Genocide survivor

P1020548 bewerkt (Large)My name is Innocente, I’m 26 years old and I’m a survivor of the genocide.*

In 1994, when the genocide in Rwanda started, I was 4 years old, a small, happy child. I lived with my father, my mother, one older sister, two older and one younger brothers, a normal family of seven. My father was a Tutsi and my mother was a Hutu, which was nothing strange and the families got on well together. We lived in a house on the small piece of land my father owned and my parents were farming there as well. We were not a rich family, but earned enough to feed us all and live a decent life.

The genocide changed everything. My father and my three older siblings were murdered, I don’t know by whom. My mother managed to survive and at first she was able to hide my younger brother and me from the killers. But my youngest brother was killed after the genocide. Our father was a Tutsi, so no matter what my mother was, all the children were considered Tutsi as well, that’s how it was then. Because we were considered Tutsi, my uncle thought we shouldn’t survive, so he killed my brother. He wanted to kill me as well. I only survived because he was arrested before he could do it, and now he serves a life sentence in prison. Only my mother and I survived.

After the genocide, we had nowhere to live anymore. Our house was destroyed, the land taken by other people, we had no place of our own. We moved in with my grandmother in her little house, and that’s where I still live today, 22 years later. The house is in a bad condition, but I don’t know where to find another place to stay. My mother remarried and got two more children, but her husband left her, so they are now living with my grandmother as well.

I dropped out of secondary school when I became pregnant. Now I have to take care of my child until it has grown up, so I’m not able to go back to school anymore. My grandmother is too old to raise little children, and my mother is ill and can’t even take care of her own children anymore, so I’m also caring for my two younger siblings. I’m the only one earning any income in my family, but as I have not finished my education, it is very difficult to find a regular job. I work as a casual labourer on the land of other people for two or three days a week. We also used to have a small piece of family land that gave us some food and produce to sell on the market. But now my uncle, the one who is in jail, claims that my grandfather left it to him before he died. The local mediation committee is looking into the case now, and I’m afraid we will loose the land and won’t be able to get anything from it anymore.

We need all the money I bring in to buy food to eat, so I don’t have any savings but my dream for the future is to start my own business. I want to become a hairdresser and be financially independent. I want to be able to buy what I need without having to ask someone for it and to give my child a good education. I want to make sure she will have a better life than I have had.

* This is the true story of a genocide survivor, but for obvious reasons the name and some details have been changed.

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