The Rwandan genocide, 20 years later
Two survivors reflect on the Rwandan genocide which took place 20 years ago.
On 6 April 1994, a plane carrying then-President Juvenal Habyarimana - a Hutu - was shot down, killing everyone on board. Hutu extremists blamed the Tutsi rebel group, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), and immediately started a well-organised campaign of slaughter.
The RPF said the plane had been shot down by Hutus to provide an excuse for the genocide.
The attack on Habyarimana's plane was the ignition to the genocide. After his plane was shot down the aim was to eliminate anything or anyone aligned with the Tutsis. The ruling party began assassinating Tutsi politicians and those aligned to them and started mobilising villagers to kill Tutsis.
Between April and June, an estimated 800,000 people - mostly Tutsis and moderate Hutus - died at the hands of Hutu extremists.
As Rwanda marks the 20th anniversary of the country's genocide, two Rwandans living in South Africa share their stories with Eyewitness News .
Michael Rwarinda (37) and Daniel Nsenginmana (31) and are both survivors of the genocide and witnessed humans killing each other in the most inhumane way.
Rwarinda is a businessman and refugee living in Johannesburg. He comes from Rukomo, which was formerly known as Rikhuvumbu. His entire family was classified as Tutsi.
Under colonial rule, Tutsis were described as being 'slim, tall, with thin lips, straight noses, and high foreheads' by the Germans and Belgians in order to separate citizens and make them aware of their 'differences'.
Michael Rwarinda. Picture: Leeto Khoza/EWN.
Rwarinda described his childhood as normal, like that of any other African child, "We lived in a village, herded cattle and ploughed fields and attended primary and high school in Rwanda".
"After the peace talks in Tanzania, Arusha, sporadic incidents of violence happened across the country, so as Tutsi people we knew prior to the genocide that if the peace talks broke down that meant trouble for us.
The Arusha Accords were a set of five accords signed in Arusha, Tanzania on 4 August 1993, by the government of Rwanda and the RPF, under mediation, to end a three-year Rwandan Civil War, which started in 1990.
"I was 17-years-old when the president's plane was shot down. I was visiting a family friend, who was close to my school. After the news emerged that the president's plane had been shot down there was a feeling of fear.
"It was like madness and that's why today I fail to describe it, because you could be killed by your own neighbours or family. All sense of sanity and humanity disappeared."
"It was traumatic and I don't like to revisit those memories. I saw people being killed, but fortunately I was hidden by a Hutu family and people in that area didn't know me. That helped me as people thought I was a Hutu and that I was visiting."
"As Africans we live with big families and need the support of everyone, so losing family members has affected me. I feel it when I can't send my son to go see my uncle or my mother (their grandmother) to go see them. My mother was killed when she was 62-years-old so the genocide effect follows us everywhere."
Meanwhile, Nsenginmana, also a businessman was born in Cyangugu Province where he attended primary school, followed by secondary school in Kigali. He came to South Africa in 2009 due to political intolerance in Rwanda.
He was 9-years-old when the genocide began and says he saw terrible things.
"I saw people killing each other; neighbours, family and I didn't understand what was happening because a friend could also kill a friend.
"My family is mixed, my mother is a Tutsi and my father is a Hutu, so I'm a Hutu. In my country we follow patriarchy, but during the genocide I was surprised as we were also attacked by Hutus while we were also Hutus. In my family we had to protect people from my mother's side, the Tutsis, and I think that's the reason they were attacking us."
The colonialists described Hutus as having flat noses, low foreheads and thick lips.
"When the genocide started I was at a flea market near my home and that's where I saw people going crazy. It was spontaneous, Tutsis were being killed. As you can see my face, my features how I look, they expected me to be Tutsi." Daniel Nsenginmana. Picture: Leeto Khoza/EWN.
Daniel Nsenginmana. Picture: Leeto Khoza/EWN.
"They [Hutu extremists] made me lie down and wanted to kill me. They measured my face and my nose and declared I was Tutsi, but I was saved by someone in the crowd of killers. He knew my father and told them I was Hutu, so they let me go."
"Seeing human beings killing each other is a shock. It's traumatic, I still remember those people I saw dying.
"One day I saw five guys being killed in front of me. The guys were brought in by militants in uniform, they beat up one of the guys, they repeatedly hit him on his head with a machete and I was scared. I closed my eyes. When they were done, I ran away.
"That same night we were attacked by the militants, they didn't kill anybody. They only took our cows and goats."
The next night we fled to the Democratic Republic of Congo.
After the atrocities, state-sanctioned criminal tribunals, known as Gacaca courts, were established to try perpetrators of the genocide.
Asked if they could draw similarities between South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and the Gacaca courts, both men said their courts lacked the truth and didn't achieve their intention.
But Rwarinda and Nsenginmana say the Gacaca courts were partially effective in that they tried government officials who carried out the killings, but they did not address the crimes committed by the rebels and their supporters.
"As 20 years of the genocide is being commemorated I have a feeling of regret because we should be ashamed of ourselves as the cause of the genocide hasn't been addressed, and that is the challenge we face. Today in Rwanda there's economic growth but no reconciliation," Rwarinda said.
"We can't compare TRC and Gacaca because in South Africa people sat down and talked about the racial problems, but in Rwanda it wasn't like that. I didn't see Hutus and Tutsis sitting down and discussing the issues. Instead the government was judging without giving space," Nsenginmana said.
Rwarinda hopes he can go back home some day and grow old there.
"Going home is a must. As Rwandans we don't believe in getting old in a foreign country. I congratulate South Africans for being able to sit down as a nation and build a good country. In Rwanda we speak one language and have one culture so we can outdo South Africa."
Is it possible to ever come to terms with witnessing genocide? Witnesses of the genocide and of apartheid have a responsibility to tell the story. What we can all carry from the atrocities of the past is to never forget, not only to prevent the same atrocities from happening again, but to learn from them and pass the history to the next generation. They need to know where they come from and appreciate what it took for their country to be where it is.
Refilwe Pitjeng and Leeto Khoza_ are_ _members of the Eyewitness News team in Johannesburg. _