Oral History Testimony of MUREBWAYIRE Josephine

Mark Segment
Share this video

Send E-mail

[Hide]Right click this link, select 'open in new tab', and add to bookmarks:
[Hide]Copy and paste this link to an email or instant message.
[Hide]Right click this link and add to bookmarks
View People 
  •  Kadafi 
View Topics 
View English Translation 
  •  MISSING: Josephine Those who misled us in excavating all those bodies on the different hills are the ones who participated in killing the not only my people but all the people on that hill. Now in gacaca whenever they go to defend themselves that's when they say it and those who saw them accuse them. They even accuse themselves and each other; they displayed a lot of hate and torture that was just imaginable. But gacaca is exposing them all, they are turning on each other, those who are in jail denounce those who were not put in jail and those who are in jail also denounce those who are being released. That's how things are in our region. Martin Lets talk again about the other children who were killed from Ndera and were later burnt, we can tell that… Josephine Where they buried them, I don't if it's because I was still very traumatized in 1997 is when we first said prayers for them. I am the one who showed where they were thrown there is a bush even pictures of the place. And the way I watered the place but when they said to excavate the bodies I said no, I don't want you to excavate them; they weren't many other people that survived from there. It was me and the one boy who is now in Switzerland, he is a member of ibuka there, his name is cesar. We asked them not to excavate them since they had also burnt them. We asked if they could make the place look good and the priests promised us they were going to build a beautiful memorial, its there and every 11th of april we go there to commemorate. And we have mass and pray, the memorial is just in front of the praying room. Martin If you estimate on the few people who survived from there it's you and that boy, it seems like you are very few compared to all the people that were killed from there. Josephine They were in hundreds around four hundred because all the classrooms were full, there was even a hall that was full, the hutus later went out but they were few. The majority were the Tutsis seeking refuge. Martin So you mean that in the four hundred seeking refuge the survivors are not more than ten? Josephine At the seminary it's just me and cezar, they are some kids who also ran away, but the ones we are sure of and count are me and cezar. We are the only ones who came out of the corpses. Martin If we talk about your children that died in Masoro did you get to know who killed them or how they were killed except the fact that they were thrown in the pit latrine? Josephine In gacaca they talk about the people who died but even the ones who are there played a major role in it but what is clear is that whoever is involved were arrested because of gacaca. Martin They normally first hacked people before throwing them in the pits, did you get to know if your children were thrown in the pit alive or after being hacked. Josephine The boy who told us said that they were hacked, my second son, the one they called dede his name was jean bosco. He was a very good friend of the boy who said it his name is gashirabake, he said that when they were about to kill them he said to him, gashiraba We've been very good friends and we are going to die; where we are going they don't wear shoes, take my shoes and remember me whenever you look at them. And please tell the story. And then they told those who were about to kill them to wait so that they can first pray, and when they had finished praying they threw them in the pit. He is the one who told us all that. But personally I think that if that boy was given shoes by your son it means that he even saw the ones who killed them. He knows them but he says that he ran away, they don't agree to say everything clearly. They don't want to state facts I think of fear that the remaining ones will hurt them. He says that he ran away and says the one who chased him away and hit him with a stick on the shoulders. So he says that he doesn't know who killed them but others say that he was killed by a man called habari, he is dead. They also say that they were hacked by a man called sebahire who is also dead, there is noone who killed them who I alive but its clear that the people who are alive know who killed them. No one stands on his/her word, the boy says that after he was beaten he ran away, he can't really say that he saw someone kill, may be if he says him and he is there, he would also hunt him down, I don't know. He hasn't even come back to court because he was imprisoned when he was still young but may be he will. Gacaca will deal with it, I personally don't know. Martin I understand that your whole family died but no one forgets her family, can you please tell us about your husband, what kind of man was he? How did he relate with other people and what is the one thing that you remember about him that you cannot forget? Josephine There is no way I can forget him, I don't know how I can describe him I think that picture describes a lot, he was a very calm man. He was a very humble man who easily related with everyone but especially he loved children, I think that's why he went with our children. He was very easy to relate to and was very merciful; he could easily ignore himself or others. That was his nature, he was a man that really loved his family, I think if he had been greedy when he was released from jail he would have abandoned us. But he didn't, he loved everyone, he didn't hate anyone, he loved the poor and humble. Our car is the one that always took all the women at the hospital, he was always careful to take the poor pregnant women at the hospital. And he would also remember to take something to revive them after they had given birth; nobody else remembered he was a really nice man. My children were also like that, they loved other kids and were always warm and happy, I can't forget them, instead I try to imitate them and fail. 
    Topics: Testing; 
  •  Martin: I don't know how to say it, but here they killed all your family and finished it, if they came and confessed their fault, would you forgive them? 
  •  Josephine: To forgive, they are words that people are quick to use but it doesn't even make sense. The person who asks it and you who says that you have forgiven him it's not something easy. Because personally the way I see this country it belongs to all Rwandans, its not just mine it's not even for only the genocide survivor, it's impossible. 
  •  Evil is not repaid by evil; personally I told God that I can't do anything on my own. I can't manage anything on my own. I don't think I would even be alive, I think I would have gone mad. I surrender everything to God because to be able to get out of all the corpses of my children. My husband, relatives and neighbors that were lying there dead, I didn't think I was going to live. 
  •  I told God that He is the one in control and knows why everything happened. I asked God for something and he gave it to me, I told God that those who died and those who are alive, I asked that He may give me the power to love without focusing on anything else. To love His love because personally I can't, so which means that if someone comes and tells that they did me wrong, an example is the boy who said where my children were thrown. I am not lying to you but my heart has accepted him in such a way that when I look at him I see the child I once saw before. 
  •  So instead of being burdened I asked God to give me a big heart so that I can offer mercy to everyone who needs it. Even if it's a Hutu who killed my family and he comes when he is broken down, I would forgive him because he is a human being, I can't do the same atrocities like he did. It's really not by my strength that I can do this, I won't lie to you. 
  •  Because on my own I am nothing and I would be nothing but the fact that God saw that my children and body were dead. I was disgusting and he revived me and people want to be with me when before they use to run away from me, people who saw me immediately after the genocide would avoid me. I was hideous and disgusting and there's no one who really took care of me to say they did it. Except my cousin-brother but even for him it wouldn't have been possible without God's power. 
  •  I would have gone mad, but God kept and made me who I am today, so even me in His love I must do what He asks me to do and whoever asks me for forgiveness in truth, I would forgive them. 
  •  But not forgiveness out of hypocrisy like they do in Gacaca, someone coming and saying that I am asking forgiveness from every Rwandan, I don't have that forgiveness. I don't forgive those ones because I see that they are just saying it, it's like a slogan they use I don't have forgiveness for those ones. But if someone comes and kneels before me and says it from the depth of his heart. And when someone is saying something from the depth of their heart you can tell and I can forgive them, but they don't ask for forgiveness because someone asks for forgiveness is someone with a human heart. 
  •  [Someone with humanity in them comes close to you because] he sees that you are human, when he doesn't it's because he thinks that you are still the thing that he called you before. They dehumanized us by calling us cockroaches and other horrible names so I think they still see that in us, so whoever comes close to me, I would forgive them. 
  •  Martin: After hearing the difficult things that you went through, surviving among all those people and your family being dead. Nowadays how can I describe Murebwayire Josephine, what kind of person is she even though her whole family died, is she someone with hope even though her whole family died in the genocide? Please tell us, how do you feel deep inside because I don't understand? 
  •  Josephine: It doesn't make sense humanly speaking, it's beyond our human nature and when they say beyond our human nature, it means it's not human. Everything that happened in my life since I was a child up to now is beyond human nature but there is someone who created human nature. He enables me, you asked me if I have hope. My hope is that I am alive; I was not supposed to be alive. 
  •  I wouldn't even be of any use but because I see that I am living for some people who reap from me I must live and live like someone who is responsible, work like someone with responsibilities. I didn't think I would have those responsibilities, it means that I had died and resurrected. In resurrecting I resurrected a new being not the same person. So I have to accept the way I always tell people "Josephine died and Aunty lived." 
  •  Because now I am called Aunty of all the children, any child who comes to me with a problem that I can fix, I fix it. To comfort and convince that that child must live and encourage him/her, so I think I was left behind so that I may be an Aunty to all the children. A child who comes to me with a problem that I can fix, I fix it and comfort them and convince him that they must live. 
  •  So I think I was left behind so that I can be a mother to all children without mothers. It's not a must that I take care of them in my house but they are some I advise on certain issues and they move forward. They are some that I have here in my house. I have six children, two girls and four boys. There are some who I don't know their origin and their relatives, some are family including my mother I never knew her because I got lost when I was a little child. And only see her after the genocide when they returned from exile, all those are my responsibility to do all I can. 
  •  The other thing is that God who kept me has a plan for my life that He helps to fulfill it, he didn't put me to shame, I would have gone crazy, and it was possible. They hacked me in the head but I didn't lose my mind I can think, it means I must live my life thanking God and doing what I can. It's something that can help others. 
  •  Martin: How do you relate to the neighbors that you had before all this, how is your relationship? After the genocide which affected your life and the life of many Rwandans, do you think that there can be normal trustworthy relationships? Between the killers and victims? 
  •  Josephine: About trust I don't know if it's Kadafi who said that, "protect me form my friends because I already know my enemies." God gave us the wisdom to think, when you live with someone there is no reason to disturb someone who is going through hard times, if I am able I can help him/her as a Rwandan and if they are celebrating I can celebrate with him/her. 
  •  But I have to be careful because there is no way a cobra can turn into a chicken and you eat it. It means that if you know that there is an animal or beast in the forest you must walk when you're ready to run away from it. 
  •  But I live well with my neighbours I don't how to segregate people saying one is Hutu so I won't greet them, or insulting someone that they are Interahamwe. When I see someone I see a human being and I only see evil when that person commits it, but I don't push anybody away. My heart welcomes everyone who comes to me with good intentions, if you don't then I don't give you my time. 
  •  Martin: In the genocide especially women went through a lot of difficulties, besides killing them and finishing off their children, many were raped and infected with diseases. Besides being raped they went through a lot of difficulties and problems that personally I think that widows have a lot of problems. As a result of the genocide, it is very difficult because you find that someone has a sickness that will kill her at some point. 
  •  If she is not burdened by disease, the genocide ended and she is probably in a lot of poverty, I would like you as a woman who went through the same and lost your whole family which is a very difficult thing to endure, I would like you to paint a picture for us of the genocide widows who are suffering the hard consequences. For example disease, what would you say to them? I don't know how to say it. How is their life today? How are they doing, please give us an image of their life? 
  •  Josephine: You have just asked me a very difficult question. I am part of a widows' association called Avega Agahozo. I am the second vice-president on the national level, it's an association that we set up because among widows there are many categories. There are some who were raped and infected with HIV & AIDS. There are some girls who gave birth to children they didn't want, there are some who were hacked and do not have some limbs, some don't have hands. Some don't have eyes. They are different handicaps and then there are those who are emotionally handicapped. And physically they don't have a home, without a house to live in, many times they are next door to the ones who killed their families and injured them. 
  •  You understand that it's adding more sorrow to an already broken heart, so our association's goal is to stand by them and comfort them telling them not to lose heart. Telling them that the fact that they are still alive, that they will continue to live. We are lucky that we got a project that helps them with anti-retro viral medication for HIV & AIDS. 
  •  There are many who died because the medication just started coming in recently, they are many who passed away. The medicine helps those who are still alive, the CDP project that supports us and the first lady through PACFA. 
  •  I am very grateful, so a widow can get the medicine and sometimes not have anything to eat. And it can really affect her because the medication is strong, to get food everyday is not easy because you can see that we are widows like them. We don't have work and those who do sometimes have other responsibilities in their home, but we try to help and comfort each other. 
  •  What we mainly do is speak out because most people live in despair, so Avega advises, comforts and brings us together. That is our main objective of our association, to bring us together, comfort each other, convincing someone that if they are in pain tomorrow they might be comforted, if they are sick tomorrow they can get better. 
  •  HIV & AIDS is bad disease in the body but it's clear now that it does not even kill when one gets those medication. So what we do is tell them the fact that they are in pain doesn't mean that they die, and we speak up for them to the government. Our desire is that these people are not given up on or forgotten. These people who are sent home and forgiven really traumatizes us because it seems as though they are the ones who are cared for. 
  •  But with us it seems as though those who advocate for us do not have strength or there is no emphasis so that the problems are solved, of course nobody can bring back the people who died. But things can be got back, a house, food, clothes, medicine. So among the few that are alive I think if they get the widows or survivors in general, they are not so many so that they can't do something for them. If they help us it can be over. 
  •  Martin: But it has been thirteen years after the genocide, can we say that people are still the same way they were when the genocide had just ended? Thirteen years later, if you compare the way things are now and the way they were immediately after the genocide. Do you think that at least people are moving from the state of turmoil and life is being restored? 
  •  Josephine: It's just that no one can solve all the problems at once, or if we see a hundred people go on to say that everyone died but things have really changed, a good example is the orphans that went to school and now have completed their studies it is evidence. And now they are in university and some have finished, is there a child who came out of a pit thinking that he was going to study. 
  •  The widows didn't have a place to stay, can that person say that nothing was done. It's not enough maybe because of limited means but I can't say that they didn't help us. Things have changed, for example if a child survived the genocide when he was in secondary and now he is in university, he'll also help others. And we will continue to stand together and talk, I don't want us to forget those who are behind us. 
  •  Generally Rwandans are not doing great now imagine those who were taken out of their own. But slowly I think something has changed but there's still a long way to go. They problem is that there are some people who are doing very badly and it huts me when I hear that they support FARG. 
  •  They say that in three months there are people who do not even it ten thousands francs, I am hurt whenever I hear this, sometimes I think that it's mocking us. They should look for a way that a person should be supported continually so that they don't keep going to ask for help. 
  •  Martin: I wanted to ask you something in line with remembering our loved ones that were degraded and humiliated in the genocide. They were thrown in different places after the genocide, someone has to go searching… and then they are buried, so I wanted to ask you how do you think our people should be buried? 
  •  Josephine: The first and best way to honor our people is to know where they were thrown and we bury them taking them out of the holes. To take them out of pit latrines, to be able to say that the people in this district are going to be honored and buried and all of us get ready and go there remember and honor them. But to remember well is to remember the ones that remained behind. 
  •  Don't go to remember a man when his widow stays in the house of those who killed him, when she is wearing rugs when her husband would have dressed up well, we can't say that we are going to remember that man. Without remembering those he left behind, for the kids to be crying and no one visits them to comfort them and teach them that tomorrow they will be men and women. We teach them good manners just like their parents would have done and then go the memorial sites and remember all the people who passed away. 
  •  Martin: Personally there is a way I feel that we should remember our people and bury them in such a way that we would always remember them. But both things work together just like you have said, about the survivors. There is no way that someone can remain in that kind of trouble without knowing where to live and starving. So that we may always remember them, I want that you will make your comment and say what you think. 
  •  I think that after thirteen years that the genocide has ended, it's not a lot of years, but when you look at the way the memorial sites are maintained. It is evident that they are not well taken care of and nothing is done about it, clearly if nothing is changed about the way they are managed then after twenty years they will be in a visibly bad condition. 
  •  So here I want to ask, remembering is for who? Is it for the survivors, is it for our government? Is it for the survivors, is it for our neighboring countries? Because many times people remember in April, there is no initiative so that memorial sites are always maintained and in good condition. So that there are always taken care of no matter what, I don't know what you would comment about it? 
  •  Josephine: It's true that we only remember in April, you would think that at other times we forget where they went and only remember them in April. You would think that we forget where they went and say, I will go visit my people in April. But your loved one is always on your mind and heart and you always want to know where they spent the day and where they are but those memorials in the provinces and even the strong ones here. You said twenty years but I think twenty is a lot of time 
  •  MISSING: Josephine You said twenty years but I think twenty is a lot of time because they are some that are already getting spoiled. Some places are crumbling, in other places there are bushes where animals are taken to eat grass, remebering is not for the genocide survivors only, its not even just for the government, because the government is people. It's for all rwandans to remember, I don't see how some one who is neighbours with a memorial, I always take an example of Kanombe. At the main road they had put there a metallic fence but they stole them and finished them off, I don't understand how some one steals from a memorial site, what do you do with those thinks? It is the home of those people, they may not be here on earth but it is there home. I personally think that people should make it their purpose and we are also lucky that now we have lower levels of government the umudugudu/village. It can watch over the memorial sites in their village and see if there's any work needed to be done, if grass needs to be cut they make sure its cut and if there's anything else they plan for it and follow it up. The government is the citizens, its not a ministry or the district, it is me, you and anybody else who is available and we all work together, that's my opinion. Martin As we are winding up, even though the genocide took place, we can't forget about it. And we don't wish for it to happen again, so I would like to ask you, according to the hard times we went through and saw we don't want it to happen again. What heritage would you like to give to the rwandan children who didn't go throught these things? What kind of rwanda would you like to give to them as a heritage compared to the one you lived in? Josephine I think that the new heritage has started already, there are still problems but I am really glad that no child is asked to stand up in class because of their ethnicity. The way it's not being done in schools it should also be the same in people's homes because all the ad influence takes place at home behind closed dooors. On the cooking stove that's how they always say, we parents are the ones that offer as a heritage good or bad things to our children. The teacher is given responsibilities and a syllabus to follow but no one controls someone's home. So I believe that we parents should teach our children to love each other, the youth needs to fellowship and be together. Our government's policy is good; the peace government wants us all to live at peace with each other but our homes. Are the ones with a problem and nobody will control and know what is being taught. The genocide was slowly taught for forty years but we have just spent thirteen years teaching to live at peace. If we continue to live in peace, our children would live together in peaceful Rwanda with no turmoil and ethnicity. But it starts with us the old and mature ones, we need to uproot it, I would like the government to emphasize refusing and condemning any word that leads to the genocide. And whoever uses it should be punished publically even more than the one that actually used a machete, because a machete is used by someone who first talked about it. Personally I would like our children without differentiating to all have a heritage of peace. Martin I don't know if there's anything you would like to add on as we are concluding our talk? Josephine There's nothing except to thank you because you thought of me and came to interview me, and for these things to happen, you can also tell me if you think that the things I said make sense. If they make sense then you can keep them and if they don't then you remove them. They can be somebody else's opinion, thank you. 
Table of Contents 
  •  Post-Genocide Experience (continued from KMC00005-sub1)
  •  Reflections on forgiveness 
  •  Reflections on survival 
  •  Organizations 
  •  Hopes and message for the future 

Identifier mike:Kmc00005
Title:Oral History Testimony of MUREBWAYIRE Josephine
Description:The oral history testimony of Josephine Murebwayire, Rwandan Genocide survivor and Vice-President of widow survivor organization Avega Agahozo, recorded by the Kigali Memorial Centre in Kigali, Rwanda. The testimony discusses life before the Genocide, events leading up to the Genocide, hiding during the Genocide, surviving a mass execution, death of family members, searching for remains of family members after the Genocide, memorials, forgiveness, faith, and life after the Genocide. The testimony is given in Kinyarwanda language, with English language transcript and subtitles
Media format:mini-DV tape

BACK TO Survivors

Continues from Part 1 of the Oral History Testimony of MUREBWAYIRE Josephine.