Audio - Body Of Evidence - A Short Story
A Hero Turned Into A Monster – A short story by A. Happy Umwagarwa
© 2018 A. Happy Umwagarwa
All Rights Reserved.
No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the author.
Disclaimer: Inspired by historical events, this is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
We looked like a happy couple from outside, but what people did not understand was that we wore our smiles of born-again Christians to mask our inner pain. There is a say that marriage without love is immoral. I loved my wife, Kayitesi, so dearly. Sometimes, I believed she loved me too, but some other times, I wondered why, if she did love me, she did not want to passionately make love to me. Whenever I touched her, she turned grey and pushed me away. If she did not have a headache, she could be having a stomachache or just be tired. A few times, she opened up to me and told me that because of what she had experienced in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, she had developed a phobia for sex. I understood her. I felt her pain. Luckily she had accepted to seek help, and I accompanied her in the healing journey. We solicited help from our religious leaders. We visited professional marriage counselors. As a born-again Christian, I thought it was a spiritual test that I would one day pass. I had to prove to God that I was able. I loved my wife and knew she had nobody else in this world but me.
On that evening of 14 December 2015, as I was driving home from work, I could not turn off the enigmas about my marriage dancing hip hop in my little head. I was already in the holiday mood. I wanted to get home, freshen up, share tea with my wife, and have a wonderful night holding her in my arms. I prayed that she would allow me to touch her, feel her, caress her and make love to her, but something reminded me that the last time we were at our marriage counselor, she had mentioned something I did not understand and walked out. Since then, she had refused to explain to me what she had meant when she said, “The monster is back, back in my life...” Could it be that her rapist had come back? Was he one of the people who had been released from prison? Was he one of the Rwandans who had returned to Rwanda from Congo DRC? I wished she had told me who that monster was, but instead, she had turned against me as if I was the monster she was talking about. She had never talked to me with disrespect before. She had never quarreled with me. But, in those days, I couldn’t recognize her anymore. Anything I said about myself, my new job, my friends, she responded back with bitterness. It was going to be that evening or never. The counselors had failed. I was going to do it myself. She was going to talk about whether she wanted or not.
Arrived at home, the door to the house was wide open. I entered the living room, but when I called her name, she did not respond. I headed to our bedroom. She was there fully unclothed, applying body lotion gently on her brown skin. Her eyes were bloodshed as if she had wept. When she saw me, she jumped out of her skin. She shivered, but after a few seconds, she pretended she was okay. I acted as if I had not noticed her uneasiness and approached to kiss her on the cheek. She allowed me. I took it to another level, a French kiss. I pushed her on the bed, and with a show of hands, she invited me and helped me remove my pants. I was a little nervous and shy. It was too much to handle. Something seemed not quite right. All my clothes down, I caressed her and kissed her more. I took my time, but apparently, she was in a hurry. She wanted me. I removed my organ and gently pushed it inside her. She was wet. She screamed like a porn star, but not the fake shout. We made love passionately. Unfortunately, I could not resist for long. I guess I released before I could satisfy her. I was going to do it again. But when I invited her to lay her head on my chest, she burst into tears. She cried a river. I asked her why she was crying.
She did not say anything apart from, “Mugisha, I am sorry.”
“Sorry for what?” I asked.
“For everything.” She responded.
“What do you mean by everything? Tell me. What happened? The last time we went for counseling, you mentioned a monster, who is it?”
I insisted, but she did not want to tell me. The night went back to our usual. I had hoped that we would do it again, and one more time, and a fourth, till morning, but she refused. For the whole night, she was having nightmares. She screamed as if she was fighting with somebody. She talked about her daughter, whom she had told me was fathered by her rapists. She said to the person in her nightmare, “She is my daughter, not yours.” She begged that person to leave her alone. But what troubled me more is that she also mentioned my name. “How did you meet Mugisha? Please leave him alone. He is not a monster like you?” Then, she would sleep again to wake up to another nightmare. She said, “No, I did not kill him. I did not kill him. I swear I did not kill him.”
In the morning, I woke up with a decision to call, not the marriage counselor, but the psychologist recommended to me by a friend of mine, who was a medical doctor. But, when I picked my phone, I realized I had received many WhatsApp messages. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Retired Colonel Kanyamibwa had been found dead in a hotel room. Who could have killed the retired Col. Kanyamibwa? He was a good man, to whom I owed much. Col. Kanyamibwa had helped me get my new job in the Rock Builders Ltd. He was the one who had connected me with the company’s Managing Director. We had only met at a conference for young engineers. I did not know him. He didn’t know who I was. But we connected, and from then, we became friends. He had paid me visits to my house a couple of times. He was a nobleman.
“Look at this,” I said to Kayitesi. “Col. Kanyamibwa is gone. He has been killed. Why? Now, I am angry at this country.”
Kayitesi did not respond. She walked away.
I insisted and asked her why she could not say anything.
Then she mumbled, “I don’t know. What tells he has been killed?”
“They said the killer might have hit something on his head. But why in a hotel room? How did he get there? Did they trap him with a prostitute?”
When I turned on the TV, everybody was talking about this murder. It seemed like all people in the government and in the army were taken aback by his demise. Different journalists spoke about him as one of the liberation struggle heroes who deserved to retire peacefully and live long enough to enjoy what he had fought for. I was confused. In my mind, I said to myself, “This does not look at all like a political murder. Col. Kanyamibwa was respected and appreciated by many people in the government and the army. But who killed him?” Although I felt it was too early to talk to his family, I did not want to delay calling his wife and offering her my sincere condolences. I guess I was among the first people to give her a call. Then, I called the psychologist and went to discuss with him about my wife. He listened to me actively and empathetically, but instead of giving me a diagnosis of what could be happening to my wife, he asked me to come back another day with Kayitesi. I did not feel like going anywhere else but back home. I wanted to hold Kayitesi in my arms again. But I was also troubled by the death of Col. Kanyamibwa.
When I arrived at home, shock crumbled all my bones. My house was surrounded by policemen. They immediately handcuffed me and said, “You are under arrest. You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in the court of law.”
“My husband is innocent,” Kayitesi shouted. “He did not kill anybody.”
She followed me, shouting the same words. They put me in the police car. She kissed me and said, “I am sorry. I will make sure you get out.”
They took me to police custody. To my surprise, I was alone. There were no other detainees. The five days I spent in that room were the longest of my entire life. The policemen came on different occasions to ask me the same questions over and over again.
“You were the last person Col. Kanyamibwa talked to before he was killed, what did he say to you?” They asked. “Why did he call you?”
“I don’t know why he called me. He only asked me where I was, and I told him I was still at work. Then, he asked, ‘Till what time?’ I told him I had a late office meeting and that I would get home around 6.30pm. That was it. He hanged up.”
“Did he tell you where he was?”
“No, he did not.”
“Did he ask you to join him at the hotel?”
“No, he did not.”
“Where did you go after work?”
“I went to my house immediately after work.”
“Who else did you talk to on that day?”
“I don’t remember any person in particular. I might have talked to a couple of friends, business partners, and my wife, of course.”
They kept repeating the same questions until when I got tired of answering. How could they suspect me to be an assassin, and worse, of the person to whom I owed a lot? I just concluded life was meant to be bitter for me till my death.
I replayed the movie of everything I had gone through. I remembered in 1990 when I was accused of being an ally (icyitso) to the Patriotic Forces. I was only 17 years when the first time I was in jail. The former gendarmes accused me of having gone for training on how to use guns and that I had the plan to destabilize Rwanda. It was painful to find myself again in jail, accused of a crime I had not committed. I felt alone and lonely. My whole family was exterminated by my own compatriots in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. If it was not due to people like Col. Kanyamibwa, I would not have survived. I had so much appreciation, gratitude, and respect for everybody who happened to be a member of the Patriotic Forces. My brain could not digest the fact that I was in jail, suspected of having killed one of my heroes. I thought about my wife, Kayitesi, and her pain. I reflected on how our marriage had never been as blissful as it should be, because of what she had endured in life. I was the only person she had in this world. I could not imagine how she felt to see me leaving her, taken to jail, accused of a crime she did not believe for a second I could commit. I wanted to shout, scream, break, and leave this unfair world. I could not take it anymore. I tried to pray to God, but I did not know what to say to him, apart from asking him why he continued to subject me to life’s bitterness.
After five days in police custody, they took me to court. I had a lawyer but did not know what to say to him. As much as they did not have any evidence to prove me guilty, I also did not have any evidence to prove my innocence. I left my fate to the hands of my lawyer. Kayitesi was there, wearing all black as if I was dead. She had papers in her hands, and I wondered if she had discovered something that could help me. When I entered, she approached me, kissed me, and said again, “I am sorry.” Then, she went back to her seat. The prosecutor stated that I was the prime suspect because I was the last person Col. Kanyamibwa had spoken to. I was also the first person who called his wife to offer my condolences. My call to his wife was taken as my way to disguise.
After the prosecutor’s speech, the floor was given to my lawyer. To my surprise, instead of saying anything, he told the court that he wanted to present a crucial witness.
My wife Kayitesi stood up with the papers she held in her hands and moved forward to the witnesses’ stand. She started reading her statement, “My name is Kayitesi. I was born in a family of seven. We were three girls and four boys. I am the only one who is alive today. My parents, my two brothers and my two sisters were killed during the Genocide against the Tutsi. The two elder brothers had joined the Patriotic Forces to help other Rwandans liberate our beloved country from the former dictatorial regime. During the Genocide against the Tutsi, I went through all horrible experiences. I was raped by the killers. I was tortured by them. I was beaten and insulted. The day the Patriotic Forces ended the Genocide, it felt as if I had spent the night in hell to wake up in paradise. I thought my ordeal was over. I hoped that maybe my brothers had survived the war, and I was not going to be alone and lonely in this Rwanda—”
“Madam, we sympathize with what you went through,” The judge said. “But we do not see how your story is linked to the case of your husband.”
“It’s related,” Kayitesi responded. “Please lend me your ears. I will try to be brief.”
“Okay, carry on.”
“I asked every soldier I met if he knew my brothers Muhizi and Mihigo. Many of them said they knew them and that they were still alive, although they did not know where they were deployed. Then, one day, fate took me to Col. Kanyamibwa. They called him Afande Kanyamibwa. I guess he was a Captain then. When I told him about my brothers, he told me he knew them, and I believed him because, unlike other soldiers, he described them with every detail. He even remembered that my brother Muhizi had a scar on his left ear and that my brother Mihigo had myopia. Apparently, they were in the same battalion or platoon; I don’t know the difference between the two. He told me they were still alive and that they were at the border of Rwanda and Uganda, somewhere in Kagitumba. I was so happy. Afande Kanyamibwa was very kind to me. Since our house had been demolished, he helped me get another house to live in, and brought everything I needed to survive. I looked up to him as a God-sent guardian angel. One day, he told me that he wanted me to go with him to Kagitumba to look for my brothers. I could not refuse. I had waited for that day. In the car towards Kagitumba, I was replaying my childhood memories with my brothers. I wept as I tried to practice how I would tell them the story of how the militiamen had killed our parents and siblings. I didn’t know if I would be able to tell them how the killers of my family raped me ferociously.”
“Madam, you said you were going to be brief,” The judge reminded. “Did you meet your brothers? Please tell us what you know about the death of Col. Kanyamibwa.”
“No. I did not meet my brothers. Till today, I don’t know anything about how they died and where their corpses were buried. When we arrived at Kagitumba, Afande Kanyamibwa took me to a hotel and offered me food and drinks. He told me he had some work to do before he could take me to my brothers. He left me in that hotel room. I trusted him so much and believed that he would come back after the emergency he had to attend to. I waited for long, till dark hours. I did not have a watch, but I guess he came back after 9.00pm. When he entered the room, he did not talk about my brothers. He immediately removed his clothes. I stood up quickly from the bed. He pushed me back. He was smiling, but his face scared me. He told me that I should not worry, that he was a gentleman, and that all he wanted was some care. I screamed. He put his hands on my mouth and told me that people in the hotel could hear me screaming. I shouted more. He said he would slap me if I continued. He removed his pants and pushed his organ inside me. Instead of seeing the face of Afande Kanyamibwa, something happened, and I saw the militiamen raping me. They slapped me, they spit on me, and they insulted me. I lost sense of where I was and what was happening to me. I only remember someone giving me some tablets to swallow. Afande Kanyamibwa himself later told me they were sleeping pills. When I woke up, I was back to Kigali, without my brothers. Afande Kanyamibwa kept on coming to my house. He apologized and said he wanted to marry me. I could not marry him. He was a monster. I later decided to move to another city. I went to Butare to live with my mother’s aunt. She was very old and lonely, but I found peace in her life, although it was short-lived. She died in 1998. When I came back to Kigali, I had a four-year-old child, my daughter born in June 1995. I told all the people who knew me that she was born in February and that she had been fathered by the militiamen who raped me during the Genocide against the Tutsi. I am sorry I lied to my husband. I lied to my daughter about who her father was. I never thought my ways would cross the ways of Afande Kanyamibwa, till when my husband Mugisha told me he was bringing a special visitor to our house.”
Kayitesi bent her head for seconds. Almost everybody in the courtroom was weeping with her. I could not believe my ears. So, my wife was not only raped by the militiamen who killed her family but also the hero who saved her life, I mused.
“Sorry, please take heart,” My lawyer said to Kayitesi.
She raised her head again and said with a louder voice, “After Col. Kanyamibwa learned I gave birth to his daughter, he told me his wife could not give him children, and that since he was growing old, he needed to tell my daughter he was his father. He called me during the daytime. He called me in the night. He continued to blackmail me until I decided to tell him that I would report him to authorities. I asked him if we could meet and talk outside my house. He invited me to that hotel and said we would meet at the poolside.
“What was your plan?” The judge asked. “Were you going to kill him?”
“No, I wasn’t,” Kayitesi responded. “When I arrived at the hotel, I did not see him. A hotel employee came to me and said he was going to show me where Afande Kanyamibwa was. I was scared when I noticed we were heading to the rooms. I gathered all of my strengths and prepared to confront the monster. When I entered, I found him seated on the chair around the coffee table. I did not want to sit next to him. I said, ‘Please leave my daughter alone.’ He responded, ‘Our daughter. She is my daughter too.’ I said, ‘No, she is not your daughter. How did you find my husband? What do you want from him?’ He responded that Mugisha was his friend. Then he stood up to approach me. We continued to quarrel, and he came even closer and said, ‘You haven’t changed. I like your guts.’ I did not want to kill him, but his face changed as he continued to approach me. He looked like the monsters who had raped me. I felt helpless. He said he was sorry for what he had done to me. He told me he knew my brothers Muhizi and Mihigo, and that he remembered vividly how they died, but that he couldn’t tell me because it was a story that I might not want to listen to. Then he added, ‘Please, let me be a father to our daughter. Let me enjoy having a family, someone to call me Papa before I die.’ He approached me again and pulled me to his chest. It was my first time to see a man crying. He pulled me again and held me with strength in his arms. I could not get his hands off me. I pinched him. He got even more emotional and pulled me again to his chest. I bit his hands. He slapped me and moved away. When I ran to the door, he reached to catch me. That was when I grabbed the chair, hit it to his head, opened the door, and walked away. I had no intention of killing him.”
After my wife Kayitesi admitted she murdered Col. Kanyamibwa, I shouted, “My wife is innocent. She is the victim of what Afande Kanyamibwa did to her.”
“Order, please,” Said the judge. “You only talk when you are given the floor. Your wife has pleaded guilty for the murder of Col. Kanyamibwa.”
I could not chew everything my wife had said. Why hadn’t she told me before? Despite my screaming, the judge sentenced Kayitesi to ten years in jail for involuntary homicide.
The story of Kayitesi was written and broadcast in many international and local media. Women in Rwanda and in other countries organized peaceful marches to request for the release of Kayitesi. They wore T-shirts on which it was written ‘I am Kayitesi.’ Many women came out to tell their own stories. Some of them had been raped by militiamen. Some had been raped by soldiers. Some were raped by public officials, and others were raped by their employers or their managers. Some women said they were raped by family members and by their lovers or husbands. Basically, any woman who was a victim of sexual abuse rallied to defend my wife, Kayitesi.
The news reached His Excellency, the President of Rwanda. On 29 January 2016, he granted the Presidential pardon to Kayitesi.
We resumed our marriage counseling sessions. Kayitesi also visited a trauma therapist. She and I were determined to make our marriage work, and before Christmas of 2016, we were celebrating our first son’s birth.
Kayitesi and her daughter also went through a reconciliation process. The daughter was angry at her mother because she had not told her who her father was. She told her mother how she had suffered since the day she had learned that she was fathered by the rapists of her mother and the killers of her maternal grandparents, uncles, and aunts. She resented her mother for not revealing her father’s actual identity, a man who was actually respected in society, but whom she got to know was her father after he was killed by her own mother.