My story and how I overcame adversity to reclaim my
Rwanda Pre-Genocide
• Born in middle class family in Nyanza-Rwanda
• Last born of 10 children
• Attended best school in area- H.V.P Gatagara
• Very bright student and great athlete (loved soccer!)
• Attended church daily
My Family
Sister Beata
Dad-Dennis Kalima
and Mom Cecilia
Brief Rwandan History
• Prior to colonization two tribes, Tutsi and Hutu lived in relative
• 1897 Rwanda was colonized by Germany
• I916 Belgians took over
• Belgian invaders decided that the Tutsi tribe was superior due to
their features ( measuring the long nose )
• So began the history of back and forth oppression between the two
tribes ( Hutu and Tutsi)
• 1959 the first Tutsi massacre; many of them fled the country
• Rwanda gained independence in 1962. Hutu Power started
My Life
• The dissent between the Hutu’s and Tutsi’s impacted me and
my family to some extent during my childhood, however for
the most part I was shaded from this division and enjoyed a
normal childhood. I am Tutsi, however that didn’t mean much
to me at the time as my parents raised me to love everyone.
However, around me a storm
was brewing
Invasion of Tutsi exiled 1990
Oppression of Tutsis living inside the country
Introduction of Travel Document and Check points
Political instability
Country is divided
Everything Changed…
• In 1994 the president’s plane crashed. The president Habyarimana
was Hutu. His plane was shot down after signing a peace agreement
with the Tutsi rebels. It was announced on the radio that he had been
killed by the Tutsi tribe and every Tutsi must killed…so began the
• I was minding my business in my home when I heard the
announcement of the president’s crash on the radio, my
mother had a look of worry on her face.
• On the radio I heard the phrase “All Tutsi must die”
The killing start right away in the capital city of Kigali
People are fled the cities
The killings are spread all over the country
People were killed mostly with machetes but also with guns
and other weapons.
Genocide at my Hometown
• My house was attacked by genocide government soldiers when I
was at home with my mother. My father had died about a month
earlier. We later learned that he was likely poisoned as the militia
worked strategically to get rid of community leaders prior to the
start of the genocide
• My house was looted and damaged. I ran and hid in the bushes
near my house as entire villages were destroyed.
Returning to my house
• At the time the killings started I was 14. I had no idea what to
do. After initially fleeing I decided to Return to check on my
• I found that everyone has fled and went to hide
• Doors and windows and broken
• Decided to flee to the next village
• So I began an hour walking journey in darkness. I used back
roads to avoid check points.
Reaching Munyaneza’s House
• After leaving my home, not knowing where to go I decided to
go to my former Hutu housemaid’s house. His name was
• When I arrived I was hesitantly welcomed but I was able to
use the bathroom and eat
• I was at Munyaneza’s house for about a week when rumors
began to circulatethat I was there
• Munyaneza learned that his house will be attacked in middle
of the night
• I decided to leave his house
Waiting to cross the river
• I left Munyaneza’s house in the middle of the night with
Munyaneza. I was unable to cross the river at night and unable
to use the main roads because of the check points. I waited by
the bushes next to the small river and waited for sunrise to
cross the river.
Caught and beaten
• As the sun rose Munyaneza and I attempted to cross the river we
were spotted by the militias. A mob of men rushed toward us and
caught me.
• Munyaneza tried to protect me and covered me with his body. He
was beaten and his arm was broken
Left in a ditch of dead bodies
• I was struck by a machete on my head. I passed out and was
thrown in a ditch full of dead bodies.
• I woke up surrounded by the dead bodies
• I was Confused and Terrified
Trying to flee the killing site
• After I regained consciousness I got up and started walking
• The mob spotted me and screamed/yelled: “ Snakes don’t
• I was captured once again and dragged to the nearest make
shift prison
• I was imprisoned waiting to be killed again
Scenes at the killing site(
• While at the killing site I witness horrors that are hard for
most people to imagine.
• Heads are being chopped off
• Women are being gang raped
• Killers are having fun using chain saw to kill people
• Kids are being smashed against the tarmac
• Bullets are flying all over
• At this point I was ready to die
Hoping to be shot by a bullet
• I ran from the killing site hoping to be shot. Shots were fired
but I was not hit. I took cover in a trench and found some of
my extended family hiding where I was.
Seeing family members dead
• At one point while I was running I found my aunties dead, legs
spread, tree stuck between their legs
• I covered them and ran away confused. Still not knowing
where to go I decided to return to my house
Seeking a help from my
• As I approached my house my neighbor told me “The killers
are looking for you and your family, RUN FOR YOUR LIFE!!!”
The neighbor also told me that my mother was hiding at the
• I then decided to go to the church to be with my mother. She
wept when she saw my condition. She told me to go because
she did not want to see me killed.
• My feelings were hurt and I felt unwanted after my mother
told me to go.
Hiding in unfinished house
• I ran from the church and hid in unfinished house close to the
• My mom came to see me
• She told me to BE A MAN
• Mayor came to declare peace
• Left the unfinished house
• Follow the mayor and chief police
• Heading the mayor office for protection
Mayor changed his mind
Placed us in make shift prisons
Started killing older male and educated women
Finishing day came
Ran again hoping to be shot
Shots were fired at my escaping crowd
Young men are being hit by bullets and are dropping
Sniffed out!!!
Hid in banana plantation
Dogs are used to search
Dog sniffed me out
Caught and arms tied on my back
Gun/pistol on my head
Took the last money
It is your last day “ S.O. B”
Did not know it was the last
• I was eventually brought back to the killing site
• Cars were being loaded
• My mother was pushed and shoved in small trunk of Red
• Don’t push son, I can do by my self: My mom said
• Defenseless and powerless
• Wanted to fight and rescue my mother
• Driven away
• Taken to the mayor office and killed , buried in mass grave
• Last time I saw my mother!!!!!!!!!!! RIP MOM
Waiting for my turn
Cars are overloaded with people waiting to be killed
We will get you on second round
Returned to the make shift prisons
Surrounded/guarded by intoxicated killers
Looked through the window and took off
Killers yelled and shouted, bullets are flying over my head
Kept running
Swamps Mid April-Late June
Ran towards the swamp area
Found a high ground and sit there
Killers hoped that I will to come out or be killed by wild animals
Started a long stay
Lost my vision and hearing
My region is liberated
Liberation soldiers are calling out
Fear of getting caught again, thinking it was the same trick used
before by the Mayor
• Starving to death
• My cousin took chance to save my life
• Liberation soldiers rescued me
Internal Refugee Camp
Place in Internal Refuge Camp
Moved to another Refugee Camp
No place to live
Traumatized and Desperate
Placed in institutions/schools
Foster families
Fed up and ready to leave the country for GOOD
Fleeing the Country
• Around the end of 1995 I left Rwanda heading to Kenya. I was
hoping to find my siblings. After a brief stint in Kenya I went to
Tanzania, returned to Kenya then finally gave up hope and
went to Uganda to attend school.
Rubber Ball
Found a boarding school
Athletic scholarship
Mr. John Ssimbwa became my mentor
Started contacting colleges in USA
Invited to Savannah Georgia in 1998
Attended Chicago High School
Continued to IUSB
Got hurt and basketball career ended
New life
Found a full time job
Got married
Adopted two orphans from Rwanda
Reconciled with my past and found healing
• I teach/talk to people about forgiveness
• Forgiving and healing has given me a peace that I never
• Helping people is my therapy
You can overcome too!!!
• Whatever you are going through know that you can overcome
• You have to first make a conscious decision to CHANGE
• You then have to take steps to get to a better place: surround
yourself with supportive people, don’t hold on to anger, talk to
people who can help you (did therapy in Chicago and it really
helped), do good things for others (the biggest part of my
healing has been working to help others even though so
many people did wrong to me.
• Forgiveness is possible, Healing is possible…I know, because I
am living proof
How can you help?
• Contact me about how you can help Amahoro Project for
Forgiveness and Reconciliation.
• My organization that seeks to spread the word about Forgiveness
and Reconciliation