We can now see a brighter future
4 October 1985
It was a beautiful morning in the city Nyanza 1985. Claudine was playing with her friend Benite. They talked about their favorite celebrities as Julia Roberts and Sandra Bullock. It was women they just had heard about on the radio before. They had never seen them, but they loved them. Suddenly, Claudine's brother Simba ran in to her room and said that they were going to play hide and seek. Claudine and Benite looked at each other and they ran out of the room as fast as they could. Now they were playing all four, Simba, Claudine, Benite and her brother Hanif. They had been best friends since kindergarten. Even though their friends were Hutus, they played well together, and their parents had been friends for a long while. Claudine’s and Simba’s mother Marie Ange Ishimwe were inside their house cooking some brochettes for dinner. The smell of spices was sneaking out from the window in their kitchen while some Rwandan music was playing in the Livingroom. Claudine was the one looking for her playmates but only Benite was left at her hiding place.
“Benite! Benite! Where are you? You have hide yourself really good”, Claudine screamed over their garden.
“Claudine! You are cheating if you find her while screaming like that”, Simba said with an angry facial expression.
“We have been searching for her for at least 15 minutes now”, she said while she had her arms crossed and stared at Simba. He stared back at her while turning to Hanif to get an acceptance that would prove that he had right.
“I’m here Claudine”, Benite screamed and climbed down from the roof of their house. All the children were waving at her.
“Benite, get down from there. The roof has just been changed, it’s slippery”, Simba screamed. Just when Benite heard what he said, she lost her foothold and slipped down from the rooftop. All the children started to scream, and Claudine’s parents ran out from the house to look out why the children were screaming. Claudine pointed at Benite that was now dangling from the waterspout. Habimana ran to the end of their house were Benite was dangling and just as she lost her grip, Habimana caught her in his arms. She was crying floods, but Claudine’s father was holding her tight and secure. He was always so caring about everyone, he didn’t see any difference on Hutus and Tutsis, or black and white people. Claudine’s mother called Benite’s and Hanif’s parents.
About 20 minutes later, Benite’s and Hanif’s parents arrived at Claudine’s house. They walked fast up from the slope that led to their friend’s house. When Benite saw her parents, she ran to her mother and hugged her hard. Her father Jamar Kamanzi patted Benite’s head while taking of his hat in front of Habimana. He looked very short and thin in front of Habimana, who was tall and muscular.
“Thank you so much Habimana. I have always trusted you and thank you for saving my daughter’s life. I have so many favors to give back to you, but one day when our economy is better, I will help you with whatever you need”, Jamar said and shook Habimana’s hand.
“My pleasure Jamar. You have nothing to worry about. Keep your money for your family and let God fix the rest. It only matters if you give with your heart, Jamar”, he said, laid his head aslant and smiled.
“I’m not a believer Habi. But I will get you something later”, he said and shook Habimana’s hand again. He turned around to his family, said goodbye and they started to head back home again. Claudine waved to her friends while they left her garden for this time and Simba screamed goodbye. They knew their father was a little bit upset by them playing around like this, so they expected a scolding from their parents. They turned around and their father stood right behind them.
“We are sorry dad. We didn’t know where she…” Claudine started but Habimana interrupted her.
“I know you are sorry my beloved. But please, make rules next time so that something like this does not happens again” he said with a serious facial expression. He bent down and took his children’s hands. “Even though this was Benite’s idea, you have some responsibility to take care of your guests. Go and help your mom with the dinner now and I can take care of John and Izabelle”.
“Thank you, dad! We are so sorry, and it will never happen again” Simba said, and they hugged their father and he squeezed them hard. He loved his children and was never happy to scold at them. His mindset was to love his family whatever happens, and he could thank himself later for that.
7 April 1994
The voice was echoing inside of Claudine’s head. She was out zoned from the reality at the dinner table in their home. The reporter at the radio repeated the sentence again “The president Juvénal Habyarimana was yesterday traveling from Tanzania with an airplane when he was shoot down. The Hutu president is now dead”. Claudine was breathing heavily. Even though they didn’t say that it was the Tutsis that shoot him down, Claudine knew, but she couldn't believe it. After all the gossip about the trouble between the Hutus and the Tutsis, that she had heard, she still couldn’t believe it.
“We can’t have any worry, my family”, Habimana said while taking his wife’s hand. He squeezed it hard while biting himself in his lip.
“Dad”, Claudine said and glanced at him. Habimana looked at his daughter. “What should we do now? Should we hide?”, Claudine said it with tears in her eyes. He looked at the smallest siblings to Claudine.
“You two, small guys, please thank mommy for the food and go and play a little bit before bedtime. Okay?”, Habimana said and nodded to Claudine's smaller siblings.
“Thank you, momma, for the food” the kids said. They took their plates and left. Habimana took his hand to his chin and rubbed it, but he still held his other hand with Marie Ange. It was an unbreakable silence. No one dared to talk, except from Habimana.
“I don’t want my family to worry”, he said and looked at all of us. “We don’t know if it was Tutsis that shoot him down. Some Tutsis are nice, as our friends. So, we can wait until some more news comes before we start to worry”, he said and looked at his family again. They all nodded to respect their father, but Claudine knew the lists she had heard about. The lists of all Tutsis in Nyanza.
“But Dad, I have heard...”, Claudine started but get interrupted by her father.
“It’s just gossip what you hear my girl. Please, don’t worry”, he said and stroked Claudine’s cheek. Claudine knew that this wasn’t gossip, she knew it was for real. She knew it was a hard time for her dad, because he also knew it and now, he knew, that he couldn’t protect his family as he wanted.
20 April 1994
“We get to know every day that more and more Hutus are being killed, and some Tutsis that are helping their lame friends. We hear the song that the real Tutsis are singing and it’s like music to our ears”, the reporter on the radio said and continued “Thank you for listening, we are soon back again. My name is Benite Kamanzi and you are listening to...”. Claudine’s thoughts distracted her; she couldn’t believe it. She remembered the day when Habimana was saving Benite from dying, and this is the thank they get.
“Maybe you can turn off the radio, Claudine”, Marie Ange said while she was stroking John and Izabelle on their heads. “Some people choose to make different choices in their life. Benite is one of them”, she said and looked at her daughter. “I know that this is hard for you, but you have to forgive her, otherwise you can’t move forward when this is over. This is not fair at all, but we need to deal with it now, and we are going to make it”. Claudine sigh, but she knew her mother was right.
They got interrupted by the bombs that were shaking the ground. Porcelain and expensive glasses crashed down to the floor upstairs, but no one cared about them. They were hunched up in a bed in their cellar. The children were shaking by fear while their dad packed their mostly needed belongings. He was sweating a lot.
“Family, we need to leave tonight. We can’t wait for auntie Catharine and Uncle Ben, we really need to leave”, Habimana said and looked at his wife. Suddenly, the bombs started to take off for the day and they could now hear the wind. The children stopped shaking and was breathing normally. It was silent.
“Mom will now go to sleep with you two”, Habimana said and pointed at John and Izabelle. “Claudine and Simba, please sleep on the mattress, and I can sleep on the floor”, he continued and pointed at the mattresses. No one dared to contradict at their father and crawled down in their beds. Even though Simba was almost twenty years old and Claudine eighteen, they held each other's hand while going to sleep. They were both scared, but together, they felt safer. But they didn’t know that this was their last, safe night.
7 April 2015
Her heels clunked at the floor in the long corridor and she greeted every colleague with a smile. She was today the head speaker at the biggest encounter for politics in the US and was going to commence the conference. The light from multiple flashes was hitting her face and she saw white spots while looking at the wall with huge posters of older wise men. She stopped at the reporters and answered the questions that media had. She had her arms relaxed down her sides while holding her purse closely. Her security guard took her to the side and said that it was soon her time to talk. She thanked every reporter for the questions and left. Some makeup artist brushed some powder on her cheeks. She thanked them and walked further with her bodyguard. She was breathing heavily. Yes, she was nervous to talk in front of the whole country, but she was ready. She was led up to the scene and thousands of people shouted and was cheering at her. She waved to the crowd from the lectern. She took a deep breath and closed her eyes while the noise from the audience faded away and she started her speech.
“As the American author, Laura Ingalls Wilder once said, “Some old-fashioned things like fresh air and sunshine are hard to beat”. That is a feeling I have today. What a beautiful day to start the spring, to talk on a lifechanging conference”, she said and continued, “Today, sixteen years ago, the genocide in Rwanda began. After all these years with battles and tribulations in my home-country, we can now see a brighter future. I lost my whole family in the genocide in Rwanda, as hundreds of thousands of Tutsis and Hutus also did. Even if UN betrayed us, I have forgiven them and I’m proud to represent them as the head speaker for UN at this conference. Let us not take spring days like this for granted, as I did the years before I lost my family. I look forward to work for a better future together with UN. When I'm in this position, I will never accept something as the genocide to happens again. Thank you and I will see you later”. She smiled at the crowd and they gave her heavy applauses. The conference leader went forward to the lectern. She tapped at the microphone.
“Give some applauds to Claudine Ishimwe!”, Julia Robert said, applauded and smiled her biggest smile she had ever smiled.