"The propaganda of the genocidaire [perpetrators] was that 'God and the world had abandoned the Tutsis,'" says Rakiya Omaar. "This was a very recurrent theme: 'Hey, you can kill the Tutsis. Look the world has turned their back on them. God doesn't want them. Nobody wants them.'"
Although the killing was systematic, some managed to survive. Claudine Mukabadege, a Tutsi, was left for dead.
"They took us to the pit near Gisimba's place. They made us stand on a plank over the pit and hit us with clubs or machetes so we would fall into the hole. When it was my turn they told me to pull off my rosary. They said, 'You have no God now. God is in Kibuye, because that's where the Hutu government had fled to.' I had a baby on my back but they said to leave it. 'It's better you die with the baby.' They started clubbing my legs and I found myself in the pit. Somehow, a dead body rolled over on top and hid me. ... The pit was full of maggots because they had been dumping bodies there for some time. There were snakes too."
Weeds are all that mark the pit Claudine Mukabadege was forced into.
Photo by Stephen Smith
Damas Gisimba was told that there were people calling out from the pit. He sent instructions to them to stay quiet and he would come get them out at night.
"Around midnight, we pulled two women out of the pit. One had a baby on her back but it was dead. It suffocated. We brought the women to stay with us at the orphanage."
After his family was evacuated, Carl Wilkens began making audio-tape letters for his wife.
"When I finally came to point of accepting that I might die there I wanted to leave something behind. So I would make tapes to Theresa. I wrote her name and my parents' address in Spokane, Washington on each tape, thinking if house gets looted, maybe somehow the tape will find its way to her."
One tape includes, "Whew, I guess I didn't talk much about Sunday's mean gun battle. Man, I just laid on the mattress in the hallway, holding my bible on my chest... [sound of gunfire] Brought the animals all inside. The monkey is tied up to the sink in our bathroom. He doesn't like this very well...We lost electricity yesterday and Tabit is so dedicated --even with our charcoal - she's producing magnificent pancakes this morning... Thank you very much."
Carl explains, "People in the neighborhood knew we had Tutsis in house. They'd seen them and threatened us. 'Next time your white man comes out we're going to kill him. We know he's keeping people there.' For three weeks we didn't leave our house."