This article is about my first cousin’s testimony. We grew up together both raised by my grandparents when she went to APACE. The war started when she was at Mudende and our aunt was the head of the cafeteria there. She recounts how our aunt allegedly chased her and those she was hiding with so they wouldn’t kill my aunt’s children, our cousins, because of them.
Before I go on, I have to say that Nelly suffered a lot, as most Rwandans did, during the war. Her father and two brothers were killed. Many of her friends, neighbors, and extended families were killed. Growing up in my grandparents’ house, we were more like siblings and less like cousins. When the war began, only her younger sister was staying at my grandparent’s. I was living mostly with my dad still in the same compound. Her two brothers had moved in with their oldest brother near Kabusunzu. Some of you might know the oldest as he was a journalist. Obed Bazimaziki. He was killed just outside the gates of my grandparent’s house. I know because I was there that day. They had caught him further down the road and had not killed him because they said he was the pastor’s grandkid. The crowd brought him up the road and had almost brought him home when a pickup truck passed them and a soldier asked what the commotion was about. When they told him it was an “inyenzi,” the soldier shot him dead there. It was around 3 or so in the afternoon. I heard the shots as I was playing with some kids and ran to see what was going on as it sounded nearby. One of the neighbor kids who had witnessed the exchange told a group of us what was going on. The sister was so distraught and kept wanting to go cover him with a sheet but we waited until evening and someone at home went and covered his body with a bedsheets. Nelly always blamed my grandfather for Obed’s death. Not just his, but also her other brother’s death, too. In truth, there was nothing he could have done.
My aunt that she says kicked her out, she’s the one that raised me as her own when I came to the US. Truth is, when my aunt couldn’t guarantee her safety, he found people to get her and one other guy over the border and gave them money. The rest was in God’s hands. I tell you the story as my aunt told it to me. Both Nelly and the other guy made it safe through the war and the guy actually managed to track down my aunt to thank her. As for not getting in touch with Nelly, my aunt tried many times to talk to her but Nelly never returned calls or answered the phone. Sadly, she is not here to tell her side of the story as she passed away about 9 years ago.
The full story is much longer and more complex and it’s nothing new to us as it’s been going on in my family for decades. I share this not to paint her in any sort of bad light, however, but to show what grief can do to a person. Normally, I chalk such articles to people saying whatever the regime wants them to, unfortunately I know this to be different in this case. Believe it or not, she’s not among the radical ones in our family.