Survivor of the Rwandan Genocide speaks to Terre Haute community on anniversary of the tragedy

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“I felt like I wanted revenge,” said Rwanda Genocide survivor Emmanuel Habimana.

On this 25 anniversary of the genocide, Habimana spoke to the Terre Haute community at an event honoring victims of mass atrocities.

Born a Tutsi in Kigali, Rwanda, Habimana was nine years old when his parents and half his siblings were killed by members of the Hutu tribe.

“We were hunted because they wanted to kill us before anyone else,” he said.

Before the genocide began on April 7, 1994, the media had already painted a vivid picture of the hatred for the Tutsi people.

“You could see or hear from the radio, from the newspapers, from the neighborhood, something was changing,” said Habimana, “The political climate was changing.”

Habimana ran away after his father was shot by the Hutu, seeking refuge anywhere.

“I survived I guess because I was running,” he said. “I was separated from my family and I managed my own way to hide in a different part of the country.”

It’s been 25 years since the genocide, Habimana has graduated from film school in Los Angeles and has co-directed a documentary titled ‘Komoro’ which means to heal.

“I wanted the world to know what really happened,” he said. “Especially because after the genocide in Rwanda we had other mass killings and mass atrocities within Africa or you know beyond.”

Terre Haute South High School students from the STAND Club, a student lead movement against mass atrocities, engaged with him during the event.

“We live in such a small community compared to the rest of the world,” said student Charlotte Olsen. “It’s very interesting and exciting to be able to meet these people who experience things that we don’t  understand yet.”

An estimated 500,000 to 1,000,000 Rwandans were killed. 70 percent of the Tutsi people were murdered, and by speaking and educating communities Habimana is healing and rebuilding his life.

“My message to them is to try their best to create the harmony,” he said. “To create this society where, of coexistence where everyone regardless of their differences.”

And South students are willing to listen and work towards a world where this kind of history doesn’t repeat itself.

“As students we need to be educated about things. Even if they may make us like uncomfortable or sad,” said student Erica Yeagley. “We need to know why things happen and what has happened so we could help prevent it in the future. And the youth is really what can help do that.”

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