahamwe destroyed it, setting fire on it. This person got one person hiding in the bush, and then he started killing her. Then, this child was going to kill someone. EB: A child was going to kill someone? Yes, yes. You see. These were the tools that were used during the killing: the pangas, the club, the bow and the arrow. Then, the knives, the spears and so on. People still hiding in the bush, and then the tools. And here is the rosary. The things that they owned at home: buckets and sauce pans, pots, cups and so on. EB: This is a poem here written by another child. What does it say? It’s a prayer for those who killed them, the people who hate them, a prayer for the people whom they love and he is also praying for his parents who died. And he is appealing for them to go in heaven. And he’s also praying for the other kids and hoping that there will be a resurrection. EB: How old is the child who wrote this? She’s 8 years. She’s 8 years. EB: Isn’t that quite surprising for an 8-year-old child to pray for the people who murdered her family? It is because you really wouldn’t expect such a thing, but they often do it because most of them when you ask them if they would like to revenge for the people that killed their parents. But most of them, they don’t like it at all. Instead, they tell you: I would like to pray for the people that killed my parents so that they are also converted other than revenging. So they don’t wish to revenge.
EB: What’s your name? ?? EB: How old are you? 13 years old. EB: Can you tell me what happened to you during the war? War. Many people were killed because they were Tutsis and they were prosperous. EB: What happened to you and your family? Most people were killed, but some managed to escape. EB: What about you? He tried to hide in the neighborhood and he managed to reach Nyanza, where he was hidden by a Hutu family. EB: What about your parents and brothers and sisters? They were killed. EB: How were they killed? They slashed the neck of his mother. And the sisters was also killed. EB: And your father? He didn’t have any father. EB: And you saw all of this? Yes. There were still many massacres and the Hutu family kept him in the home and later brought him to this center. EB: Do you still think a lot about what happened during the war? No. EB: Did you in the beginning? Yes. EB: What did you think about? He was sitting alone and he cried most of the time. EB: But now you feel a lot better? Yes.
EB: Was this child suffering from severe trauma when he came to the center? Yes, he was very traumatized. Each time, when he went to bed, he was dreaming so much. He had a lot of nightmares. He couldn’t speak. He couldn’t talk. Each time, he was always very isolated. But we talked to them. That’s why I think he’s even able to answer that he’s happy now. He doesn’t feel it anymore.
Kavyatoré Habyarankaré and the other children of the genocide will never truly be able to forget what happened during last year’s three months of terror. Many will remain scarred for the rest of their lives. But, says Evert Ressler of UNICEF, for the children of the genocide, like the rest of Rwandan society, life must go on.
Yes, it’s an extremely traumatic experience for people here in Rwanda. But what conflicts like this always show is human kind at its worst and best. And the worst is something that takes time to overcome. But, on the other hand, what you see is people determined to return to normal, to reestablish life as they knew it before. And this again is normal.
“Children of the Genocide” was produced by Eric Beauchemin. Technical production: Arjan de Reus and Marcel Booy. This has been a Radio Netherlands presentation.