Coping with Trauma on the Rwanda Genocide Anniversary
Leila Umubyeyi was 8 years old in 1994 when the Genocide against the Tutsi began. At that time, she was living with her grandmother in Bugesera, the current Nyamata District. One morning they woke up to news that their village was the next target by the interahamwe militia. As they tried to flee, they were intercepted at a roadblock that was being manned by the militia. Instinct immediately told the old woman to let go of her beloved grandchild and ask her to run for safety.
But the blood-thirsty militias had spotted her and ordered one of their men (who had until a few days before worked as a herdsman at Umubyeyi’s home) to go after her but he was soon out of breath and gave up the chase. Umubyeyi eventually blacked out in the middle of a thick bush. And yet the worst was yet to come.
As the tormented girl tried to find her way out of the bushes, she found what would come to traumatize her for the rest of her life: her grandmother had been chopped to pieces by the militias and her clothes soaked in blood. But despite that horrific scene, Umubyeyi soldiered on in search of a safe place. That journey, however, was characterized by many other near-death encounters that she fortunately survived. She was later re-united with her parents who were in Burundi at the time. Umubyeyi now lives in Kigali and currently works at Mount Kenya University.