Twenty six years down the road, sports, especially football, has been a springboard from where several genocide survivors have excelled nationally and globally.
When genocide broke out, Ange Poela Igihozo was just one year old. She says she commemorates and pays respects to all relatives who died before knowing them.
Igihozo, who is diehard of Kiyovu and Liverpool of England says that playing football in local teams and in Europe, has been so important in her life.
“At seven years, I started supporting SC Kiyovu and at eleven11 years in 2005. I fell in love with Liverpool FC when they won the champions league title after beating AS Milan on penalty shootouts.”
Igihozo studied at Ecole Secondaire Remera Mbogo in Rulindo, where she played volleyball and basketball for which she was team captain, before joining and playing for Adventist University of Central Africa (AUCA). She is also a fan of Los Angeles Clippers in the United State and Patriote Basketball Club.
She says sports add to the enrichment of human virtues.
“What I have come to appreciate most in sports, it inculcates in you a team spirit, purpose, striving to win and selflessness.
“When I was growing up, there was no television but I followed the games on Radio Rwanda. I realized that I was good at running and so I decided to try and exploit the talent,” she recalls.
Igihozo said that sports, especially football helped her to heal their wounds of Genocide and believes even others who were affected by the 1994 Genocide against Tutsis in which over a million innocent people lost their lives.
“After the death of my family members, I don’t remember much but in the end, everyone within 400 meters was dead. I have never forgotten my father. When I grew up, I used to pray every day with my family and remember my family members who died. In the past I was asking myself why my family who had prayed were now all dead. Where are they now?
“But I had confidence that my family and friends who perished were in heaven. I realized that if I was ever going to see my family again or get closer again was through prayer.
“In the Bible, it says that there is only one way to heaven, Jesus Christ. If you are to get to heaven, it can only be through Jesus Christ. For me Jesus Christ is the way to heaven and the way to God.” she said.
Her father was killed during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, something that changed her life. Her then expectant mother struggled to raise them without any meaningful source of income.
The 27-year-old Igihozo says she was told that the Interahamwe would taunt his father for being thin and tall and accused him of collaborating with Inkotanyi, as the Rwanda Patriotic Army (RPA) was then known.
Her father, Charles Cacana was killed 13, April, 1994 in Nyamirambo. He was working for Minitrap and was killed alongside 12 other relatives. A total of 18 close family members were killed during the genocide
Igihozo says that the memories of Genocide still haunt him and his surviving family member but understands that it is imperative to move on. She survived with three brothers, six sisters and mother.
“Life has not been easy. Some time back, even getting a meal was a problem. But our Mama started to fend for us and now we are doing well.
“Our Mama is our hero. She took care of us and provided for our needs, grooming us into women and men that are able to survive under easy and difficult life situations..
“It is hard to forget the 1994 Genocide, and we must all unite and honor the victims. But we must move forward and build our country. We must learn how to forgive those who wronged us if we are to move forward. We should all make sure it never happens again.”