Immaculee Ilibagiza grew up as part of a loving family in Rwanda. She had two loving parents and three brothers. She was not raised to discriminate and was surprised when she went to school and was exposed to her teacher taking an ethnic role call and asked if she was Hutu or Tutsi. Immaculee had no idea.
When she spoke to her parents about this her father went in and talked to her teacher. She then found out she was Tutsi, not much of a difference between the Hutu, other than Tutsi are known to be taller and have slightly longer noses. There are no religious belief differences.
At the age of 22, Immaculee came home from college to spend Easter with her family and at that time the Hutu
President of Rwanda died and subsequently started the war of Hutus against Tutsi’s. This three-month war resulted in the brutal deaths (many by machete) of over 3,000 Tutsi. Immaculee survived by hiding in a small bathroom ( 3 foot by 4 foot) inside her Pastor’s bedroom where she coexisted with seven other women. They did not leave the bathroom or make a sound for fear of being heard, for three months. During this time, Immaculee prayed like she never had before, filled with faith and knowing that God was protecting them. She did not know if her parents or her brothers were alive.
Three months later Immaculee who was 115 pounds when she entered into hiding, came out of hiding 91 days later weighing 65 pounds.
This is a true story of the Rwanda Genocide, from one woman’s perspective who lived it alongside those who survived a nightmare.
The Rwandan Military and Hutu militia groups, notably the Interahamwe, systematically set out to murder all the Tutsis they could reach, regardless of age or sex, as well as the political moderates among the Hutu. They incited Hutu civilians to participate in the killings or be shot in turn, using radio broadcasts to tell them to kill their Tutsi neighbours. Most nations evacuated their nationals from Kigali and abandoned their embassies in the initial stages of the violence.
As the situation worsened, the national radio advised people to stay in their homes. The Hutu Power station RTLM broadcast violent propaganda against the Tutsi and Hutu moderates. The militia put up hundreds of roadblocks around the country, using them to block off areas and attack the citizens. Lieutenant-General Dallaire and UNAMIR were in Kigali escorting Tutsis and were unable to stop the Hutus from escalating their attacks elsewhere.
Most of the victims were killed in their own villages or in towns, often by their neighbors and fellow villagers. The militia typically murdered victims by machetes, although some army units used rifles. The Hutu gangs searched out victims hiding in churches and school buildings, and massacred them. Local officials and government-sponsored radio incited ordinary citizens to kill their neighbors, and those who refused to kill were often murdered on the spot. “Either you took part in the massacres or you were massacred yourself.”
Rwandan Genocide – Wikipedia
It’s books like this that just make me really take a long hard look at my own life. As I read about Immaculee, I was at our cabin on the North Shore of Minnesota. It was cozy because I had turned the heat on, I had just baked a pan of muffins, reheated my Starbucks Vanilla Fusion coffee in the microwave, and was not sitting at the kitchen table typing these thoughts on my laptop.
Immaculee on the other hand, was living in a country where she was discriminated for having been born Tutsi, a title she knew nothing about and her and her family only wanted to live in peace. She had run for her life because of this label, been refused shelter, separated from her family and holed up in a 4 x 6 room with 5 other Tutsi women in hiding from the rebel soldiers who were killing their family and friends with machette’s.
Oh how I wish this was fiction…
However – it is not. This is how life in Rwandan was in 1994. Murders of entire families. In 1994 I was still here in Minnesota, working a full-time job, raising my two boys who at the time were 3 and 5, and happily enjoying life with my husband. In 1994, I knew nothing of what was happening in Rwandan. While I fretted over balancing family, work, and friends…. Immaculee was wondering if she would live to see the sun rise.
A powerful book that ripped at my heart. Immaculee is an amazing and strong woman. Her faith made me feel lacking as she at times prayed for hours on end. I read through this book feeling incredibly pained for a country I knew little about, and a great sense of appreciation for the story that I just had the privilege of reading.
Proceeds from book sales will be donated directly to the Left to Tell Charitable Fund.
Book Journey has updated the 2010 Book Map to Include Left To Tell
Cover Story: Fantastic!
I borrowed this book form my local library,
however I will be purchasing my own copy