Every year, beginning in April, Rwanda’s government urges its citizens to “Kwibuka” — the Rwandan word for “remember.” To remember the hundreds of thousands of lives lost during the country’s 1994 genocide.
But all Marie Jeanne wants to do is to forget.
The 36-year-old’s entire family was slaughtered during that dark period in her small East African country’s history.
The massacre saw Hutu militias and civilians alike murder vast numbers of members of the Tutsi ethnic minority: Men, women and children, many of whom had been their neighbors before the conflict began.
The killings finally came to an end 100 days later, when Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) troops, led by Paul Kagame, defeated the Hutu rebels and took control of the country.
To Marie Jeanne the end of the war also meant an end to the repeated, brutal rapes she had been forced to endure at the hands of many different men.
“Wherever we used to go and meet a roadblock at least two would rape you and release you,” she tells CNN. “Some could let you go and others would hold you for longer.”
The genocide left Marie Jeanne emotionally and physically scarred, HIV+ and pregnant. She was just 16 years old.
Community members gave her shelter and she says some of the women told her they would help her with the abortion she so desperately requested.
But as time passed, she knew they had lied to her. Then, the labor pains came.
Marie Jeanne says it was some time before she could finally look at her newborn baby girl, who she named Kirezi.
And 20 years on, Marie Jeanne says her daughter’s birthday is still a source of pain to her.
“I never remember the birthday of my child because there was nothing good about it,” she says. “I have never celebrated her birthday because most of the times I never want to remember it.”
SOURCE: Lillian Leposo