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Persecution: A refugee's story
The author confronts an alleged perpetrator of the genocide
A refugee's story: Torn apart

The Geneva Convention defines a refugee as a person fleeing persecution. Author and human rights campaigner Yolande Mukagasana fled Rwanda after her husband and children were killed. Here she writes for BBC News Online about the pain of leaving.

I had no husband left, no children, no friends, no roof over my head, no past in short. I never imagined that when I left Rwanda, I would feel abruptly and profoundly torn apart.

Especially as the bodies of my husband and children lay in common graves, in this country which never wanted us. As far I was concerned, I had nothing left to do on that soil, which swallowed up my family in an ocean of torture, humiliation, suffering unmatched - perpetrated by our brothers the Rwandans. I thought myself disgusted with my own country.

My dear children, forgive me for abandoning you. Forgive me for not being able to lead you to adulthood. I am a cowardly mother, even more cowardly than your assassins.

I knew very little of the Europe I felt myself drifting towards. Only its winter had stuck in my mind. There were no elegant women because of the coats, no birds singing to me in the morning to herald the day ahead, no flowers opening to smile at me, no life! Still, I no longer had a choice.

That was the continent that would accept me perhaps, where I would have the right to live simply like a human being. A human being at the very bottom of the ladder: a refugee.

No, I thought, I cannot be a refugee. I will be a tourist who will sleep soundly, without fear of a machete descending on my neck. Without seeing every morning the criminal people who I love, who have just betrayed me. I will be back in two months.

Farewell to family

This decision gave me goosebumps! Three children. Abandoning my family, my past, this life of 100 years in 100 days as if I were abandoning myself. I got up and went to see my children. Or rather their common grave, there down below behind Gaspard's house, the man who led them to be killed. Sitting on the grave, I started talking to them.

Sifting through the bones of my children
"My dear children, forgive me for abandoning you. Forgive me for not being able to lead you to adulthood. Forgive me for letting you die so young. Forgive me for not having the courage to fend off with another machete the machetes that killed you.

"Forgive me for having been an unfit mother. I abandon you. I am going off to live in a country which knows virtually nothing of your ordeal. I am off to smile to people who may be partly responsible for your death.

"I am off to look for the protection of those who were unable or unwilling to protect you. I am a cowardly mother, even more cowardly than your assassins."

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