|Consolee and her siblings a few months before the genocide|
On April 6, 1994, the plane carrying the then President of Rwanda was shot down over Rwanda’s capital, Kigali. He died. By April 7, Hutu extremists systematically killed Tutsis (another ethnic group). Almost 1 million people were slaughtered (mostly Tutsis and moderate Hutus) in the ensuing three-month period.
“I was fourteen but was the oldest child in the family. They killed my father first. Then they killed my three brothers, ages nine, eight and sixteen months. They threw their bodies into a septic tank. My mother, my sister and I moved from place to place in moderate Hutu neighbors’ houses. Some of the neighbors were afraid to hide us, while others were downright mean and turned their backs on us.
“By God's grace I survived. My mother and sister, too. More Tutsi women survived than Tutsi men because the men were the prime targets. Many Tutsi women were raped as part of the genocide strategy of the Hutu extremists. Some had babies and many of those children will never know their fathers, as some women were gang raped. Other women were infected with HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases in addition to being made pregnant. I was raped and got infected with HIV. There are thousands of stories from the genocide against Tutsis, which are worse than mine. Many stories of cruelty and torture were taken to the grave with their victims. Those who survived need to tell their stories to the world.
“Writing helps me express things I previously had to block as a coping strategy. It helps me to talk about my experience. It helps me with my trauma, and I hope I’m helping to heal many other women by revealing my story. I have learned that no matter what you are going through, it's a good practice to find someone you trust to help in your healing. When I use my voice, I help people—those who are still struggling to come to terms with their life situation, and also those who are preparing themselves to cope with difficulties that may befall them in the future.”
Learn more about Consolee's story by reading her book: Tested to the Limit: A Genocide Survivor’s Story of Pain, Resilience and Hope. Her story will both make you cry and leave you full of hope and faith! Click here to purchase the book.