This is the Story of Cedric, an amazing Rwandan Driver who took us to 2 different Genocide Memorial centres in Rwanda
I met Cedric on my way to the Genocide Memorial Centre, he gave us a mini tour while driving to the first memorial Centre. As he pointed out different landmarks, I couldn’t help but notice a scar on his right cheek. The first thing that crossed my mind was the 1994 genocide, but I couldn’t exactly ask him because I didn’t want to be insensitive. I moved my attention elsewhere as I wondered what could have happened to him. Next thing he said was, “I was 3 years old when the genocide started.” My eyes widened as I snapped out of my thoughts.
Now, let me briefly take you back to what happened in April 1994. One million Tustis and moderate (half castes and sympathisers) Hutus were killed during this genocide, which lasted for about three months with at least eight people dying every minute. It started on the 9th of April and it was the worst thing they could ever face!
Cedric’s ordeal started two days before the genocide, when his aunt asked if he and his four siblings would like to visit their grandmother. No one wanted to see her, but for some reason Cedric did. He was three years old and began to throw tantrums like he was still in his terrible twos. He did not want to be left alone at home and his mum, who wasn’t ready to deal his tantrum, told his aunt to take him along.
Two days later, the genocide started and in the first week, Cedric’s parents and four siblings were killed.
In the past years, Rwanda had faced other massacres/genocides where people hid in churches because the killers wouldn’t dare shed blood in the house of The Lord. So in 1994, just like the past years, thousands of people hid in churches. Cedric and his aunt were no different, they found a church and joined five thousand other Tutsis who were hiding but this church was attacked just a few days later and everyone was either wounded or killed.
Cedric was struck with a machete on his face, leaving a gash so deep that 23 years later, it is still visible on his right cheek. His aunt who had been attacked and badly injured noticed he was still breathing, and with her last bit of strength, she pulled a corpse over him. She died minutes after.
According to Cedric, he was one of five tutsis who survived the massacre.
A few days later, he was found by one of the nuns who returned to search for survivors. She cleaned him up and handed him over to an older man to escort him to an embassy where he’d find safety. The embassy was a three minute walk on a good day, but with six guarded check points, it felt like 24 hours. Each checkpoint was a terrifying experience. Heavily armed Hutus kept asking the old man why the young boy with him had a gash on his face. The man came up with a story at every checkpoint and they all bought it. Hours later, they eventually made it to the embassy.
In 2014, another aunt of his took him to the Genocide Memorial Centre where he finally saw his parents in a photo gallery for the first time, 20 years after the genocide. This led him on a journey to find his family’s attacker, whom he eventually found in the State Prison. He paid numerous visits to the killer in jail and eventually, he bailed the man out of jail.
“There is no point leaving him there, that won’t bring my family back. He has apologised. It may have taken me a while but I forgive him. If i don’t, I’d end up same as him, a murder. I forgive him.”