April 7 is the anniversary of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. On that day and for nearly three months afterwards, Hutu extremists slaughtered hundreds of thousands of Tutsis and moderate Hutus for complex reasons, including political and ethnic rivalry. One of the survivors of the genocide is Marie-Claudine Mukamabano, a dancer, model, activist, singer, poet, songwriter and actress. She has dedicated her life to helping Rwandan orphans who lost their parents in the genocide. She explained to Derrick Mbatha why she decided to help orphans in Rwanda.
MUKAMABANO: During the genocide they killed my parents. They killed my grandparents. They killed my auntie, her husband and then her children. They killed my uncle and then his wife and his children and they killed also my big sister. They cut her with machetes after raping her and then they killed her. After surviving I had so many questions in my mind. And then I was like, should I revenge or should I forgive. Then I chose the path to forgive. That's why I decided to help the orphans.
MBATHA: And what year was that when you started this project?
MUKAMABANO: This specific one, KUKI NDIHO I started it in 2005 but the desire of helping the orphans comes to me during the genocide. During the genocide I passed through the fire of guns. The government soldiers were fighting against the rebel soldiers. People were being killed, on my left side, on my right side, in front of me. People were dying. They even told us to lie down, going like soldiers.
MBATHA: To crawl?
MUKAMABANO: Yes, to crawl like soldiers. Sometimes when I think about that I feel like I am like crazy. I can't imagine what happened to me. So, by jumping the bodies of the kids, by seeing children dying all the time, I told myself if I get a chance to survive, I will do something to help the orphans because before that my long term goal was to get a PhD in Mathematics.
MBATHA: And the genocide disrupted that?
MUKAMABANO: Yes. During that time when I saw myself jumping the bodies of people I told myself if I survive I will do something to help the orphans. That's how I switched my ideas. I decided to start business and to make money to be able to help the orphans.
MBATHA: And where is the orphanage? In Kigali, outside Kigali in Rwanda?
MUKAMABANO: I work with different orphanages now. I work with Gisemba Orphanage, Kinisagara Orphanage. I work with Muyima Primary School and also St. Famille Parish. That was Marie-Claudine Mukamabano a survivor of the Rwandan genocide, speaking to Derrick Mbatha.