Meet Marceline Kabanyana, a Genocide survivor who hid and saved six children during the darkness which massacred more than 1,000,000 Tutsis, as it was reported.
She is a weaver with Twivanemubukene cooperative which means “We Come Out of Poverty ”, which began working with Azizi Life in 2008. They make banana pop-up bags, banana leaf balls, banana panel nesting cubes, and banana leaf placemats.
“After the Rwandan President’s plane crashed on April 7, 1994, a group of Hutu killers (Interahamwe) began to persecute and kill people claiming that they were accomplices of Inkotanyi (a politico-military movement led by Paul Kagame that ended the genocide of 1994). My husband decided to close his sewing workshop, due to the intimidation tactics from the Interahamwe (a group supported by the Abatabazi, the government army committing genocide). After stopping his workshop activities, people said that he was an accomplice of Inkotanyi, and they began to chase him and threatened my family.”
Marceline pointed to a big photo hanging on the wall of her living room and showed me a young boy and said, “On April, 24th my eldest son Vedaste (the one in the photo) who was studying in secondary school, together with a young man who came to visit us, were both killed by the government army. They took both young boys to their camp, undressed them, put them in a vehicle, and went around the whole village showing everyone the Tutsis that they caught. After torturing, they killed them. You can’t imagine the grief I felt when I saw my child being tortured, to this day the image is still in my head.”
“From that day on, we started sleeping outside the house, dressed in all our clothes and ready to run when they came to kill us. I cannot forget how I always had a baby on my back. During these struggles, we heard information that my brother and his wife were killed in Kigali. We were shocked and it was hard for the two children of theirs to accept the situation. Before they died, they decided to send us their children so that they would not be killed and die together in the whole family. “We immediately decided to just run away but not walk together. My husband decided to stay home to avoid that we would be killed together. The same day we left, a group of murderers came to our house and killed my husband with machetes. After hearing that, we lost hope. We saw that running away was useless and that they would take us and kill us. We didn’t know where we were going, we were tired of hiding, hunger, cold, fear and we found no reason to keep living.”
“In June, on our way, we joined a camp where many people lived. We were thinking that we will survive there but we didn’t know that more people were being killed in that camp. One day after the massacre of many Tutsis living in the camp, a group of killers brought guns and machetes and took me away. I left my children crying, and everyone was thinking that my life ended there. On our way to the execution site, we met with a man and asked the killers where they were taking me. They told him that they have information that my husband was an accomplice of Inkotanyi. After asking many questions, the man ordered them to leave me and I returned to my children.”
“There was a family next to the camp, and they asked me if they could take my children to their home so that they would not die of cold. We were traumatized, so we felt that there was no good person existed. We thought they were cheating to kill us, but in the end, we chose to live there because we had no other choice. The husband of the family left home in the morning and returned at night, and I thought he was going to kill and plunder!”
“One day when the children were sleeping, the husband rushed in and told us to leave immediately. He said the killers have found out that he hid people in his house. I told my children to get up and we left immediately and the man showed us the way. Early in the morning, we met people and they were very surprised to see us because the killers had come looking for us everywhere, and they immediately showed us another way out. The man said goodbye to us, and we went alone to find a friend of my mother. We stayed there for a week but the family was very hard on feeding us.”
“At the beginning of June, some areas had been liberated by the army and the killers had fled. We moved to an Inkotanyi-protected camp where we lived in classrooms, but there was a problem of hunger, so we asked for food from neighboring families. After a long period of moving to different families, we continued to hear on the radio that it was safe to return home, so we decided to go.”
Just to keep it a bit clear?
“Our neighbors were happy to see me return with six children, and even though our house was destroyed, the whole community was very supportive. They used to ask me how I survived with the children, the only answer was God Almighty and the benefactors. We found our house was destroyed, and all the furniture was taken away. We had nothing, to begin with.”
“For me, it was a new page. I couldn’t imagine how I would take care of the family on my own, but with God, I realized that everything happens by cause. I rebuilt my house, sent the children to school, and met basic needs.”
“Praying and following Jesus protected me, and prevented me from following a short path; acceptance, forgiveness, and gratitude. I am lucky to know where my husband and son were buried.”
Marceline, with other women, in the community formed a saving group. Out of the loneliness caused by the genocide, they began to develop themselves through teamwork and cohesion. After a long time, they got the idea of learning handcraft so that they could make money with their hands. They learned to make products from banana leaves.
Marceline said, “In 2008, Azizi Life visited us, and encouraged us, and promised that once we learned well they would stay close to us. Due to the effort, we became experienced quickly. We started getting Azizi Life orders, they trained us, we prayed with them, and they even taught us English. For those who were illiterate, Azizi Life organized an Adult Literacy program. From Azizi Life, we learned more, and we are now strong due to their advice and care.”
Artisan Marceline said that after going through a difficult period, she continued to rebuild her family: All the children were sent to school and well educated at university level, she rebuilt the house, and now the family is living in good conditions.
Written by Jean Claude Dusabe.