Witness Reports



In a report called “Shattered Lives: Sexual violence during Rwandan genocide and the aftermath,” Binaifer Nowrojee, executive director of the Open Society Initiative for Eastern Africa, published very graphic testimonies of rape. The report contains testimonies from 25 women who experienced some form of sexualized violence or were raped during the genocide. Their testimonies are categorized into: rape by militia (7 accounts), rape by military (5 accounts), collective sexual slavery (2 accounts), individual sexual slavery or forced marriages (5 accounts), mutilation (2 accounts), and rape of Hutu women (4 accounts).

Here is one excerpt about Elizabeth, who was 29 years old and living in Kigali with her husband when the killing began. The militia came to their house while they were eating dinner with a group of people. She said:

About 10 of them came. They picked two of the women in the group: a 25-year-old and a 30-year-old and then gang-raped them. When they finished, they cut them with knives all over while the other Interahamwe watched. Then they took the food from the table and stuffed it into their vaginas. The women died. They were left dead with their legs spread apart. My husband tried to put their legs together before we were told to get out of the house and to leave the children behind. They killed two of our children. My husband begged them not to kill us, saying that he did not have any money on him, but that he had shoes and secondhand clothes that he sells at the market. He gave them all the clothes. Then, one Interahamwe said, "You Tutsi women are very sweet, so we have to kill the man and take you."

Elizabeth's husband was killed and the head of the militia took her to his house, where she was raped. Ultimately, she managed to escape.

One survivor, who was gang-raped and beaten unconscious, “woke up only to witness the killing of people all around her.” With the pain of what happened to her still affecting her daily life and ability to work, 10 years later, she told London-based NGO African Rights:

I regret that I didn’t die that day. Those men and women who died are now at peace whereas I am still here to suffer even more. I’m handicapped in the true sense of the word. I don’t know how to explain it. I regret that I’m alive because I’ve lost my lust for life. We survivors are broken-hearted. We live in a situation which overwhelms us. Our wounds become deeper every day. We are constantly in mourning.