Hawwah Abdullahi Gambo
I stopped writing whatever it was that I was writing and read this. And I think you should too:
Dear Nigerian women,
I would like to start this letter by saying congratulations to the people of Nigeria on the country’s recent celebration of its 100th anniversary as a nation.
In Rwanda, we are also planning and holding many activities for the 20th anniversary of the genocide of almost a million Rwandans. The Rwandan genocide was 100 days plus of killings of fellow citizens. It started in April 1994 and did not end until sometime in July 1994. I am actively involved in the activities of the 20th anniversary of the massacres. And I guess that is why I got up in the early hours of this morning in cold sweat! I woke up sweating, panting and breathless. My heart was beating so fast! My pillow was soaked with sweat. I quickly turned on the lights and was relieved to find myself in my bedroom and not outside on a street full of dead bodies. I had had yet another nightmare which has become a frequent occurrence in my life!
My nightmare is basically the same. In the dream, some militiamen were running after me. I was running as fast as I could and jumping over many dead bodies along the way. I knew intuitively that I couldn’t allow them to catch me because if they did, they would gang -rape me and mutilate my body like they did to so many Rwandan women. So I kept running. One of them finally caught up with me and just as he was reaching out to grab me by the shoulder, I would wake up sweating, panting and breathing heavily. And it is always the same kind of nightmare in one form or the other. Even though it is now a nightmare, unfortunately for me at one point in my life, it was once a part of my reality! And that is why I am writing this letter to you Nigerian women to warn you! You cannot afford to find yourself in the situation Rwandan women found themselves in 20 years ago! You just can’t afford it!
I will tell you my story for emphasis.
I come from a family of seven children. My father was Tutsi and my mother was Hutu. Like many other Rwandan families, ours was a mixed one. My father was a successful businessman and my mother was a housewife. I had two older brothers, three older sisters and a younger brother. My father apparently had pretty strong genes, so all his children end up looking pretty much like Tutsis.
When the genocide started, the ages of my siblings were 24 and 21 years for my older brothers, 19, 15 and 13 years for my sisters and five years for my little brother. And I was just 10 years of age. We were in my father’s village when the crisis started in April. In the early hours of the morning while we were still asleep we were awoken by a loud sound and a lot of noise and commotion. People were running helter-skelter outside our compound. They were shouting in our language “They’re coming! They’re coming!! They want to kill us! RUN! RUN!! RUN for your life!!!”
My father had heard on TV about the president’s plane being shot down and the crisis that ensued in Kigali but he never imagined or expected that it would get to our village so soon. Before we knew what was happening, we started hearing gun-shots and grenades exploding! As we peeped through the window, we saw terrified villagers shouting, screaming and running for their lives.
My father had to think fast and he was thinking aloud. He said “If we run out, we could get killed in the stampede, so let’s hide in the house. If they come in and see nobody, they will think we ran away. My parents had two big laundry baskets in their room. My father quickly took out some clothes from both baskets and put my little brother in one and put me in the other and threw some clothes over us to make sure we couldn’t be seen. He told my mother and my 13- year -old sister to hide under the bed in my parents’ room. Running from the room, he told my other two sisters to go and hide under the beds in their room. My father and my brothers also went to hide somewhere in the house.
To be continued