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1994: 'The stench of blood'
Ali Mamina's father was the head of a UN agency in Rwanda in 1994.

Twelve-year-old Ali was in Kigali when the Rwandan President's plane was shot down on 6 April and witnessed the beginning of a massacre that left 800,000 dead.

I was at home with my mom and friends watching the African Cup of Nations when someone called to tell us that the president's plane had just been seen falling and on fire in Kanombe, between his house and the Gregoire Kayibanda Airport.

About 15 minutes after they announced on RFI [Radio France Internationale] and the BBC that the President's plane had been shot, the machine guns started to rock the city, and we heard grenades.

They killed almost everybody around our house
That was almost daily life in Kigali for the past four years we had been living there. But when the noise did not stop, we realized that this was going to last.

We later learnt it was during that night our Tutsi driver, Emmanuel, had been killed, in his UN outfit.

The RTLM [Radio TÚlÚvision Libre des Mille Collines] did not confirm the death of President Habyarimana until 0530 on 7 April, when they asked for "their president to be avenged".

Ten minutes later we heard heavy gunfire and the machete squads started to roam the streets and we could see them from the house, as Kigali is built on hills.

Stench of blood

They killed almost everybody around our house. They would not touch us however, as we had soldiers to protect us and the UN flag flying high in the yard.

Our next-door-neighbour was also untouched, as he was the Cypriot Ambassador and he had the Cyprus flag flying.

They weren't killing only Tutsis. They were also killing southerner Hutus. Some of them came to take refuge in our house.

There were bullets flying everywhere and the stench of blood started looming in the city by Saturday 9 April, when we were in the process of being evacuated.

I saw several of my classmates dead in the parking lot
In four days we lost more than 80 people we knew.

We followed the negotiations and then the death of the Prime Minister [Agathe Uwinlingiyimana] on a walkie-talkie. Several people were calling for help and there was often nothing we could do.

We passed in front of my school in the UN evacuation cars and I saw several of my classmates dead in the parking lot. Some were running towards the school to get refuge, as it was a French school and protected by the French military.

They were killed just before reaching the school. Seeing our hill from the UN safe house, it looked like a barrel of powder that had exploded.

The most chilling thing was the cries in the sky of men, women and babies.

I could go on about the experience I had, but it was maybe a 100th of what most people actually went through in Rwanda.

I was traumatised for several months, and went through therapy, but I got out alive with all my family. Many did not have either the luck or the opportunity and they must be remembered.

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Rwandan refugees carrying bundles on their heads
Thousands of refugees fled the country to avoid the massacres


UN soldier at Kigali airport - August 1994
A UN soldier guards Kigali airport
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