Rwanda Survivors Build Future in New York

Uploaded by TheVJMovement on 17.03.2011

It’s been 15 years since the genocide, but for many survivors, it feels much more recent.
I’m Marie Uwimana. I came to the United States from the Rwandan city of Kigali.
It was my first time in the United States,
and my husband's first time in New York.
My name is Claudien. I was born in Rwanda, in the Eastern Province.
Claudien and Mariya had just arrived from Rwanda.
They know me because we belong to an online forum, an organization of young survivors.
When they met me they said they always see what I write and we read about our events.
My name is Jacqueline Murekatete. I left Rwanda a little over a year after the genocide.
I lost my parents, my six siblings and most of my extended family.
But I was one of the fortunate orphans because I had an uncle in the United States.
When he learned that I had survived, he decided to adopt me and bring me here.
I’m currently a program director and fellow here at Miracle Corners of the World.
Since 2007, I’ve been running a genocide prevention human rights program here.
We try to find ways to help with the problems facing survivors in post-genocide Rwanda.
Survivors who live in the United States or Europe are the lucky ones.
The survivors who live in Rwanda now
are literally living next door to the people who killed their family.
It is not okay, it is not normal, it is not natural to have to get up
and see someone who raped your mother or who you saw cutting down your brother.
And not only that, many survivors are constantly threatened.
Most survivors in Rwanda, if they had the opportunity, would want to leave.
In the United States there is more opportunity than in our country.
I want to do special education, to work with people with disabilities.
I was shot during the genocide, and have an impairment.
Many people ignore those in society who have impairments.
That’s why I’m interested in working with people who look like me.
If you’re fortunate enough to come to a country where you can live in peace,
you definitely have a big responsibility
to carry out this work of outreach and raising awareness.
I have made it my goal every year to organize programs
that are commemorative and raise awareness about what’s happening.
The commemorative period is an opportunity for us to remind the international community that
there are challenges to be addressed if we want to ensure that what happened in 1994
doesn’t happen again.
I would like to invite all of us to stand for a brief moment of silence
in memory of the innocent men, women and children who lost their lives in 1994,
but also in recognition of the challenges survivors are facing today.
I think that it’s more difficult to be in Rwanda around this time.
Claudien and Marie, for example, lived in Rwanda for many years after the genocide.
They faced challenges that I was lucky enough to escape, because I left right away.
They had to live among the people who killed their family.
There was such a mass participation toward the end of the genocide.
For Rwanda to bring everybody to justice
was an impossible task.
So I understand that a lot of people who murdered will never be imprisoned.
Or if they were imprisoned they will be released. This is a reality.
But it's not okay to just say this is the situation and survivors have to deal with it.
At least one solution would be to identify every village, every place that survivors live,
and make sure that if they are harassed, they have someone to go to at the local level.
If the government of Rwanda manages its own investigation
and survivors testify that somebody who killed is United States or another country,
then these governments need to participate in making sure that these people are extradited
and tried in a formal and just way. And if they’re guilty, they need to be brought to justice.
I think a lot of people think Rwanda is fine now, and Rwanda is safe, and it is.
In one sense Rwanda has made remarkable progress.
But for survivors, Rwanda is a complicated environment.
There are survivors who really feel they will never be safe in Rwanda,
and that they need to go elsewhere. I personally feel they should have that choice.
But to say that all survivors in Rwanda should leave is very dramatic,
and I don’t know what that would accomplish in terms of ensuring the genocide isn't forgotten.
I left Rwanda at the end of 1995 and I have not returned.
There were many years when I had no desire to go back to Rwanda.
I used to think that if I went back to Rwanda, particularly to my village, I would lose my mind.
But recently I have wanted to go, mostly because Miracle Corners of the World...
...last year we began building a community center.
The vision for the center is for it to be a place of empowerment,
to be a place of learning, and to be a place where young people and survivors
can come and engage in a type of exchange that will help them rebuild their lives.
It's going to be a difficult journey. Sometimes I imagine how it’s going to be for me to go there
and to see the grass and some of the houses, now just brick remains.
I light this candle in memory of my parents, my six siblings, my grandmothers, my aunts.
It's difficult to be separated from our family and friends.
But living there in a sad situation
it is not good.
But maybe in the future it can be nice.
We are both thinking of pursuing masters degrees.
If I get a scholarship in special education, I can go.
Every day when I come to work I know that I’m doing this for my family,
I'm doing it for all the people who were murdered,
but I'm also doing this for humanity,
because I don’t want anyone else to ever have to go through what I suffered.