By Jean Serge Mandela
On 7th April around 0500, I was rather awaken by some noise I fought that it could be a my brothers turning on their beds ; once came to my senses, I managed hear that it was rather some machine guns! I tried to switch on radio, I was greeted by some classic musics. I fought, that could be Deustche Welle waves invading the ourss since in our area during the Deustche Welle peak hours we were experiencing some parasites waves! I tried a second radio, it was the same! It was yet to be 0600.
At 0600, it was the Kinyarwanda news 1st edition, unbelievable first item: “the death of our President Juvenal Habyalimana in a clash plane gunned down by……….on our way back from Dar Es salaam mini summit ………” and the newscaster added: “A curfew has been declared countrywide and nobody is allowed to move out his residence”.
I called by two siblings, I broke news to them! Did they understand the gravity of the situation.
The previous day, it was a good Wednesday, that came after a long Easter week end; I was on school break and I was happy to be with my kid brothers Maurice and Bebe busy telling me their lives of boarding secondary schools (by then, one was believed to make it in life once enrolled in a secondary school).
Did it rain? I can’ t remember but the April was known to be rainy. I was itching to watch the semi final of AFCON Tunis 1994; my focus was rather on Zambia rather on a sympathetic note since a year was to elapse after its “creme de la creme” team perish in a tragic airplane accident that was to be being remembered as “Gabon Disaster”.
Being at home, living in a “no malaiti ” house (without electricity), I could not afford to miss watching those games at such a crucial stage. I was saved my little friend : “Gugu” (his father was assassinated during the summer 1993 school holiday )who informed me that our friend Melee ( a former midfield of our once flamboyant village team: “Union de Kinyinya (meanig Kinyinya United) has a TV.
What a TV: a black and white TV that could match the size of box of matches and powered by a car battery. The ever jovial , Melee, working in a company that was dealing in distribution with petrol product was, more than happy to see his tiny sitting room hosting the entire village (if entire not the Kinyinya Hill inhabitants), to be one of the cheer leader I was rather bombarded by many questions from the young stars soccer follower since I was known to be knowledgeable as far is French is concerned, I became an encyclopaedia to be consulted as the game was going on: from explaining who is Kalusha Bwalya, zambia skipper to “who will proceed” to the final since the game was a stalemate at the final whistle and so on.
Once the 1st semi final, I could not stay longer since I had to prepare the following day. I had a “rendez- vous galant” i.e a date in Kigali CBD. I had to iron my clothes (if not to go fold them nicely and put under my bed pillow) and catch a bath since the 1st bus was to start off by 0530. I left without watching the second semi final.
I went to the compound of ” Voice of Germany (Deustche Welle) Radio ” station relay housing some of the members of the staff to a named close friend so I can iron my clothes and catch a bath with hot water.
It was around 2000, I walked out the premises. At the entrance check point, I was greeted by deafening sound however that noise could not disturb me. It was common to hear such kind of noise due : grenades, land mines, etc.
Despite the increasing number of such incidents, there was one among the wary factions (Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) Kagame led group and labeled rebels by then that launched deadly war from its stronghold of Uganda and Rwanda Forces Armes ( FAR)and its President Juvenal Habyalimana labeled as the regular arm). who came forth to claim the responsibility.
If it was a RPF perceived supporter killed, the RPF group was quick to denounce the FAR, if it was government official killed it was the FAR to accuse the RPF. Our current affairs news from Government owned radio was dominated by reports of a number of people assassinated by “un-identified people”.
I exchange few words by a small group of 2 to 4, found at Deustche Welle relay station compound checking point, about the noise heard few minutes ago without get any further detail.
The rest is history. 24 years down , the “Kigali attempt” remains a mystery. Statistics do reveal that a number close to 4 million people have lost lives dead or missing, a dual carriage road has been created to loot the DR Congo resources.
A tragedy that has not attracted the news gathers is that a named ethnic group is erring worldwide in order to pay a price of having survived an untold hardship: walking more than 4 years through the DR Congo equatorial forest since many of the same ethnic group have perished or lost in the same jungle.
P.S: I came to learn that Zambia did not win the 1994 Tunisia AFCON , when I reached in Zambia more than two years later after the final whistle!