The governor of Southern Province, Mureshyankwano Marie Rose has given a harrowing testimony to the youth, recalling how she blindly fled her home from Inkontanyi, wandered, fell victim of wilderness harshness and how she was rescued from DRC forests by ‘Inyenzi’ she had fled from and how they took care of her family which was only at the verge of survival.
Governor Mureshyankwano is among government officials that, on 12th December, shared their experiences with over 700 youth that were undergoing civic education dubbed ‘Urunana rw’urungano’ held in Gabiro of Gatsibo district, Eastern Province.
She told a story of her pathetic life in the Democratic Republic of Congo where she had taken refuge and the rescue from the unexpected ‘enemy.’
Ms Mureshyankwano was born in former Karago district in Gisenyi province but fled to DRC in 1994. Following the restructuring of administrative units, Karago is now a sector in Nyabihu district of Western Province.
I was born and raised during tough times of racial discrimination of Hutu, Tutsi, and Twa. I grew up knowing that I was a Hutu along with my father and mother because we had Tutsi neighbors. I also knew Batwa because I used to see them playing musical instruments on wedding ceremonies.
I started witnessing discrimination when I went to primary school but didn’t know what people were really accused of. Teachers would ask us to stand up, calling Hutus to stand and we did so, called Tutsis to stand up and they did so.
By the time the 1994 genocide against the took place, I had become a teacher and married for one year. Time came in 1994 when we were told that Inkotanyi are coming.
All Tutsis had been named enemies because of discrimination brewed for long.They were ridiculed and called bad persons with dehumanizing names like Inyenzi (coackroach) and Inzoka (snake) among others. I used to live in Nyagahinika of Rutsiro district when a woman called Bemeriki working for Radio RTLM at the time came and told us that Inyenzi would kill us if we did not run away.
I fled to Congo because I knew I was Hutu. Having seen how Tutsi were killed, I thought Inyenzi would revenge and kill us too after taking over reigns of the country.
Such perceptions were motivated by mass mobilizations from media encouraging people to flee after which I also fled to Bukavu in DRC.
Some people we fled with went for trainings in forests and sometimes crossed into Rwanda and returned claiming to have killed people and looted properties.We developed fear thinking we would be killed when Inkotanyi came to repatriate us.
Some people returned but I remained there and went to DRC forests where we experienced hard life as we neither had food nor clothes.
In the dense forests, some of our friends died of hunger and thirst to the extent that others committed suicide in River Luaraba after learning that Inkotanyi are closer.
Arriving at River Luaraba, we were told that Inkotanyi are close. Some of us crossed the river but I decided not to commit suicide. I stayed there for two weeks until a Congolese helped me cross the river. I left without seeing Inkotanyi.
We often wandered through the forests without knowing where we were headed. We walked 1000 kilometers from Bukavu to reach River Congo by foot. ”
After that long trek we established a camp in Wenzi Secri by the side of River Congo and later fled to forests for two months after hearing sounds of bullets.
We starved and circumstances forced us to eat the not so palatable cassava roots known as ‘gitamisi’ which made me critically ill for two months. At the time, I was living with my husband because our child had succumbed to the harsh conditions.
As time went by, my husband fell critically ill and we were abandoned by friends. As we endured and waited for the patient to breathe his last and bury him, redeemers showed up.
A confusion was taking a better part of me, there appeared a tall person wearing military uniform. I watched him and murmured that he was a Tutsi. He approached me and, speaking Kinyarwanda, asked “why are you here?”
I replied that we fled. The soldier asked me again, ‘what did you escape from?’ whereupon I retorted; “Don’t ask me too much, we fled from your advance. Kill us and close the deal.”
The soldier replied “Listen, Who told you we have come to kill you?”
I was waiting to be killed with my sick husband. I was advised to collect my items and I go with them. I only had a blanket in which soldiers wrapped my husband frail body and took us with them.
I really saw things different from what I thought.They brought another soldier with a syringe and injected my husband. Because of my inverted thinking I thought he was being injected with a lethal substance to kill him.
I waited for his death. In the morning, my husband was feeling better and recovering. But I was not convinced as I had heard that before a patient dies, they regain some strength.
I then was given some maize porridge from Inkotanyi. It was then that I discarded the thoughts of death, racism and gained hope and trust. My husband woke up and asked me whether Inyenzi had captured us. I replied in the negative and comforted him.
That is when I wondered how I Mureshaynkwano who fled Tutsi, could be treated with such kindness in this forest? I started gaining trust and discarded ethnic thinking.
Such acts taught me the uniqueness of Inkotanyi with their extraordinary kind acts. I was elated when I came back home in Rwanda and found my crippled mother alive as she failed to flee.
She received care from Inkotanyi in the house where she remained in Rwanda.
I came back to Rwanda in 1997 with other refugees and taken to the reintegration center. Former nurses and teachers were later asked to present their degrees certificates so they could return to work.
I later joined the National Women Council, became district advisor, joined the parliament for 11 years and I am now the governor of Southern Province.
- The governor of Southern Province, Mureshyankwano Marie Rose