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Last Updated: Friday, 7 April 2006, 08:17 GMT 09:17 UK
Genocide survivor can't forgive
Odette Mupenzi is a survivor of the Rwandan genocide in which an estimated 800,000 minority Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed. Now in the UK and awaiting reconstructive surgery, she tells the BBC on the 12th anniversary of the start of the killings that she is not willing to forgive and forget the people who murdered her family and shattered her mouth and jaw.

Odette Mupenzi (From Aegis Trust: www.aegistrust.org)
Odette Mupenzi says she no longer has any dreams for her future

Before the genocide, I was a 17-year-old student and my dream was to become a medical doctor.

In 1994, the night President Juvenal Habyarimana was killed in a plane crash, my family took refuge in a religious seminary.

I was busy making tea in the kitchen when I heard a lot of noise and when I went out I saw this girl who had been stabbed in the stomach. That's when we thought that things were really getting serious.

There were many Interahamwe, men who had been trained to kill the Tutsis, outside the gate of the seminary, so we ran to the classrooms to hide under mattresses.

The next thing we knew they were inside the grounds and they came to where we were.

They were making a lot of noise screaming things like, "How many 'Inyenzi' (cockroaches) are in this school?" They referred to Tutsis as cockroaches. "Does the government know there are so many inyenzi here?"

We begged and cried and screamed that we were not cockroaches. They said, "Yes you are, and it's you that killed our president."

There were very, very many - there were three military men and the rest of the group were Interahamwe.

They asked us to open the door and my father, who was the only man in the room, went to open the door. They hacked him straight away.


In reaction to seeing my father hacked to death, I moved from under the mattress.

It still feels like yesterday that it happened

As I came out I felt something weird inside me and then when I looked around I realised that the military man was shooting. I saw blood on me so that's how I knew I had been shot. I was shot on the face, on the shoulder - the whole of the right side.

After I was shot the military man told the Interahamwe to get in and look for the "cockroaches" that were still breathing, so they would finish them off.

So one of them came to me and touched me where I had been shot and after that I fainted. I don't know what happened next. Later on I woke up.

In the years since the genocide, I have been very sick and constantly in pain. I live on pain killers - I'm always on medication.

I can't forgive the people that did this to me. It is impossible.

Maybe one can forgive somebody who has asked for forgiveness, but they've never come to me to ask for forgiveness.


It still feels like yesterday that it happened. It's very close, very recent and I never think of it as something that happened a long time ago.

A survivor of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda prays over the bones of genocide victims at a mass grave in Nyamata
800,000 people were killed in the Rwandan genocide of 1994

The wounds that are inside me will, I guess, always be there.

I am in the UK to have reconstruction surgery on my face - maybe it's going to be different after that. Maybe I will feel better when my face is redone.

But I think we will always be haunted from the inside because we can't have back all the people we lost, my family, my friends, neighbours. We won't forget them and they won't be resurrected.

I don't think much about my ambitions any more.

I don't have many dreams. I used to dream but I never got to achieve any of the things I had wanted to. It's not something I dare to think of because I could die in an accident today.

Maybe after the surgery, when I'm fine, I'll start thinking about it.


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